New locomotives to replace South Island fleet

12 October 2021

 Fifty-seven brand new low-emissions locomotives will boost KiwiRail in the South Island, provide more reliable services for current customers and attract new customers from road through better economics, KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says.

 KiwiRail and Stadler Rail Valencia have signed a binding contract for the delivery of 57 new, state-of-the-art, locomotives. The locomotives, which will be made in Spain, will begin arriving and enter service in New Zealand between early 2024 and 2026. The contract price for the new fleet is NZ$403 million (€228 million).

 Mr Miller says he is delighted to have signed the contract for the new locomotives, following a robust international procurement process which attracted the world’s top four locomotive builders.

 “These are the latest-generation locomotives, which will set up KiwiRail’s South Island freight business for many decades ahead.

 “For rail to play its proper role in New Zealand’s freight system, we need our services to be on time, every time. Right now, our 65-strong South Island locomotive fleet has an average age of 47 years. Our machines have been used for 17 years, on average, beyond their economic life. The fact that some of our machines are closer to 60 than to 50 – means reliability is a real issue.

 “Some of our machines have had three complete rebuilds over their lives, at significant expense. And we’ve still been using 1970s technology in those rebuilds.

 “The dual-cab locomotives Stadler Rail are building for us are state of the art. Not only will they meet the European Union world-leading emissions standards and see significant reduction in our fleet’s exhaust emissions, they will be fuel efficient and equipped with a range of onboard technologies to optimise energy use, including a system that can switch off the engine when the locomotive is idling.

 “Each new locomotive will also be significantly more powerful and efficient than our current machines. This means there will be less need to use multiple locomotives to pull heavy trains – reducing fuel use and potentially reducing fleet CO2 emissions by 20 – 25 percent. It also means KiwiRail is future-proofed for the freight growth expected in the decades ahead by having locomotives that can pull larger trains.

 “Onboard diagnostics systems will give us real-time information about the health of our locomotives and enable us to predict when faults could potentially occur, improving overall reliability of the fleet. This is a major advance beyond the 1970’s technology we have been using in our South Island fleet.

 “KiwiRail has worked closely with the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and our locomotive engineers, as we developed the machines’ specifications and I would like to thank them for their invaluable input.

 “It’s a pleasure to work with Stadler. Their professional interactions, quality of engagement and state of the art designs ensure we are partnering with a company that will deliver an outstanding outcome for KiwiRail and for New Zealand.

 “I want to acknowledge the Government and our Ministers in supporting KiwiRail with funding to replace our aging rollingstock. Signing this locomotive contract is another important step in rebuilding New Zealand’s railway. I know these locomotives will serve KiwiRail, our customers, and our nation well.”

 Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson also welcomed the locomotive purchase.

 “This is a quality product which will help KiwiRail to provide a safe, sustainable and reliable service to Kiwi businesses well into the future,” he says.

 Peter Spuhler, Stadler Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer ad interim, commented: “It is a great honour for Stadler to be able deliver our modern and innovative locomotives to New Zealand for the first time. We thank KiwiRail for this contract and look forward to a successful partnership.”

 Dr Ansgar Brockmeyer, Stadler Executive Vice President Marketing & Sales and Deputy Chief Executive Officer added: “We are delighted to supply the latest state of the art Co-Co monocoque locomotive, narrow gauge, customized to KiwiRail’s requirements and specific operational schemes, incorporating well service proven components and systems.

 “This is our first contract for New Zealand and we are fully committed to a long-term partnership with KiwiRail. With our wide portfolio of modular and customized vehicle solutions, green traction concepts, digital solutions and tailored expert support services, we indeed see the opportunity to provide further value to KiwiRail and New Zealand mobility beyond the delivery of the first project.”


Specifications for each new locomotive include:

  • Low emissions profile (meeting the EU Stage V emission standard)
  • 25% reduction in Nitrous Oxide emissions
  • 30% reduction in Particulate Matter emissions
  • Improved traction system design enables:
    • fewer locomotives to do the same work
    • potential reduction of 20-25% in Carbon-Dioxide emissions through reduced fuel burn and use of onboard technologies
    • future proofing for longer and heavier trains
  • Dual cabs, providing operational flexibility
  • Equipped with an auto engine start stop (AESS) system which can switch off the engine when the locomotive is idling, saving fuel
  • Driver Energy Reduction & Advisory System to support the locomotive and drivers to achieve its optimal energy performance
  • Train Handling System to manage asset fatigue and energy performance
  • Remote Diagnostic System allows KiwiRail to receive:
    • Instantaneous fleet geographical location, speed, fuel tank status and battery main switch status
    • Summary indication of mileage, energy consumption for each locomotive
    • Fault records automatically logged for each locomotive
    • Locomotive condition and trending of key parameters