The Government’s commitment to fund the refurbishment of KiwiRail’s ageing electric locomotives on the North Island Main Trunk line will provide additional capacity as rail continues its freight growth, KiwiRail Acting Chief Executive Todd Moyle says.
“Today’s decision highlights this Government’s commitment to the growth of rail in New Zealand and will extend the life of the electric locomotives (EFs) by 10 years.
“When the KiwiRail Board made the decision to retire the electric fleet which runs between Hamilton and Palmerston North, it was to improve reliability for our customers.
“At the moment the EFs are breaking down every 30,000kms on average, well below our fleet target of 50,000kms, and only eight of them are able to be used.
“But as we said at the time, this was not a forever decision and the Government’s commitment to invest $35 million in the refurbishment provides the certainty to continue their use for the near future.
“With this funding KiwiRail will be able to refurbish the 15 locos – including working with a supplier to upgrade their electronic control systems – at our Hutt Workshops over the next three to four years. We expect between four and eight new jobs will be created refurbishing the locomotives and the team which maintains and operates the electric locos will be increased back to its full staffing level.
“KiwiRail’s decision in late 2016 to retire the EFs was a difficult one that came after two years of consideration and consultation with experts and unions. In the end it was a commercial decision based on the funding available at the time.
“As part of that decision, we committed to continuing to maintain the overhead cables and electric infrastructure on the NIMT, which left the way open for future use if desired.
“The Government has shown a clear commitment to rail, including NZTA funding business cases for further electrification of the Auckland rail network from Papakura to Pukekohe and adding a Third Main line in Auckland.
“KiwiRail has been talking with the Government about the possibility of further electrification and is also exploring the use of other fuel sources.
“Rail is an environmentally sustainable form of transport, with freight shifted by rail producing 66 per cent fewer carbon emissions than freight moved by truck. We take our environmental responsibilities seriously and are actively working to reduce our carbon footprint.
“This month, KiwiRail took possession of 15 new locomotives which were ordered before the EF decision was made. These are critical to boosting our busy North Island fleet, allowing a cascade of other locomotives to replace the oldest South Island engines, which average 46 years of age,” Mr Moyle says.