This is a guest post by Wellington commenter Guy Marriage

Do the locomotion with me.

I am surprised and a little disappointed that there has not been much discussion here over KiwiRail’s decision to axe the electric locomotives on the main trunk line. If that sort of discussion should happen anywhere, it really should be on Transport Blog, and so I’ve written this piece so that the questions can be raised and debated amongst a group of knowledgable people, willing to share their opinions, in a sane and rational manner, as you always do.

So let’s run over a few facts first. Currently we have an electrified section of the main trunk railroad, from Hamilton to Palmerston North. We also have suburban rail that is electrified in Auckland’s districts, and metro rail in Wellington’s regions are also electrified. Wellington’s region of electric motive power is, however, starkly different.

KiwiRail’s current mode of transport is (admittedly highly inefficient) to have to run diesel locomotives from Auckland to Hamilton, change to electric for the middle run to Palmerston North, and then change back to another set of diesel locomotives for the run into Wellington. That’s tedious, time-wasting, and a silly state to be in for anyone, so we can understand that KiwiRail wants to make a change and just have one set of power for locomotives all the way through. Their argument is that by buying a new set of all diesel locos, it gives “customers more of an incentive to shift their freight on to rail which is a more sustainable option for the country” (Peter Reidy, CEO KiwiRail, DomPost, 20 Jan 2017).

Although KiwiRail used to be a separate business from OnTrack, the Government has merged them since 2012, so while for a few years Toll and then KiwiRail had no control over the track network, its my understanding that now they are more in control of their own destiny. And that destiny, they clearly see, as being reliant on diesel for locomotion, rather than electricity.

The North Island Main Trunk line (NIMT) has 411km of electrified line running at 25kV at 50 Hz AC power, undertaken as part of Muldoon’s “Think Big” projects in the mid 1980s. Wellington’s metropolitan area has in total 95km of electrified track, but this is a DC system running at 1.5kV and so is not compatible with the NIMT system – it was installed way back in the last century. Auckland’s trains however, being electrified later than Wellington’s train network, were deliberately designed to also run on the same system as the NIMT – an AC line running at 25kV. So that leaves a gap of just 81km from Auckland to Hamilton currently without a suitable electric power system for freight locos and there is a similar-sized 80km gap from Palmerston North to Wellington’s northern reaches at Waikanae.

KiwiRail’s argument against buying new electric locos to replace their existing EF electric locos is that it is inefficient to have to change over to diesel and back, as well as that having more freight going by rail is just generally better for the country too. While Reidy does not address the claim that electric power will generate less emissions than diesel, he claims that as more freight will get routed via rail this will automatically be better, whether powered by diesel or not.

Others may disagree with him. The Green Party certainly disagree with him, with Greens spokesperson on Transport, Julie-Anne Genter, saying on 21 Dec 2016 that “New electric trains are cleaner, quieter, and have lower fuel and maintenance costs over their lifetime. They’re also powered by local renewable energy rather than imported oil. Diesel trains will also cost more to operate long-term, which could encourage more freight to move off rail and onto dangerous trucks on the road.”

Those comments are absolutely right, in that electric locos are capable of pulling bigger loads, at faster speeds, and if you have a renewable source of energy (as we mostly do), then emissions are severely reduced. And who wants a fine spray of diesel dust all over our 100% clean green country? Well, near 100% anyway. Maybe 80%. Maybe 50%. Let’s skip the details, OK?

It is a political decision, of course, whether to spend more money on electrification of the two remaining sections of track, but it is one that needs to be carefully debated. Clearly KiwiRail have debated it in house, but we (the public) haven’t been privileged to see the outcome. Their last “Sustainability Report” is from 2014.

But there is another way of looking at this as well. Auckland’s reach, always slightly beyond its grasp, is outwards to the north (but blocked by the issues of harbour crossings) as well as to the south (unblocked and at the edge of a big fat highway). At just over an hour away by car (127km), Hamilton is already on the edge of becoming a commuter town for Auckland (the current drive is the killer commute) but Palmerston North is just a little too far away (140km) from Wellington at a more realistic two hour commute. But while Wellington’s reach is unlikely to ever reach to Palmerston, it is certain that the Waikato is already deeply involved with Auckland and there is a strong argument to be made that in order to preserve the agricultural lands at Pukekohe etc, the NIMT should be electrified all the way through to Hamilton, not just for freight, but for passenger rail too.

Much as I dislike the expression “no-brainer”, this decision really is one that can be easily made. The land is flat. The tracks are already in place. The need for suburban rail is rising relentlessly in Auckland. There is already a nascent need and want for a decent public transport link from Auckland to Hamilton, something not currently served by either buses stuck in traffic nor the current once or twice a day train. Flying between the two is just not an option. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to at least electrify the network continuously between the Waikato and the outer reaches of Auckland, so that trains could all operate continuously in the region solely on electric power?

Yes, there is a branch line to Tauranga that is diesel powered too, and yes, there needs to be a separate decision about that as well, but the electrification of the main line is the priority, not just for now, and not just for KiwiRail, but for New Zealand, and for the rest of our lives. There is a strong argument, to me at least, to just change the power source once, in Palmerston North, and keep all those diesels down south, and allow a fully electrified rail system to flourish up north. Yes, of course I want the section down here to be converted to electric as well, but I realise that the problems with the current DC vs AC lines may mean that is a problem for the too-hard basket right now. But at least for now, it seems to me, KiwiRail and its 100% owner, the NZ Government, is doing our country a gross disservice by proposing that the existing electric NIMT is effectively mothballed or scrapped. There is a huge amount of money that has been invested in this incomplete network that is effectively going to be completely wasted if it is not used. We need, as a country, to be thinking better and more long term than this. We need, I believe, to start by electrifying the remaining NIMT between Hamilton and Auckland.

Note: we’re all volunteers with limited time so if you ever feel like there’s something we should be discussing, be like Guy and draft a guest post.

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  1. I believed for many years that I would never see Auckland’s suburban rail service electrified during my lifetime but it has happened and the resulting benefits have been dramatic and well documented. Let the NIMT between Auckland and Hamilton thus be electrified and new locos bought to replace the ageing EFs – during my lifetime. The results will be similarly highly successful for both freight and passenger services. It really is a no-brainer.

  2. KiwiRail estimates it will cost $1 billion to electrify the NIMT. I doubt they’re going to stump up with that sort of money as an SOE. Government will have to pay for that. Considering how much outrage this decision seems to have caused amongst the public, you’d think this would be an easy campaign pledge for opposition parties. Allowing smoother delivery of freight, a step closer to better intercity commuter rail and reduced carbon emissions and Opex for about half the cost of the EW link? I have to agree with Rob: it really is a no-brainer.

    1. $1 billion for a small amount of environmental benefits seems ludicrous to me. I’m sure there are much better environmental projects that could be done with that money.

      1. I agree that spending that sort of money on NIMT electrification for environmental benefits alone would be stupid. Reducing carbon emissions is more of a bonus than the central reason for electrification.

        1. What are the other reasons? I can see benefit in electrifying to Pokekohe and a little bit beyond there. But spending a billion just to get a commuter service to Hamilton that will hardly be used seems a bit crazy.

        2. I’m interested to know why you think it won’t be used.

          I am reminded of the great NEX white elephant cartoon.

        3. Yet somehow a billion dollars can miraculously fall out of the sky to cover the shortfall on an unnecessary, unwanted, uneconomic 5 km motorway to Onehunga that nobody supports except the lorry lobby, aka the funders of the National Party.

          Dunno how that happens in a democracy famed for its transparency and lack of corruption.

        4. The nex gives a faster alternative to a large number of commuters. A Hamilton line will give a slower alternative to a small number of commuters. It may get some use but I doubt it is anywhere near the best bang for buck.

        5. “The nex gives a faster alternative to a large number of commuters. A Hamilton line will give a slower alternative to a small number of commuters. ”

          Please tell me how I can get from Hamilton to Auckland in under 2 hours in the peak period, it will save my company hundreds of hours a month.

      2. But Jimbo Jones, the point of the article is that you do not actually have to electrify the whole thing. Just the first 127km, in fact less, as it only needs to go from Pukekohe to Te Rapa, i.e. just 80km. At $1m per kilometre, that’s only $80million, which is actually very affordable, on flat ground, simple road access, and $1m per km should be well within everyone’s ball park cost estimates. KR recently completely redid the electric poles and catenaries on the Porirua to Plimmerton part of the Kapiti line – quite quickly actually, so it is not a big deal. Just requires a capital injection up front.

        The following link notes the benefits of electrification:
        “The potential benefits of electrification are fourfold – they consist of better acceleration, lower running costs when a large number of services are provided, the so called ’spark effect’ and lower carbon emissions (depending on the energy source).”

        So, probably, many of those points are not being factored in to account – KR is looking only at increasing freight, but arguably if you take in the increase in passengers from Waikato, and therefore possible decrease in road users from Waikato, then the equation is far different.

      3. Re: the $1 billion. Two entirely separate issues here. The cost to continue the current NIMT electrification between Hamilton and Palmerston North is $10 million for the loco rebuild and the $3 million to maintain the overhead they are going to pay anyway. The $1 billion cost is to do Papakura – Mt Maunganui. The cost for that needs to be considered in context to the operating cost savings (massive), environmental benefits for our export and import goods, and most especially for the economic opportunities bought about. Much like the arguments behind any one of the Nat Party RoNS projects. If Papakura – Mt Maunganui is electrified, then an expanded commuter network, economic growth in the Waikato, potentially lower houses prices are all interconnected with that $1 billion investment.

        1. Wasn’t the $1b to electrify the entire remaining operational network ECMT, NIMT, Lichfield spur, Gisborne to Hutt, New Plymouth to Palmerston North, etc and buy rolling stock? Because that sounds like an absolute bargain to me.

        2. Sailor Boy – From KiwiRail’s own website, they say:
          “Work done back in 2008 for rail infrastructure agency ONTRACK provides useful a perspective on this argument. It concluded that to justify electrification, a route should be all or most of the following: at or near capacity, densely trafficked, steeply graded, involve a long tunnel or be adjacent to an existing electrified route.”

          “The routes to meet these criteria were Westfield-Te Rapa, Hamilton-Mt Maunganui and Otira-Arthur’s Pass. The first two (in practical terms one, the Westfield-Mt Maunganui route) meet the density and adjacency criteria while Otira-Arthur’s Pass meets the grade and tunnel test. Given the density of traffic between Auckland and Mt Maunganui, the country’s busiest freight line, it would make no sense to electrify simply to Hamilton.”

          “Another consideration is the incompatibility between the Wellington network extending as far north as Waikanae and the Trunk at Palmerston North. The cost estimate at the time for the two most likely routes was in the vicinity of $900 million – undoubtedly more at today’s prices. Obviously the lion’s share would be taken by the Westfield-Mt Mauganui route.”

          So, KiwiRail appear to be saying that actually the cost of doing Westfield to Te Rapa is relatively low, but because traffic on it is currently low, it shouldn’t be done. Of course, if they were planning ahead more, or had a Government who were planning ahead more, it would make good sense to do it now.

        3. Cheers for that Guy, still sounds like a good deal to me, but maybe that is because, unlike our government, I am factoring in the cost of carbon.

        4. ‘near capacity, densely trafficked, steeply graded, involve a long tunnel or be adjacent to an existing electrified route’
          If one were to add, say a half hour frequency commuter operation onto the Papakura – Hamilton route, even if only as far as Mercer, you’d be getting close to being (a) near capacity, (b) densely trafficked, (c) adjacent to existing electrified routes. Got to remember that freight traffic will continue to grow to and from Mt Maunganui and you then have the addition of item (d), a long tunnel. A key thing with mixing freight and passenger on busy rail networks is the need to shift the freight quickly and reliably. Commuters on the southern line will recall a few incidents in recent years where (diesel) freight trains have broken down in peak hour.

        5. It was 800+ in 2008 to do ECMT to POT, Hamilton – Papakura, Mission Bush and one other small other branch. The Hamilton-Papakura was 460 odd million I think

        6. Harriet – doesn’t that sound to you like rather a lot to do a simple job? Have you any access to figures regarding what costs actually are for electrification on a flat route? I’m trying to remember how much the work that KR did recently on the Kapiti line actually cost – reasonably cost effective. A lot of it accomplished over a series of weekend closures of the line in 2015. The figure you quote works out at $5.75 million per km, which seems about five times more than it should ever be.

          Of course, we could always get our new friends, the Chinese, in to do it – they seem to be able to build things so much cheaper than we can. (Not being sarcastic – Chinese prefabricated homes can be sourced for a fraction of what it costs to build them in NZ). Not that I want to admit it, but it is true!

    2. If you were going to spend $1 billion on reducing carbon emissions by electrifying transport, would freight rail even be the best bang for your buck?

      What sort of reduction in emissions would you get by spending that on light rail in Auckland, or passenger rail in Christchurch, or electric buses anywhere?

  3. I thought the tale of NIMT electrification was a good reminder of the real risk and uncertainty associated with long term transport investments and the importance of not being too cavalier about discount rates and evaluation horizons. We have an asset that is essentially worthless after 30 years, such that it is cheaper to not even use it, despite it already existing. Who knows what the world will look like in another 30 years.

      1. I’ve always wondered why they electrified Hamilton to Palmerston North only. Surely there is very little freight that runs only within that network? Why not Auckland to Hamilton and Tauranga, or Wellington to Te Kuiti or something? It seems like they designed it so that every freight run in the north island would either not benefit at all, or require two changes of locomotive.

        1. According to Wikipedia

          The reason was that that portion guaranteed a superior train speed could be maintained, thus shortening the entire journey time by hours.
          And making the 18% projected ROI figure more likely to be achieved.

          So if you like it was the portion with the highest BCR [at the time]. Of course, once it was done, the other parts would have been done to fill in the gaps.

          But oil prices fell again – making those sorts of projects no longer considered worthwhile.

          And the 250% cost overrun made Governments of the day leary of going there again.

          And not long after the Government flogged of KR to private enterprise to asset strip and leave for dead.

          No way in hell would they put money in to actually extend electrification.

        2. I understood it was because of the steep grades through that section, and diesel locos at the time didn’t have enough torque to haul full trains, but now the diesels are quite capable.

        3. The ‘diesel’ locomotives are actually diesel-electric. The diesel engines run massive generators (as they always have and the new ones Kiwirail are buying are no different) creating electricity that is then used by electric motors to drive the wheels. This makes the use of the diesel fuel quite efficient as they do not go up and down the rev range as diesel powered vehicles do. They can be tuned to operate extremely efficiently over a small rpm range. The desel engines do not directly power the wheels. The electric motors drive the wheels as they have maximum torque at zero rpm. So in the case of these locomotives the electricity is generated locally (i.e. inside the locomotive) rather than getting it from overhead wires. Just a point I think many have failed to grasp. The situation is nowhere as grim as certain quarters make it out to be.

        4. Thanks Ricardo, and yep, I understand that. I’m not sure what you mean by your comment “The situation is nowhere as grim as certain quarters make it out to be.” – ?

          In terms of diesel dust etc, obviously whether the diesel engine powers the wheels directly, or powers them indirectly via an electric generator, the same effect is still the same is it not? – that the locomotive uses diesel, which emits a reasonably large amount of soot. Obviously, a solely electric loco will use zero diesel and thus emit zero dust. It will also be cleaner, faster, quieter, able to do more, and will last longer as a result.

          The only real downside I can see is that the track will need to have metal posts and wires along it for an extra 80km (visual pollution), and that this installation will cost money that KR doesn’t currently have. But the Government does have the cash – or can certainly find it quick enough, for other projects with little payback. I’m still not hearing any real arguments against doing it other than money and politics.

        5. It doesen’t matter whether they are diesel electric or diesel hydraulic, the prime mover is still a large diesel engine that has a significant carbon footprint. Granted, one DL pulling 40+ containers will be way more diesel efficient than 20 to 40 diesel trucks moving the same load
          (And KR are quick to tell us this info), it still does not compare to the clean efficient comparably negligible carbon footprint of an EF locomotive pulling those same 40+ containers

          Debate is interesting but the obvious future solution is NOT more DLs but closing the electric traction gaps and installing electric traction to Tauranga.

        6. Thats not quite right Ricardo. Diesel-electric locomotives are more or less ‘direct drive’ in terms of their power output, they don’t have batteries or capacitors to store energy so the amount of motive power at the wheel is determined by the power output by the diesel engine at that point in time. It’s more like an electric transmisison rather than a hybrid system.

          So while they are more efficient than older shaft or hydraulic drive rail transmissions, they do need to rev up the diesel under heavy load and can ease it off when cruising so do have to operate across a fairly broad rev range and aren’t as efficient as a steady state hybrid setup.

        7. AND very much to the point – they are noisy and polluting as f*ck while they’re doing it.

          It matters especially in a urban context like Auckland where people live close to the rail lines.

          And to date the only thing that disturbs their relative peace and quiet is those noisy freight locos from KR thundering past.
          Now that the EMUs are here.

          Yes a KR loco hauling 40 wagons is way more efficient that 40 trucks doing the same. But thats not the matter being discussed.

    1. Its worthless only because it was never completed as intended [Wellington to Auckland electrification], not because it was a worthless investment to start with.

      Imagine if the Northern Motorway stopped just north of the harbour bridge [as it did, many years back, for quite a long time], would you call the bridge a failed investment too?

      While casting aspersions on Governments making wrong transport investments, the same could be said of all the other think big projects of the Muldoon Era.

      Few of those delivered any benefits for the dollars put in, most were hocked off long ago to private enterprise to reap the rewards from.

      I can only think of the one, the Clyde Dam, which is still “operational”, but that had a huge $1B+ cost blow out, needed to make it safe from underlying faults and possible earthquakes. It took the best part of 15 years after it was belatedly finished before the power it made was actually needed by the country. So it was sitting there being wasted for half its lifespan to date.

      So don’t assume that just because the NIMT electrification has now been mothballed that it was always a poor investment.
      It certainly has been badly abused by the various owners of KR over the last 30 years, asset stripped to an inch of its life, then left to rust.
      Same happened to the coastal shipping industry by the way.

      But thats due to imbalances in our transport strategy and poor utilisation of the assets we have. Not because it was “just a bad idea” to start with

      In any case, whatever the cost of the electrification and associated assets (EF locomotives) was in todays dollars, I can guarantee that the cost of buying and running diesels on the NIMT for the same period of time would dwarf that cost. Probably the diesel fuel bill alone would pretty much the same cost.

      I’ve been at Frankton when they switch locos, it not an all day job, probably adds 10 minutes [max] to the process. 10 minutes which the Electric locos will easily recoup over the 400+ km to Palmerston North by their superior hauling capability.

      And in any cases, trains usually have to pull in at Frankton and Palmerston North [and elsewhere too] as drivers usually have to be changed anyway as drivers are only certified for particular segments of the NIMT. So its not like an airline, you can’t run a freight train all the way from Auckland to Wellington without changing drivers several times.

      So whats the issue if you have to switch locos the same as you switch drivers?
      Clearly for 30 years it wasn’t one, and now they decide it is?

      Smells more like a political decision over a technical or rational one.

        1. But they’re not operational for and delivering returns to, “NZ Inc”
          It was the NZ taxpayer who funded the cost of the projects.

          Most were, as I said hived off to private enterprise as a lost cause, with huge book losses, once oil prices dropped.

          Some like the Tiwai point 3rd pot line expansion were just job creation schemes in drag from the start.

        2. No they are not. Marsden B was never used, they knocked down the big chimney so it never will be. The plant was dismantled and shipped to India. The Ohinewai coal is still in the ground as the mine never opened. I think they still waste gas at the Motunui plant making methanol but I think the gas to gasoline nonsense closed years ago.

        3. Yes, that particular world-leading technology from Mobil seems to have completely kicked the bucket. Even the visitors centre is mothballed now (or was when i went there a few years back). While it may have been clever technology at the time, using natural gas to directly fuel cars would have made more sense than using natural gas to make ethanol, and then using ethanol to make petrol, lost over 50% of the inherent energy in the fuel, i.e. we had devised a way to, at great cost, waste half our fuel energy at the get-go. Madness.

        4. Marsden B was not a Think Big project- an oil fired power station as a part of a series of projects to reduce NZ’s reliance on oil? There was a makeover of the refinery as part of Think Big though

          The synthetic fuel plant was indeed the most stupid of the projects, but is still functioning today as a methanol plant.

        5. Think Big was about using up a surplus of energy. The phrase was coined in 1977. Muldoon’s plan was to spend his way re-election and it worked. He won Whangarei and they turned the Taranaki seat from a marginal to a safe National seat. The original plan for Marsden B predated the think big title but became part of the whole rotten bunch. Aramoana was another that never happened. again it was to use up an energy surplus and then became a justification for the Clyde high dam. Looking back I am not sure there was one good scheme among them all. I toured Glenbrook during the expansion and they told us you could buy steel cheaper in Asia, and that was while they were building.

  4. As I understand it there are slight differences between the Auckland and central NIMT electrification, mainly around the amperage used. As such the current electric locos couldn’t run in Auckland but the Aucklands EMUs could run in the Central NI (from a traction point of view at least). As such we’d need new electric locos.

    Playing devil’s advocate, let’s say it costs $1b to electrify to Hamilton (and likely Tauranga). It would be interesting to know what upgrades Kiwirail would do if given that kind of cash to improve the network. How many more passing loops, curve realignments better conditioned tracks for higher speeds would they deliver and what would impact would that have on network use compared to electrification?

    1. I doubt very much that there is a insurmountable technical issue that prevents the existing EF locos running in the Auckland OLE network. Nothing to do with amps incompatibility, if there is sufficient current available to operate AM emus then EFs are a non issue. If its to do with fault detection and remediation then thats usually a simple breaker rating issue or similar electronic switching adjustment.
      Electricity 101 applies…

      1. Yes it is a fault detection issue but not as simple as you think due to how network set up. Was something like that in Auckland the breakers are on the trains but in Central NI they saved costs by putting the breakers on the network, so they don’t have them in the trains to begin with.

        1. Whilst there is a difference in the two 25kVac power supplies, it is wrong to say it’s a problem. On the contrary it’s a non problem.

          The different designs mean that the prospective fault current in the AK system is about double that of the TR-PN system. What that would mean is that the EF locos can’t run in AK. Except some forward thinking engineer a long tme ago specified circuit breakers that are man enough for the job on both systems.

          Note this is nothing to do with different supply voltages or frequencies or AC vs DC… all of which of course can be managed quite easily by dual or multi system locos. Even narrow guage ones. This is simply about the rating of the 25kVac circuit breaker on the loco roof, a $10k piece of equipment.

          Likewise the AK EMUs could also run on the TR-PN power system. Signalling systems may be more of a challenge. As would be the loading guage in places. And the absence of on board toilets.

    2. I wonder if that EF, 30105, that was at westfied yesterday was in Auckland to test operating under the OLE, otherwise why bother towing it to Auckland?
      It left on a southbound train towed by a DL, perhaps on the way to wiri depot or away to get rebranded in AT livery :). BTW 30105 is listed as an in service loco

      1. 30105 would most likely have been at Westfield to have its wheels turned – standard procedure for the EFs.

    3. Isn’t the point that the current electric locos are at end-of-life and we need new ones anyway…?

      If I recall correctly a newspaper article from a couple of years ago or so, banks & financiers in the U.K. are increasingly unwilling to lend to train ownership/leasing companies against diesel locos due to their anticipated loss of value before they reach end of asset & loan life. Can’t find the link right now, but Kiwirail do seem to be making a poor investment choice for lots of reasons, due to constraints imposed on them.

      1. I think the article you saw would have ben referring to diesel multiple units rather than locos, and specifically for the British market. At the time electrification was on a roll there, with little need seen for non-electric passenger stock, bit the situation has changed electrification has been rolled back substantially, with corresponding continuing need for diesel stock.

      2. “current electric locos are at end-of-life and we need new ones anyway…?”

        replace electric with diesel and you get the same results? or not?

        Down the South Island they still run many old growlers up and down the SIMT, hauling freight.

        Some I saw are still branded with Toll livery – they were old when Toll ran the trains, and they’re what, 15 more years older?

        So why is it that 30 year old electrics are “end of life” and diesel locos even older are not?

        Seems to be that “some kinds of locos are better than others” thinking applies to KR’s thinking.

        Yes, I know they’re in survival mode, but is a badly run, short term thinking KR really much better than no KR (or trains) at all?

        Seems to me that KR needs to call the Governments bluff over the continual threat of closing it down, with an ultimatum.

        Either properly invest in KR and rail for the long good of the country.
        Or shut it down now and see what happens with freight haulage as the roads fall to bits and the repair bills truly skyrocket.

        1. Absolutely Greg. Electric locos should outlast diesels. They are after all basically the same thing but with an on board transformer and roof top 25kVac gear in place of several tonnes of complicated maintenance intensive internal combustion engine with allmits moving parts and a massive fuel tank to boot and all the fuel management and exhaust systems that go with it. Really there is no comparison. No other country is buying diesels to replace electric locos. It’s utter madness. Reidy should hang his head in shame. Either man up and tell them how it is. Or resign. Don’t spout weasel words and sell NZ rail down the river for a generation.

        2. Big Wheel – while I agree 100% with your sentiment, I think that Reidy’s hands are tied by his political masters, who are so far declining to pay out the amounts required for the short-term (but large) expense of electrifying the track. He has a choice I guess – he could bitch about the lack of funds, and then probably get sacked for saying words the Government does not agree with. Or he can keep schtumm and parrot the Government line. What I am most interested in is how to get the Government to change its mind. One way, of course, is to change the Government, but there is no sign of that happening in the short term – so the other option is to change Mr English’s mind. He’s the new boss in town. How do we do that?

        3. Of course they should. I’d love to know what the ‘unreliable’ bits are in the EF’s. Give them a decent upgrade and they should be good for another 30 years. We’ve got some clever bastards in NZ. Bet they could add AC/DC voltage conversion in there if they wanted to, for far less than the price of new locomotives.

    4. We have some very clever people in NZ. Sorting out electrics to run on both lines isn’t insurmountable. As for Wellington, there are plenty of locomotives overseas that are capable of running dual voltage. Some more details on EF reliability would be great. What exactly is failing? Have they had any major refurbishments over the past 30 years?

      KR were leading the misinformation as well by saying they’d need to electrify all NI lines. This is patently silly. Auckland to Wellington and Hamilton to Tauranga/Te Puke. Do that and progress from there. Those are your heavy hauling lines.

      1. The EF locomotive reliability is bad but they are still arguably the lowest cost locomotives to run in the KiwiRail fleet and are half the cost of a DL to run. The EFs need a new “brain” or traction control system, much like the Brightstar electronic traction control systems on the DX and DFB variations. It is interesting to note that the DXs and DFBs have been through several upgrade cycles now while the EFs have yet to receive any major upgrades. The EFs ride very well and are therefore very gentle on the track despite their weight, are structurally sound despite in many cases still appearing in the same paint job they arrived in in the late 1980s. There is a strong case for rebuild. Refer to this link to the RMTU website newsletter – refer to page 13 of this newsletter –

        The company referenced in that newsletter is an international engineering consultancy named Advisian, a very credible organisation who KiwiRail engaged for their expert opinion, then choose not to listen to.

        1. Were most of the DX And DF upgrades not simply power increases by upgrading the diesel engines with turbo chargers and other tuning? The Brightstar and previous traction control devices were also add ons.
          There is not really too many major traction items in an electric loco that would need to go through a power upgrade as it would involve replacing the traction motors and that level of rebuild would probably be uneconomic compared to buying new locos.
          Some ancillary upgrades have been done, blowers, coolers, electrical equipment etc
          It would be nice to hear from KR what is in the EFs is unreliable.
          They should have another easy 30 years life. Didn’t KR do a refurb over several years recently for some of the EFs, repainting, rust removal, component replacement? And the 3 EFs in storage for many years were being brought back into service (2 of them?)

      2. I understand that the electricity supplied to the bogies in the EF locos is the same direct current and voltage as the Wellington system, so it shouldn’t take to complex a redesign to make a loco that could travel from Henderson to Thorndon, only stopping to change drivers, with a turn of a knob or two at Waikanae. After all the original Eurostar trains had to deal with overhead pantographs and third rail collection as well as differntvoltages and current type.

  5. If both gaps were electrified KiwiRail could run electric locos all the way. Having different systems (DC vs AC, different voltages DC) is generally not a problem to a modern electric locomotive and it’s quite common in Europe. For example Siemens makes some multisystem ones undner the Vectron name: . In fact even electric-diesel multisystem locos exist (admittedly the diesel engine is generally only used for ‘last-mile’). This all feels like complete lack of political will, not a technical problem.

    1. Agreed. There is quite a bit of info out there on multi-voltage locomotives, and several companies make them – clearly it is not actually the main issue. The real issue would appear to be political. Who is the politician in charge? Is it Bridges? or Joyce (cos he’s in charge of everything). Or Nick Smith (cos he has his fingers in many pies). Or does it all just fall back on Bill English these days? If so, we need to make a case that it would be better for the dairy industry. He’ll listen to that!

    2. I believe cost is the main reason. The frequency of trains between Papakura and Hamilton, and Waikanae and Palmerston North is not sufficient to cover the cost of electrification through fuel savings alone, therefore other reasons would need to be used to justify this.

      I think (others with more knowledge may correct me) that it is unusual to have such a low volume section (Hamilton to Palmerston North) electrified. In Australia electrification is only in urban areas served by high frequency passenger services, and in Queensland on routes used by frequent coal trains.

      1. Jezza – i’d tend to agree with you that it doesn’t make sense in Australia – after all, vast distances, huge voltage drops, high infrastructure costs, and sparsely settled population would make it hugely unaffordable. A diesel train track across the outback is a very logical thing. But surely Auckland to Hamilton is a different kettle of fish? One day, in the not too far distant future, Hamilton will almost be a commuter suburb of Auckland.

        1. Fair comment, there’s a bit of both in Australia when it comes to satellite cities. In Queensland and NSW they have electrified out to the satellite cities, such as Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Newcastle and Woolongong, while in Victoria it is still diesel trains running out to Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. Although I think there are plans to electrify to Geelong.

  6. Mod – Jon we’re not here as a broadcast platform for political parties. Please go somewhere else if that’s all you intend to contribute.

    1. So, the author can write “The Green Party certainly disagree with him, with Greens spokesperson on Transport, Julie-Anne Genter, saying on 21 Dec 2016 that “New electric trains are cleaner, quieter, and have lower fuel and maintenance costs over their lifetime. They’re also powered by local renewable energy rather than imported oil. Diesel trains will also cost more to operate long-term, which could encourage more freight to move off rail and onto dangerous trucks on the road.”

      However, if anyone points readers to a press release about the issue of electrification from the Rt Honorable Winston Peters it is not acceptable by transportblog? Questionable actions indeed!

      For those of you are open minded to the broad support to retain electrification, here is the release:

  7. I was quite surprised when I first saw the electric wires above the tracks in Taumarunui, while (back then) the tracks in Auckland weren’t electrified at all.

    How did we end up electrifying the section in the middle but not that last section to Auckland in the first place? It’s not like Hamilton was so much bigger than Auckland back then.

      1. Greg, The argument is, of course, that whether we are currently in a low fuel-cost epoch or a high one (fuel costs feel high at the moment, but they are quite likely to get very much higher), that the logical thing to do would be to try and utilise NZ’s abundant amounts of renewable energy and reduce KiwiRail’s reliance on diesel even further. The amount of water that has fallen from the sky, for free, in the last week, is probably enough to power NZ for a year or two.
        For Free.

        We can either have an economy that continually pays money offshore to import (frankly, dirty) diesel fuel; or we can have an economy that puts money into a one-off project, utilising NZ-made steel if we want (free iron-sand etc), and electrify the NIMT which will have ongoing savings for NZ for the rest of eternity (however long that is – let’s say 50 years at least… 🙂

        1. Our transport fleet emissions are so large now, that it doesn’t matter much whether we have an all electric loco fleet or not.

          The trucks that KR competes with are collectively a bigger problem than all of KR diesels put together.

          It is however disappointing and short sighted to replace perfectly usable electrification with diesels in the guise of efficiency.

          When any money saved by not needing to switch locos, maybe twice per run, is more than outweighed by the inefficiencies (not currently fully captured by carbon taxes and the like) which that incurs.

          And in any case, how much freight goes all the way from Auckland to Wellington?
          Only stuff going to/from the SI surely, so we’re talking a small portion of KR’s business.

          In any case, I read today that KR’s freight business has halved over the straight due to the Kaikoura ‘quake, hence a 15% freight surcharge being emplaced now by KR on all cook strait ferry freight.

          So, all changes including replacing EF’s may be put on hold as if KR wants to save money, not buying ANY new locos makes more sense right now.
          And if we’re lucky a new government [or at least, a less dogmatic one of the current ilk] may be in power in 8 months anyway so all KR bets will likely be off then.

    1. IIRC (and I was a young boy at the time) that section carried by far the largest amount of freight on the network at the time. Remember this was in the period where any freight journeys over 150kms (again IIRC) had to be carried by train so there was lots of transshipping going on.

    2. Many early electrification were one-off part-network projects because the alternatives at the time weren’t powerful enough, created too much pollution (eg in tunnels), or used scarce resources (eg oil). With improvements to diesel technology and the extension of network electrification, most (if not all) of these electrifications have either been dieselised (eg Lyttelton and Otira tunnels, and Virginian and Great Northern in the US), or incorporated into larger networks (eg New York, the Black Forest), or completely closed (eg the Woodhead route in the UK). As far as I know the NIMT was the last example of these isolated electrifications to be built, and the last to remain jsloated.

  8. Great to see this getting an airing, thank you Guy. I believe that a lot of the decision by KiwiRail is due to an internal drive to standardise on one locomotive type – the DL. Never mind that they cost twice as much to run per km as the EF locomotives. Also ignored, is that the operating cost differences are after the DLs have been in service now for 6 to 7 years so should be well and truly “run in”. By contrast, the EF locomotives have had very little maintenance for many years, and no significant overhauls or upgrades. In other words, this is the very best a DL can do, competing against a severely compromised electric locomotive fleet.

    In overseas countries, the focus is on lowest possible operating costs for an entire fleet which may be made up of several different types which might share common components to achieve standardisation. In that context, KiwiRail’s claim that the only alternative to an all DL fleet is to completely electrify every single line in the North Island network is absurd. KiwiRail’s approach is so crude and such a failure in terms of lowering costs as to justify a public enquiry into their procurement practises from an independent international rail engineering consultancy.

    Under a more sensible approach, there is a good case to electrify Papakura – Hamilton – Mt Maunganui and rejuvenate the current Hamilton – Palmerston North line with upgraded or new electric locos. Let diesel freight shuttles run to and from Palmerston North as currently happens with short 10 minute changeovers from diesel to electric at low cost as has been demonstrated by union members to KiwiRail management.

    In Europe and Japan, electric locomotives run across multiple voltage networks and current settings. I understand that a Japanese design could be readily modified for the day when KiwiRail does run all the way through by electric from Auckland to Wellington.

    1. Thank you all for your input, I knew we would be able to squeeze out some answers. I am hoping that someone from KiwiRail are also reading and perhaps taking notice as well. Too many comments here for me to be able to reply to them all, and I am learning a lot about the subject, but one thing you raise Tuktuk – that maybe KR are trying to concentrate on just one type of diesel locomotive? That doesn’t appear to be the case from what Wikipedia tells me, where they note that KR are currently running the following Diesel class locos: DBR, DC, DCP, DFB, DFT, DH, DL, DSC, DSG, DSJ, DXB, DXC, DXR, TR, and also the electric EF class trains. The DL is the most recent, followed by the EF, but this certainly doesn’t look like a list of just one type of locomotive to me. The EF is the most powerful, at 3000kW, while DL is next most powerful, at 2700kW. We have 48 DL in service, and 15 EF in service, but also significant numbers of other diesels i.e. 32xDXC, 14xDXB, 22xDC etc. Yes, I know that some, such as the TR and the DH are just used for shunting.

      What I have noticed, living near the main trunk line through Kapiti, is that there are never less than two DL or DXC hauling each freight trainload on the Kapiti line (often three of them), and at Christmas I watched in amazement as 5 of them went past, hitched together. Admittedly, they were perhaps just being relocated (who knows?) but it does show that perhaps more powerful locos are needed, and that the EF are clearly the most powerful ones on the list. They look to be about 11% more powerful than the DL, and about 34% more powerful than the DXC locos.

      The quoted 10 minute change over does not seem to be a significant time loss, especially when there appears to be an hour or more in cost savings by using electric. So, it still seems to be a viable argument to me – i.e., to go and electrify the northern part of the NIMT as a starter. How about it Mr Reidy?

      1. The older locos that you point out had a great many variations (too many!) but were also the result of tweaks and finetunings over many years. The drive to standardise can be referenced in any one of the recent KiwiRail Annual Reports and press releases relating to locomotives and the replacement of the EFs in particular. The principle of standardisation is worthy, but not where that standard design is so fundamentally defective as is the case of the DLs. The drive to standardisation should be seen as a means to an end: the lowest possible operating costs. Standardisation can also mean shared components into slightly different locomotive types and sizes which together deliver an optimised fleet that as a whole achieves lowest possible operating costs.

      2. KR seemed to suggest the infrastructure would at least remain, but how useful that is if it is not maintained properly would likely be problematic.

        Overall it is ironic that we are not updating solid electric vehicles that have extensive infrastructure already in place and a healthy freight capacity, at the same time as government is promoting new electric vehicles where limited infrastructure (fast charging points in publicly accessible locations for electric road vehicles) still requires extensive investment. Duh.

      3. I had read that the 10 minute changeover isn’t really the main issue, although it does add costs as two driver shifts have to overlap as engines a moved around.

        The main issue is creates a difficult driver shift pattern, which adds costs. Using diesels would allow a driver to go Auckland to Wellington on a shift, which in practice means a two trains in opposite directions meeting at National Park and swapping so they can return home, reducing accommodation costs.

      4. “The quoted 10 minute change over does not seem to be a significant time loss, especially when there appears to be an hour or more in cost savings by using electric”

        The loco changeover is actually several hours, not 10 minutes.

        Consider this:

        Suppose we have an Auckland to Wellington train, that takes 16 hours to complete the journey, and it is hauled by a DL all the way, and only requires brief stops at Hamilton and Palmerston North for crew changes. That’s 16 locomotive hours.

        Now, retaining the electrics means that DL will come off at Hamilton and head to the depot to await its next run north. It may be there for 4 hours, so we’ll allocate 2 hours to the train we are talking about, and ignore the other 2 hours, because they are for the later northbound service, which we are not concerned with.

        Meanwhile, an EF has already been in Hamilton for 4 hours since its previous northbound run, and takes over our train. Again, lets divide that 4 hours down time for the EF between our train, and the earlier northbound train that it arrived on, which we are not concerned with. That’s another 2 locomotive hours for our train.

        We repeat this process in reverse at Palmerston North.

        By the time our train reaches Wellington, we have accumulated 24 locomotive hours, as opposed to using one locomotive right through using 16 locomotive hours. That’s 50% more locomotives required to cover NIMT trains under a mixed operation, than would be required under a single fleet operation.

        This is why KiwiRail only require 8 new diesels to replace all 17 electrics. Those 8 diesels, along with the freed up hours of the existing diesel fleet made possible by eliminating down time at Hamilton and Palmerston North, will be far more efficient.

        Additional to that much greater efficiency, is the loss of all that extra expense on duplicate infrastructure and staff.

        Ditching the electrics really is a no-brainer. They are just not efficient when used only on a line segment.

        1. Interesting argument that on the face of it appears robust. But you have not actually talked about real dollars.
          Refer to the Advisian report here –
          $10 million to upgrade 17 electrics versus $35 million for 8 DLs. Your argument does not work in terms of CAPEX.
          KiwiRail will not officially disclose the monthly operating costs of the different classes of locomotives, but the RMTU clearly got these numbers from somewhere –

          $1.13/km for the electrics versus $2.27 for the DL fleet. Your argument does not work in terms of OPEX.
          The one area where there may be grounds for argument could well be staff rosters. But, if both sides want to it work, I’m sure a viable solution is there.

        2. Geoff, that argument doesn’t stack up. If DL’s and EF’s end up sitting around for hours at the intermediate loco-change points it is because services are not sufficiently intensive or sufficiently well-planned to better utilise them. The same situation can prevail where a single set of diesel locomotives hauls the service all the way but still ends up sitting around for many hours waiting its next planned duty. You need to add this time to your total-locomotive-hours also. Of course, the fewer services that are operated by electrics then the fewer opportunities there are for quick turnarounds, but in the past the change-over has worked smartly and efficiently, including utilising the EF’s on the former Overlander passenger service.

          And you well know that loco-changeover time and loco down-time are two completely separate entities. Changeover time impacts on the running of the service and overall journey-time. 10 minutes is quite reasonable for this process as anyone who used the former Overlander could have observed. Loco down-time affects efficiency of asset-utilisation but does not affect journey-time. Don’t try to confuse these two separate issues.

          And now there is the inefficiency of having to use two DL’s for the flat end-sections of route because they are needed over the hilly central section, whereas only one is actually needed when locos are changed and electrics do the central bit.

          The KiwiRail argument (that loco-changes are akin to air-passengers having to land, change planes and take off again) while being an absurd exaggeration, none-the-less shows that journey-times are being touted to the public as the chief concern, not asset-utilisation. And a significant reason why fewer diesels are needed than the electrics they replace is that fewer NIMT trains run now than in the 1980’s when the electrics were acquired.

          Ditching the electrics is not a no-brainer as there are strong reasons in their favour. To overhaul and retain them for the time being is a viable option that has been quietly shunted aside with no public reason given.

  9. Can we push Rail Of National Significance into the vernacular of the accountants at the top? How is it that we have no end of dumb motorway ideas, while the efficient, long existing, long proven mode of rail requires only some minor attention to be reborn as revolutionary as the automobile thought it was? Surely in the long term sovereign independence is worth a few dollars of investment now.

    1. Matthew – your idea of calling it a Rail of National Significance is a very good one. We should use that line more often. Mr Joyce will love it.

  10. It seems that KiwiRail CEOs are fixated on one idea to improve the business and pursue it, not matter what the evidence. Jim Quinn thought that trimming the network would help and therefore the Napier-Gisborne Line and the Stratford-Okahukura line were closed. But the money saved by not maintaining those was minimal compared to overall costs and the diminished flexibility. Part of the Napier-Gisborne Line will now be reopened at additional cost as the line was not kept in service.

    Peter Reidy is focusing on equipment standardization as a means for cost savings and is following that no matter the evidence. I’d say the loss of goodwill is greater than any short-term gain in efficiency. The 10 minute changeover does not make or break the operation. Another way to cut cost would be to decrease the 111 million salary bill for all those employees earning over $100,000 (according to the 2014-2015 annual report).
    But maybe this decision does force the hand and will eventually result in the completion of the electrification of the NIMT. And yes, multiple-system locos are common around the world.

    1. The Napier to Gisborne line was never closed to save money, it was not used due to storm damage for quite some time and repairing that damage is where the cost is when reopening the line.

      1. Err? Isn’t that the same thing? Saving money. Incidentally, even more than the cost of repairing the line was then spent by the gov on the highway, because of the increase in road freight as a result. Crazy ‘savings’.

        1. Jim Quinn was talking about cutting some lines and concentrating on the core network to save money well before the storm damage. And once the opportunity came along to implement what he saw as the fix, he took it. This line of reasoning was also used in the justification for closure later on.

        2. But it is also an expensive road to maintain, for the 40+ big rig ruck and trailer units that use that route with the current wall of wood. I recall once driving the Napier-Taupo road, and passing 22 logging trucks in the hour and a bit that it took to drive it. So, 40 trips by road is a conservative estimate – and yet is only one extra freight train. Yes, there is one massive slip – but it is repairable. Heck, they built the entire line way back in the Dark Ages when all they had was mules and steam power – its not beyond the wit of humankind to build a new bridge in that hole.

          Actually (going back a fair while) I used to take the Grasshopper – the Napier-Gisborne railcar back in the 70s. Very exciting! Great route! Far nicer than driving that bloody awful road… But i agree, the route is not likely to be a great passenger route. We should open it up for freight, and special occasions as they have done in the past.

          Went up there once on a steam engine during the Art Deco weekend, and we ran over a sheep. Cue great roast mutton smell of cooking from old sheep boiled alive, wafting throughout the train…

        3. Guy the Napier Taupo and the Napier Gisborne are like chalk and cheese, logs from the central Plato have never had the option of rail to Napier and there are logs from Gisborne that are barged (this was also done when the rail was open) to Napier port.

        4. Big Ted – the central Plato ? Now there’s a sight we don’t see that often here on Transport Blog – ancient Greek philosophy and transport routes… 🙂 They may have barged logs, but I’ve never seen it, and have lived half my life in Napier. You’re absolutely right that there has never been a rail route from Taupo to Napier, but both road routes pass over some pretty grumpy mountain ranges and wiggly windy roads, so they aren’t much different in terms of response: meaning large Kenworth truck and trailer units. The dreaded B-train. I think we had 2 roll in / near Napier just last week, killing some people? To all intents and purposes, even knowing it won’t happen, it would be bloody good to get those logs off the road and onto the railway where they belong…

      2. The Stratford okahukuta line was closed following a derailment. It was actually carrying quite a decent amount of freight at the time but now of all goes on the back of a truck on sh3.

        A good win for the truckies there.

        1. I think most of the freight that was moved on the Stratford Okahukura line (SOL) goes on rail via Marton as it was primarily Fonterra milk powder heading for export at Tauranga. Fonterra were happy to send it via Marton when compared with being asked to cover some of the costs associated with the SOL. The added bonus is they can send it in high cube containers, which did not fit through tunnels on the SOL.

  11. Great to see this discussion. There is another diesel only line that is rapidly growing and that is Tauranga Auckland.
    With the constraints on the Auckland Port expansion, the Tauranga Port is going to handle more of Auckland’s import/export freight.
    And with that growth there has already been a call to double track that route including the Kaimai tunnel.
    Aucklands freight needs by rail will be handled by diesel not electric, and my guess is that it is growing faster than the main trunk freight to and from Wellington. Note there are no electric freight engines working in Auckland to date and no plans for changeover facility at Papakura.
    Just wish that Kiwirail will publish some figures like AT so we can understand the real reasons behind their decision.

    1. If KR plan to decommision EFs proceeds then they could be used in Auckland. If not for passenger trains then perhaps for freight shunts between ak port and the inland port.
      A changeover facility at Papakura would keep those pollution making diesels out of the metro area. Same at Swanson.

      1. That slows the movement of freight even more, a complete opposite of using diesels all the way that makes rail more time competitive with road.

        1. You and I both know ted that the *real* reason why rail struggles so much to match roads performance is really due to poor maintenance of the track by KR. Not because KR changes locos twice per trip.

          If KR really wants to live for another day, they should not bother with new diesels and instead, simply fix up their shitty tracks so that those speed restrictions are removed so that the trains can run at the speed they’re supposed to run at, as evidenced by days gone by.

        2. Speed restrictions have little effect on the 18 hour service to Wellington vs 8 hour door to door on road or the (pre quake) 50 hour service to Christchurch vs 18 hours door to door on road.

        3. Bigted – while I agree it is not possible to run freight trains Akl – Wlg in 8 hours I would have thought any time saving would make them more competitive than they are now.

      2. Further to Bigted’s comment – it’s not possible to use the EFs on port shunts as there are no overhead wires in the port and it would not be desirable to install them with containers being loaded onto wagons with forkhoists.

        1. Very good point Jezza – I suspect that shunting is / has always / will always be done using diesel units for that reason.

  12. I like your appraisal of the situation. From an Engineer’s perspective, 25KV AC is easier to implement as a nation-wide infrastructure for simple reasons…
    * The higher voltage results in intrinsically lower power losses in the transmission system for a given power (as opposed to 1.5KV AC or DC). Power to the overhead rail also requires less feed-points with attendant equipment. Everyone wins, including Wellington suburban if they bite the bullet and move ‘up’.

    * The ability to provide simple nodal power-feeds from the national electrical grid with little in the way of complex equipment is (to my mind) pretty important. Lower install and maintenance costs for the long-term.

    * I am a recently converted train commuter in Auckland. It would be wonderful to be able to travel from Auckland to Wellington in a modern overnight sleeper. SUCH a sensible commercial decision for business folks if that option were available. YES, I realize the narrow gauge limits dimensions and therefore in-carriage infrastructure but these are just problems that probably have cute solutions.

    1. Actually the gauge makes little difference. The SA/SDs were ex BR standard gauge carriages but operated on the NZ narrow gauge with a change to appropriate bogies.
      So you could have pretty comfy overnight sleeps AK to WGTN

    2. How easy would it be for Wellington to convert to 25kV AC (assuming it is done next time they order a new fleet of trains)?

      1. Jezza – having only just received our new train set, and judging by the time it took to replace the previous one, you’re looking at 30-50 years away, if the Matangi trains last as long as the English Electrics did. So basically: no, not going to happen.

        1. Agree – it was more of a question around how easy is it to change the voltage and current in an existing system. You are right though given the units are new it would not make any sense for quite a while. I suspect dual voltage locos would be more logical.

      2. One option would be to split the network, with the NIMT converted to AC with new AC trains for the Kapiti Line, with the remaining network remaining DC with the matangis. With four tracks coming in to Wellington Central that might not be impossible.

        1. Nick, you’re right – I wish I had thought of that! It would work fine for all but the last 200m or so, as the lines for the various tracks come together at the last minute into the Wellington station. But it certainly makes it look more plausible….

        2. Nice idea in theory, and there’d be no particular issues with separating the Wairarapa (Hutt) and NIMT (Kapiti) lines as far as Kaiwharawhara, reinstating the 1937 layout of the NIMT flying over both Wairarapa lines so that the AC lines wold be to the east, DC lines to the west. But thence there are just three tracks for the last couple of kilometres, and the EMU depot and all stabling are on the west (ie DC side), so what happens with the AC units?

          And I suspect that the political appetite for throwing away the millions recently invested in new NIMT substations and rendering half (or so) of the Matangi fleet redundant would be limited.

        3. Mike (the longstanding one) – it is my understanding that there was at least a token effort made when specifying the Matangis to give them some capability for conversion to AC. Might be as simple as providing a third car for each set carrying the transformer and maybe another powered bogie. I appreciate that there may well be issues protecting electrical and electronic systems from interference. But worth at least a second look I would have thought.

        4. I’m sure that it would be possible to convert Matangi to AC (or dual voltage), but I very much doubt that it would be “simple” (or cheap)! Very little on a railway ever is…

    3. Thinks Mr Parr. I’ve done that trip from Auckland to Wellington (and vice versa) a few times, and yes, it is (was) an enjoyable trip. Bloody long though, timewise. But it did mean that. as you say, you would arrive in Auckland at 7.00am ready to go – as opposed to the current trek where i have to get up at 6.30am to catch the 7.00am flight to arrive in Auckland Airport at 8.00am and then finally get into actual real Auckland city by 9.00am if you’re lucky. In theory it is only a one hour flight, but it becomes more like 2-3 hours in reality. The train, of course, is a 10 hour journey at best. Not much chance of it going faster with our skinny widths, many tunnels and wobbly tracks.

      Re the other points on Voltage, I’ll defer to your obviously better knowledge there, other than to say that I think it is highly unlikely that Wellington would consider changing voltage and voltage systems, having just bought a large new fleet of trains all designed to run on the 1.5kV DC system. From what I understand, the 1.5kV DC system is the logical thing to go for in a built up urban area, and Auckland was going to do the same, but were persuaded against it – and hence to go with the 25kV AC system – precisely so that they could tie in with the NIMT.

      1. The Wellington network is electrified at 1.5kv DC because that was the norm when it was electrics back in the 1930s/40s. 25kV AC technology was not developed until the 1950s when it became feasible to carry both a high voltage transformer and AC/DC rectifier equipment onboard trains. 25KV electrification infrastructure is typically cheaper than 1.5 Kev Dc as the higher voltage means that substation spacing is greater , currents are lower so overhead conductors are smaller as are the masts. However once a rail system has been electrified at a particular system, the logistics of conversion to another system without significant service disruptions mean that usually it is cheaper to retain and upgrade the existing system. In theory the Matangi EMUs could have been supplied as dual voltage DC and AC trains but the process of. Building and changing over to new 25kV overhead line equipment would have complex and of little benefit to Wellington rail users.

      2. Mr Parr – In the period the Silver Star was operating I used to attend monthly meetings in Wellington and found it very convenient for my wife to drop me off at the (old) Auckland Station for the 7 pm departure for Wellington. No long trip out to the airport which I thought was bad enough then, but of course does not compare with today’s car traffic nonsense.
        After a good sleep and a shower and shave etc. whilst the train climbed the Pukerua Bay incline, one arrived fresh at Wellington Station for a brisk walk along Lambton Quay to the meeting location.
        But I confess that I always came home by plane because that enabled me to have a portion of the evening at home and to be fresh for the next working day here in Auckland.

  13. Unfortunately, the Hamilton-Palmerston North section has only a handful of trains each way, each day. The electrification work started when transport was regulated and rail had a large chunk of the market. By the time it was completed transport had been deregulated and the main trunk in particular lost a heap of traffic. Freight operators internationally try to avoid swapping between diesel and electric locomotives. Pacific National a privatised freight operator in NSW, Australia inherited a large fleet of modern electric locos which they quickly scrapped as no electrified line run more 180 kms from Sydney. Unless the government puts its hands in its pockets its going to be diesels all the way I’m afraid.

        1. So, you were going to electrify more of the line, thats would have to be the #1 priority and bang for buck.

        2. So based on that, electrification from Akl – Hamilton – Tga is the first step if we actually want NZ rail infrastructure to transition to a low carbon model.

    1. In the same way that Australia’s freight trains mostly carry basic primary products i.e. coal, iron ore, timber etc, ours also carry mostly the remains of our forests. Timber all the way. And so our freight is centred around the areas where forestry is also prevalent, going to the local port. So the Palmerston to Wellington route has been (until the latest quake) a well utilised route for shipping logs to the port and thence to China. If there was a route from Tokoroa to a port, it would be massively used. Unfortunately, no trains in Tokoroa, so trucks rule instead. So I’m not sure if there is much, if any, need for freight rail trips from the centre of the island over to Tauranga. Suspect there is a lot of trucks on that route instead?

        1. Really? Sorry, my mistake. I was looking at a rail map of NZ and there appears to be nothing shown there. Happy to stand corrected.

  14. We can moan all we like about the decision, or not. KiwiRail maybe still a dysfunctional industry. But there has been vast improvements. Mr Eddie has done the right thing. It just simply isn’t possible to currently support electrification infrastructure on the NIMT Te Rapa – Palmerston North. The diesel option using the DL locomotive is currently a far more viable option. There are a lot of facts that have been taken into consideration. He has also left it all in a position that if there is a change of government that can somehow come up with that sought of money, that they will be able to once again utilise the overhead equipment. Look on the bright side… CT work in places like Te Kuiti for New Plymouth are far more likely in the future.

    1. SJC – ‘The diesel option using the DL locomotive is currently a far more viable option.’
      Where are the dollar figures and a transparent and independent review from a credible source that backs up this claim?

      1. Well, its blacked out in the report isn’t it…. So it is obviously commercially sensitive. But when one has operational exposure as I do with what is really going on, that if all the current freight trains (well before the Kaikoura earthquake)were hauled by electric locos under the current overhead system Te Rapa – Palmerston North, there would be problems that most don’t understand or begin to comprehend. Problems that result in trains doing 5kmph for hours on end and would cost $100m’s to rectify with just that part of the system regardless of putting in place any new overhead related infrastructure. I hear people making a point how other electric trains(down grade) power other electric trains up grades. Maybe from time to time…. But when you have trains on single lines running in opposing directions on the same grade under the same wire, and the same isolated section of contact wire, well go figure, many $m’s for those types of filters to be fitted as AT found out AFTER they received delivery of their EMU…. And even then it doesn’t work how they thought it would what-so-ever. Then have to look at derailments, weather. Overheads become a complete pain to a rail freight business. Big costs in those factors that diesels don’t carry in comparison. Come to think of it, there is a cost analysis. The diesel’s do win. Tracking down that information, talking 2010 when they looked at all that. People think it will cost $1bn to do north of Te Rapa. Then I read here tonight, that includes electrification out to Tauranga as well. Well, I think that would quite optimistic. Has anyone considered that a very expensive realignment would be quite likely between Mercer – Rangiriri? I say those two locations, because in between is the likely place were uprights are likely to disappear into the swampy lands there over 5-12 yrs…. Then in addition, who knows, they may prefer a realignment on the route that makes the real money, between Southdown – Sulphur point – that realignment being Taupiri – Morrinsville…. There’s all sorts of reasons why KR is best off going diesel at this stage. And the DL diesels are quite economical. 2500 litres of diesel for 3900tonnes of freight on a return trip between Sulphur and Southdown says a lot. Imagine how much diesel that would be if that tonnage had been moved via truck?.

        1. So, you are aware of the monthly operating cost comparisons between the various classes of locomotive then?

        2. Thank you SJC – really interesting reply – i don’t know anything about these issues with filters etc, so its good to hear about it. You mention “People think it will cost $1bn to do north of Te Rapa.” – does that really seem right to you? A billion bucks for 80km? That’s $12.5million a kilometre. I can’t figure out how anyone could charge that much for doing that work (assuming that the existing track remains insitu). Just doesn’t seem right, or even possible to me. Does it make sense to you?

  15. SJC – ‘Has anyone considered that a very expensive realignment would be quite likely between Mercer – Rangiriri?”
    Again heresay. Where is the detailed independently verified engineering report that would back up your claim?

    1. tuk tuk. I’m not in a position to give out that sought of detailed information, even if I do have access to it(which I most likely could if I wanted but I don’t, its not my job) I assume you don’t want the obvious without the expert opinion…. Like double tracking in that area. As far as I was aware, it was common knowledge. Not everything is expert opinion. But when Work trains return to the same place dumping ballast that the ground swallows up regularly, that says a lot now doesn’t it? I suppose some proof of that sought of thing is south of Te Rapa, around Oahupo where there is now a permanent 60kmph speed restriction because the poles are always sinking into the soft ground…. hmmm…. Guy M. There’s more than just slapping up wires to it. My non-expert estimate is somewhere around $500-800m for just the wires & poles. There is also rebuilding of bridges(especially motorway, ngaruawahia), signals, interlocking, track works (2nd mainline included), locomotives, transmission power feeds, substations. Huge $$$$$. Additionally, it maybe a 81km gap. But that is effectively 162km of overhead over both mainlines.

      1. SJC, don’t want to give you a hard time and it is getting late! I suspect we both have a little bit to do with the rail industry but in different sectors and from my perspective, a different country. I hear that KiwiRail are listening to operations and commercial staff very much more than in the past and that is a very good thing as their input has been sorely lacking. The fact that KiwiRail is carrying 18 million tonnes of freight per year is evidence that it is certainly doing many things right.

        But, and this is a big but, there are areas that need comprehensive, impartial, evidence based analysis as the right answer may not always be the most obvious. Input from the “back-room boys and gals” if you like that can find the right solution at the right price to build overhead catenary through a swamp for example. The notion that commercial managers with no locomotive specification experience would be able to buy a cheap assed Chinese diesel, with a big German donk, and just expect it all to work, is a case study of how de-skilling a company can come back to bite it.

        I personally think that in a country fortunate enough to generate 80% of its energy from renewal sources and ambitions to have a clean green image for its export goods, electrification should be grabbed with both hands. I also think that electrification to Hamilton will help support the kind of high frequency passenger operation that will make a real difference to house prices and provide real economic opportunities just as has happened in South Eastern Queensland. But, I would not expect anything less than a thorough business case with all the peer reviews needed before a dollar is spent.

        1. So the answer is “Drain the Swamp!” then, is it? Hmmmm, i’ve heard that line somewhere before…

        2. Drain the swamp? Ahh no, don’t think so would need a very large vacuum cleaner! But there are ways to stabilize the foundation without having to dig all the way to timbuktoo! It is a civil engineering question and one best answered by a civil engineer. Great Britain, like New Zealand has a fair amount of the watery stuff coming down from the skies, and a range of terrain that electrified railways traverse, including swamps. I reckon they might just have some answers.

        3. Yes, they have been listening to front line staff. Back to basics they call it. That’s where we been told all this stuff, or shared amongst staff across the board(in amongst what we do already know on our routes). It definitely does cost more to run a DL than an electric. No arguments there. But the costs of the infrastructure included make the diesels a far more attractive option that will stimulate a result of a lot more income. I wonder how many people out there are unaware that the contact cable would need renewing between te rapa and palmy and that trackide equipment would need upgrading substantially in some locations, again at great costs that seem to be quite unnecessary.

  16. I guess that one thing that hasn’t been taken into account by anyone still planning to use petroleum products in the future, is the effect of the increasingly large worldwide push to electric vehicles. It may just be cars at present, but it will possibly over time include trucks and buses as well – and already includes trains. It is still being resisted by people like the new US Secretary for State / Oil, who want to drill for oil at every chance to prolong the profits that the oil industry can make, as any change from oil to electricity will mean they have to leave oil profits in the ground.

    But at some stage in the future, maybe 20 years down the track, the oil-drilling industry and the petroleum-using industry will collapse and the whole system built around massive oil use will collapse. And what will happen to industries reliant on diesel then? It’s easy to dismiss such comments as idiotic, and say that it could never happen, but just think for a minute: there used to be a system of transport in NZ, but more importantly and relevantly: the USA – of horse drawn transport. People made wagons. People housed horses, people organised oats or hay or whatever they ate, and people shovelled horse-shit by the tonne.

    That’s only been gone for the last 60 years or so – gone entirely – and yet the actual changeover, when it happened, only took 10-20 years. Entire industries wiped out that were reliant on that method of transport. Remnants still going on in some backward corners of Europe, but by and large, horse-drawn transport is dead.

    One day, quite likely sooner rather than later, that will happen to the industry based around the petrol engine as well. One day it will be worth digging oil out of the ground at great expense and refining it into petrol and diesel – and a year on – it won’t. Wouldn’t it make sense to change over to a system which will never run out – electricity?

    1. Guy – I think that’s a really good point (great post by the way!). There seems to be two components to this – the present and the future. I think Kiwirail has probably made the only decision they could working within the constraints they have. However, I think two or three things will change in the future that will result in Akl to Tauranga being electrified.

      Firstly with the growing traffic congestion on the Southern Motorway I think we will see a return of passenger trains between Akl and Hamilton sooner than expected once the CRL opens and there is a sufficient length of 3rd main in South Auckland to allow these trains to run express. Secondly, Auckland to Tauranga freight will continue to grow, and thirdly as you describe fuel will probably get harder and harder to source.

      No one of course can be sure of when these will happen, but I believe for this reason it is worth having the Government cover the cost Kiwirail bears from having to run a less efficient shift pattern due to the locomotive changeover.

  17. Regarding electrication of the Arthurs Pass – Otira line through the tunnel.

    The tunnel is on a steep gradient. The electrification was installed in the days of steam. A steam loco would have trouble hauling a train up the gradient as well as the ventilation problems a struggling steam locomotive would have in the confined space of the tunnel.

    In the diesel era these locomtives had problems with air circulation. Think of the locomotive as a piston in a tube, pushing air in front of it and dragging air behind. This meant that heat from the radiators tended to recirculate causing the loco to cook. The same recirculation applied to air used for engine combustion resulting in diminished oxygen to support combustion.

    The sucessful solution to this problem was to install tunnel doors stopping the airflow caused by the piston effect.

  18. In the UK the 247 mile (398km), or 609 track miles (980km), Great Western electrification is currently priced at £1.74bn (NZ$3.02bn). The 81km to Hamilton is mostly double track and the 80km to Waikanae mostly single, so that’s about 240 track km. That’d be about $740m, plus $320m for the 105km Tauranga route, a total of $1,060m. Compare that to the $973m being spent on a Hamilton bypass, or even more proposed to blight Onehunga.

    1. Yes then compare that cost with how few people will actually ride a train long distance, and the fact that rail already gets a remarkably high level of freight given how incredibly inconvenient it is compared to trucks, and you will probably find that the only person daft enough to fund NIMT electrification in this country was Rob Muldoon and even he wasn’t stupid enough to pay for the whole thing. IMO the only way electrification stands up is as a means to claim a reduction in carbon units but given you can buy those dirt cheap on the world market there really is no point whatsoever.

      1. mfwic, were you by any chance one of those naysayers who claimed that “Aucklanders love their cars so you will never get them into trains”? The claims you are making here sound similarly negative. How do you know “few people will actually ride a train long distance”? I believe there is every chance that if done properly, such a service could be a huge success – just like Auckland’s trains!

    2. John, it may just be my slant on things, but I would venture to say that, in my humble opinion, kiwis can build things faster than the Brits. Not sure what it is, but on public projects like that they are incredibly slow. So, our costs should also be proportionately lower. Now, that may be that kiwis are more productive, or it may be that we have lower H&S standards, or it may be that their country is more built up and so it is a lot more tricky to do, and ours is undeveloped and easier, or it may be that we just do a slap-dash job with not enough care. Maybe a bit of all of those. But regardless – our costs should be far lower than theirs.

  19. US freight railroads carry in an hour what KiwiRail carries in a year, and even at that level, they don’t deem electrification to be viable.

    It makes very little sense to have duplicate infrastructure and staff just to achieve the same end result of moving the same tonnage.

    Spending billions to achieve next to nothing is just plain daft.

    1. So does the concept of induced demand only apply to roading schemes? Where you build a road and it fills up with traffic and gets congested?
      If the infrastructure for rail electric traction was installed AK to Hamilton to Tauranga then would there be significant induced demand from freight companies wanting to take advantage of being associted with fast, maybe lower cost and environmentally clean transport. Then would this also stimulate growth of intercity passenger servces or even extending all station stopping services beyond pukekohe?
      East-west link at Onehunga or rail electric Ak to Tauranga, about same cost?

        1. Who says freight rates would skyrocket upward? Show me the back of envelope figures. It is easy to find capital investment costs but much harder to locate the long term operating costs savings. I’ll give you a clue based on a what has been let out of the bag here, and general feedback overseas – the operating cost is between one third and a half of a comparable diesel. Factor in the cost of carbon; up until recently it was around NZ$4/unit (2 tonnes). It is currently around NZ$17/unit. However the government has priced carbon at up to NZ$76/unit or NZ$152/tonne by 2030 in this document –
          The NIMT electrics currently save 8 million tonnes of fuel and 22,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Multiply 22,000 X $152 = NZ$3.34 million carbon savings per year. That becomes a useful offset against the capital cost. Note also that any investment in electrification between Papakura and Te Rapa is also very dependent on a business case for growing commuter services into the Waikato.

        2. Don’t underestimate the latent greenie in many people and the influence this could have for business that wants to be seen to be making efforts to be environmentally responsible.
          Electric train powered by NZ made renewable energy or diesel powered road or rail transport or even aircraft with significant carbon pollution?
          isn’t the room elephant the insidious hoards of diesel guzzling air polluting SUVs that daily park on the congested motorways?

      1. Maybe you could explain to us how electrifying the propulsion of trains will enable them to go any faster across the swampy bits where currently trains slow down as they push a bow wave of steel track in front of them. How will electrifying enable trains to go any faster around the bends in the NIMT? The real saving in time is not having to change locos and you can do that by using diesel the whole way.

        1. There will probably always be speed restricted swampy bits and slow curves but with electric locos there will be higher average speed, faster acceleration and the ability to haul larger tonnage as they are greater hp than any diesel traction. Even the 30 year old EF power exceeds the new DL, its likely new build electric locos will be a significant improvement over the EFs.
          Ok, track improvement is needed but is that not an ongoing process anyway?

        2. Mfwic, that’s not entirely fair. The NZTA are currently rebuilding the Kapiti Expressway, which will link into the new Transmission Road one day when TG is completed. And, at present, they are pouring several million cubic metres of fill into the giant swamp that once was the fertile grounds of the Kapiti coast, precisely to stop the ground rippling as you describe. Thing is, being a 4 lane highway (effectively 7 lanes wide in total including median strip and hard shoulder), the new road is being built using probably 4 or more times the amount of stone. Money seems to be able to be found for that work quite easily.

        3. Sure and it would be a problem if they said the cost of the job was nothing more than a chipseal but instead went and rebuilt an entire swamp. The issue I have with electrification is the $1billion or whatever it is doesn’t include anything that lets trains go faster. The swamps could cost a fortune and that should be accounted for if the goal is faster trains. I once read about the original NIMT when they built across the swamp at Ohaupo north of Te Awamutu how they emptied cart after cart of gravel in and it simply sunk out of sight. Next morning when they came back the cart itself had sunk.

        4. mfwic, Electrics are certainly quicker over the NIMT central section, primarily because of better acceleration out of the many speed-restrictions, and better performance on the steep gradients. The time-savings would of course be less on a flatter, straighter route.

          Electrics can also generally haul greater loads – e.g Hamilton – Taumarunui 1200T for an EF, 900T for a DL.

    2. US freight railroads are not relevant in terms of a technology comparison. They have optimised loading gauge, axle loads and huge prime movers. And a huge market with a very useful second hand market for equipment that can be purchased at low cost for short-line use. In NZ we have very constrained loading gauge, axle loads and second rate MTU prime movers of lesser reliability and greater maintenance cost. Which still only haul a fraction of what a typical US diesel can pull. Horses for courses.

      1. Thats not necessarily true. DL has a rating of 1200t Hamilton – taumarunui as well. 900t is express freight schedule.

  20. We had to travel to Pukekohe yesterday, so went by rail. the transfer atPpapakura to the shuttle went well, but the pain is the Pukekohe station. AT has a terrible habit of instituting change and then taking ages to put in the infrastructure of platform seats/walkways/bridges etc to support it, for many months afterwards. I would hate to have to do the transfer from rail ro bus at Pukekohe when the weather is lousy!

    Yes, electrification all the way from Britomart to Palmerston North makes great sense

  21. I can not see why full electrification from Auckland to Wellington can not happen as most of the physical infrastructure is already in place except Papakura to Hamilton and Palmerston North to Waikanae for both passenger and freight. The technology for dual voltage electric engines is available for new or rebuilt engines, so there is reason for the missing gapes – Papakura to Hamilton and Palmerston North to Waikanae to be linked. Hamilton is in essence the freight and passenger hub for upper North Island, as there are two inland freight ports being built near Hamilton. The rail line between Pukekohe and Hamilton needs to fully double tracked as there sections of the track that are single tracked especially near the Whangamarino Swamp near Te Kauwhata, which when the line was build was designed for double tracking. With regards to various post comments, Hamilton is NZ’s 4th largest city and Tauranga is the 6th largest city. Residents from both cities fully support passenger train services from both cities to Auckland. I do agree that Hamilton to Tauranga needs to be electrified, as the Kaimai tunnel was built for electrification. Both the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons Regional Councils would like to see Waikanae to Palmerston North electrified for commuter passenger services between the the 2 cities and have submitted their cases to government.

  22. I can not see why full electrification from Auckland to Wellington can not happen as most of the physical infrastructure is already in place except Papakura to Hamilton and Palmerston North to Waikanae for both passenger and freight. The technology for dual voltage electric engines is available for new or rebuilt engines, so there is reason for the missing gapes – Papakura to Hamilton and Palmerston North to Waikanae to be linked.

    Hamilton is in essence the freight and passenger hub for upper North Island, as there are two inland freight ports being built near Hamilton. The rail line between Pukekohe and Hamilton needs to fully double tracked as there sections of the track that are single tracked especially near the Whangamarino Swamp near Te Kauwhata, which when the line was build was designed for double tracking.

    With regards to various post comments, Hamilton is NZ’s 4th largest city and Tauranga is the 6th largest city. Residents from both cities fully support passenger train services from both cities to Auckland. I do agree that Hamilton to Tauranga needs to be electrified, as the Kaimai tunnel was built for electrification.

    Both the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons Regional Councils would like to see Waikanae to Palmerston North electrified for commuter passenger services between the the 2 cities and have submitted their cases to government.

    Unfortunately, we have a government that has the ear of the road transport industry and the CEO of Kiwirail has a background in road transport, hence the current government massive road building programme and lip service to an under utilized national network.

      1. And the Hawke’s Bay cities of Napier/Hastings (which function as a single socioeconomic conurbation) at 131,000 is just behind Tauranga at 134,000 and well ahead of Dunedin, which is now really only the seventh largest centre at 118,500. It’s funny how Dunedin occupies the national mindset as one of the four main cities, but that hasn’t been the case for a long time now.

        1. Bevan – mindset still counts for a lot. Dunedin still thinks and acts like a grown up city – and while Napier Hastings on paper is larger, they often still think like 4 year old children at the village fair. Petty small minded politics all the way, sadly! Sorry, but it is true!

        2. Well, point in case: Dunedin still HAS its railway station, and uses it for both rail and fashion shows etc. Superb big long building. Napier and Hastings of course both removed their rail stations some years ago, and then wondered why the trains stopped coming. Napier’s current railway stopping point (can’t really call it a station at all now) is quite possibly the saddest, crappiest piece of “architecture” in New Zealand. Bit of a bone of contention for me! It’s awful. But yes – Dunedin still thinks big, even with its almost non-existent railway.

        3. Last time I looked neither Napier nor Hastings railway stations had been removed. Napier’s may be an abomination and Hastings’ empty and forlorn, but they were both built as railway stations and they’re both still there (I think), and their platforms are still used by excursion trains such as those for the Art Deco weekend.

          Neither, of course, can compare with Dunedin’s, but few railway stations in the world can – and Dunedin’s railway is very much existent, for both passengers and freight.

        4. Mike, the Napier railway station has no signage to say it is or ever was a station. It is just a badly built metal shed. It has a sign up there that says Napier Senior Citizens Assn Inc, and nothing else. Yes, people can get off on the other side of the building if a train ever arrives, but if you put a beer crate on the edge of a street you would get more welcome and be more likely to call it a train station than this abomination. In Hastings, there is a toilet block, but no actual train station. Not by any stretch of the imagination would you ever call them a train station.

        5. Guy – so when does a railway station building cease to be such? By your logic it appears that the Gare d’Orsay, the 1930 Auckland station or the many repurposed American Union Stations cannot be called station buildings, though everyone calls them that. And if architectural significance is key, the places that trains stop at called Kenepuru or Rollleston (for example) do not appear to be stations in your view.

          Whether they are of architectural significance, don’t have signage, have toilets, are occupied by senior citizens or compare unfavourably with a beer crate are irrelevant – both Napier and Hastings railway stations were purpose built as such, served passengers for many years (no imagination required!) and their platforms still do on occasion, and have not “been removed”. OK?

          But we’re slightly off topic re NIMT electrification, and I recommend Andy Maciver’s “Rail needs a rethink” opinion piece in the morning’s DomPost a well-thought-out view on the topic and its wider implications.

    1. Could you give a source for your statement that both GWRC and Horizons want Waikanae-Palmerston North electrified, please? I haven’t seen any indication that either body has considered the matter formally (it’s certainly not in any of GW’s statutory plans or strategies), let alone made submissions to government.

      And I thought Pete Reidy came from the construction industry (Downer) rather than road transport.

      1. The discussion and submission of electrification by both the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons Regional Council was when electrification was being planned for the Paraparaumu to Waikanae extension in 2004 and again in 2010 when the Greater Wellington Regional Council was looking at extending electrification from Waikanae to Otaki. The plan was to replace the existing Capital Connection train with modified Matangis having onboard toilet facilities. The plan was shelved when the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizon Regional Council agreed in 2015 to subsidize the Capital Connection train service until 2018. In December 2016, the current Mayor of Palmerston North has stated that he would like to see daily 2 return journeys between Palmerston and Wellington.

        1. Sorry, kris, but you’ve been misinformed – GWRC has never formally considered electrification to Palmerston North, let alone made submissions to government about it.

          What did happen in 2004 was that GWRC made a submission to Track Co (the working name for what became ONTRACK) on its desired rail infrastructure changes – see p4 of You will see that there is no mention of any electrification beyond Waikanae.

          And what happened in 2010 was that GWRC revised its Regional Land Transport Strategy, which again talks about electrification to Waikanae (not Otaki), but not beyond – in fact it specifically refers to the Kapiti public transport corridor as going no further north than Waikanae (though the possibility of a non-electric shuttle to Otaki was mentioned). In 2013 the revised Regional Rail Plan discussed electrification to Otaki (but no further) with toilet-equipped Matangi, but that such a project would be “highly unlikely…to provide an acceptable level of investment return”.

          So no formal plans existed, and therefore could not have been shelved. As you say, what did happen in 2015 was that for the first time GWRC officially recognised that the PT corridor continued beyond the regional boundary, with its support for the Capital Connection (and later for an Otaki-Levin bus route) – neither proposal involving any capital expenditure.

          So any talk of electrification to Palmerston North has been just talk – nothing official or formal has ever happened in this respect. Sorry about that!

  23. Peter Reidy is ex Downer Australia. There is previous exposure to the rail environment. This is obvious with him now employing Rob McAlpine as the new general manager of operations. I believe KR has made a good decision. Peter is worthy of praise. The decision isn’t just about the nth Island it’s about the whole country and being realistic with funding that is, or maybe available. Peter is bang on stating the money is better off invested nationwide. We are better winners at this stage of the game staying diesel. The DL’s do have MTU diesel engines. But they are alot better than what is being given credit for. They are dirt cheap to run compared to other diesel locomotives. And one thing overlooked here… What exactly will move the rail freight while all this overhead electrification infrastructure is squabbled over? It’s all a it naive in my books. We were lucky enough to even get DL’s!

    1. I think its fairly obvious to everyone that the continued use of the NIMT existing electric plus the propect of closing the gaps plus electric to Tauranga are not a KR issue rather one the govt needs to action.
      KR may have no realistic alternative to going all diesel. At least the OLE will not be removed but mothballed and hopefully maintained. It would be a plus if the soon to be redundant EF locos could find some useful application in the Auckland 25kv network rather than being cut up for scrap, especially as they could have another 30+years work life.
      As for that DL fleet, they have had their own issues but at least the prime movers are half decent and efficient German designs. Is KR lucky to have the DLs? Don’t think so as the govt needed to do Chinese business to offset the value of dairy and other exports NZ sends there.
      Has any other non Chinese influenced territory acquired Dalian locomotives?
      I was surprised the AM emus were also not Chinese sourced, TG for some smidgeon of common sense…

      1. I would very much disagree that we are unlucky to have the DL. You are probably right, business us likely to be involved. But are you aware of how much it was going to cost for a GE locomotive? In a nutshell, one costs approximately $3m, the other was to be approx $12m on good rumour. That’s why TollRail ditched buying new locos and started overhauling dx and df with brighstar equipment. There was an alternative of purchasing second hand equipment from Mexico, similar to the df, upgraded at $5m a piece. But then definitely getting into higher running costs fuel wise. And I can assure you the DL loco is a very powerful loco considering how we use our rail here, and the confined spaces on board equipment is crammed into. They did start off in 2010 very crazily, but they have only improved all the more since. I’ve had only 3 break Downs, and only one so far has involved the mtu diesel engine. So, try convince me it isn’t bs, all these rumours that the DL is crap, as I operate them on the mainline near everyday of my working life.

        1. Good to hear a positive DL opinion, the asbestos shennanigans probably created a lot of negativity in the public mind. With those issues now well in the past it looks like the DLs are looking more positive

        2. I should add, it is highly unlikely the class 30’s would be used under the overhead in Auckland. The system here maybe 25kvac but is somewhat different to south of te rapa. In a nutshell, a sole class 30 could somehow weld itself to the rails, yet if running around with a few more of its team mates should be ok…. But that isn’t always going good to happen is it. To add to that, the emus would run okay under the wire sth of te rapa apparently. Something to do with trip settings of cb’s.

        3. Well the good news is that circuit breakers can easily be replaced with appropriate rated ones to enable safe operation of the EF under the Auckland OLE. Since a current surge will only occur in a fault condition then its very very unlikelythe EF wheels or one would weld itself to the rails.
          Any competent electrical maintenence engineer could resolve this, i assume there are a few of these employed by KR.

        4. Not as simple as that Dgd. I can assure you it was well looked into during the decision process on what would haul the sa/sd carriages. They were destined for electric locos, but because of the low American $ at the time, they got an excellent deal on the CAF Emu’s…. Which seen kr cut out of the picture after that.

        5. SJC and Dgd – really good to have your input here, I appreciate it. Its obvious that you two know more about trains than I do, I freely admit that – I’m just operating from the point of view of “average bloke in the street” so I’m learning a lot here from you all. Not sure though why any locomotive should “weld itself to the track” but I assume you mean through electric current grounding, rather than anything to do with issue of blind spots on steel wheels?

          I must admit that when I first heard (a few years back) that NZ was buying Chinese made locomotives, I was deeply suspicious, as I’ve not yet seen a single thing come out of China that has any sign of quality or longevity. The whole asbestos saga seemed to prove that point. So I’m very glad to hear that the locos have not turned out to be a complete disaster yet – although there is still time. They are still young. A few years ago, the cars they made were terrible, in both manufacture and design, but the design has certainly improved quite a bit since then (not sure about the manufacturing yet). I’m hoping that their locomotives had already undergone that big improvement step before we bought them…

        6. Not sure where you are located SJC, or what you mean by “I’ve had only 3 break Downs” (over what time period?). But have a look through the daily ‘locomotive incident’ reports and you will get a clearer picture of DL reliability.

        7. 2 x Compressor failures, 1 x low water, which actually ran to destination, but in idle(trail loco online). 2012-current. Why would I need to check loco reports when the information is shared already???? Picture is very clear to me, so don’t k ow what exactly you are trying to imply….. Other than perhaps some persons seem to have a lot more problems than others?

        8. Over what sample size of DL locos have your “3 failures since 2012” occurred? You are clearly not looking across the whole fleet. Those reports will give you a very different picture. Won’t go into detail in this forum.

        9. Locomotive costs – in response to SJC’s hyperbolic claims on locomotive costs, lets look at the reported facts, not ‘alternative facts’:

          Quoted: Mr English said $75m would buy 20 new locomotives from China. (02-03-2009)
          Unit cost: NZ$3.75 million for original DL design
          Quoted: “We have also reviewed our costs to build locomotives against a re-checked price from CNR our current supplier for the DL Locomotives. That review has shown that our workshops would be around 70 percent more expensive supplying locomotives.” (14-12-2010)
          Unit cost: NZ$6.375 million for NZ built version of DL with cab at each end and GE technology

          Quoted: ‘looking forward to the delivery of 17 new TR-class US-made locomotives worth more than $60 million.’ (15-08-2012)
          Unit cost: NZequiv. $3.6 million for EMD tech with CAT engine, 1640kW but package also fits 2200kW CAT engine. NZ loading gauge, track gauge and weight compatible ordered by Tasmania.

          Quoted: ‘He would not disclose the contract’s value, but said a locomotive of this type costs around $3 million.’ (27-04-2011)
          Unit cost: NZequiv. $4.14 million for US Wabtec technology and Cummins engine, 2000kW to 2460kW. NZ loading gauge, track gauge and weight compatible ordered by West Australia CBH Group

          Quoted: ‘From information received by the union through discussions with KiwiRail and others we know that upgrading 17 Class 30s would cost around $10m while buying eight DLs would cost around $35m.’ (09-2016)
          Unit cost: NZ$4.35 million for latest version of a DL. The price has gone up but so has the quality of specification proving you get what you pay for. NZ$588,000 per unit for an upgraded EF locomotive fit for another 30 years of service.

        10. Thanks for posting that pricing info tuktuk, sorta puts the capex for locos into perspective and still shows it would be a complete travesty to scrap the EF locos when each could get 30+ years service for under 600k midlife upgrade cost.
          I have never been able to discover what the maintenance costs and electric power costs are for the NIMT electric network, SJC mentioned the overhead contact wire needing replacing, that is the time first I heard of that.

  24. Somewhere between 900-1000 trips, at about 3 hrs per trips. Definitely not the whole fleet. If you look over the postings, more specific to just the DL. And i hope you aren’t including reports that incorporate stallings into those figures at the likes of places that are all to common. I know the general consensus at my depot with this loco. That they are a locomotive, running on the nz network. Yes they do have failures. I’ve seen some beauts with the DL’s. But they just keep running better and better. And we know they use a lot less fuel, which is good for all.

    1. Refer to real numbers above. Will deal with reliability statistics comparisons this evening. I also fully acknowledge that for loco crews, the DL cab environment is a vast improvement on previous designs and their fuel economy is impressive. At question is what these locomotives are costing KiwiRail each year to run relative to other options. This may provide a justifiable case for KiwiRail to claim a “DL subsidy” as recognition of KiwiRail’s contribution towards the trade deals these locomotives have no doubt facilitated.

      1. Ahh I see my longer commentary on locomotive purchase costs with links to various sources is stuck in moderation.

        To summarise, the price for a DL has crept up from $3.75 to $4.35 million per unit. Some of the truely ghastly 1950s era design “auxiliary” equipment in them originally has been replaced by gear more equivalent to what is in the rest of the KiwiRail locomotive fleet, but the price creep does show that you get what you pay for. At the time the DLs were first ordered, and certainly by 2010/2011 there were high quality offerings available in small production runs for NZ conditions out of the US costing around $3.6 to $4.2 million per unit. They went into service on NZ gauge track with NZ type axle loads and NZ type loading gauge in Tasmania and West Australia. Their operating costs are a fraction of what DLs cost each month to run.

        Against all that of course, a mid life refit of an EF electric locomotive at $600,000 per unit for another 20-30 years of use looks like a bargain.

    2. I am curious to why some of your driving colleagues have been referring in the Stuff comments to the DL’s as 2 Dogs and a Lemon, sighting on going reliability issues and it takes 2 DL’s to haul a reasonable train set where it only takes 1 EF to do the same job. They also maintained that the EFs are structurally sound machines and only need new electrical equipment to keep them going which is cheaper option than building new ones.

      1. Interesting that some voices in the mainstream media are also getting into this discussion. Opinion piece in Dompost:
        He says:
        “Ideally we would have an integrated land transport strategy and investment system that weighed the relative merits of projects to enhance rail against the increased highway building and maintenance that will otherwise be necessary. This thinking is already applied in the case of the metro rail systems in Auckland and Wellington – the Land Transport Fund is used to support these rail operations simply because to provide a satisfactory all-road commuter system would be unaffordable.

        “So why do we not apply it to freight transport? NZTA builds and maintains highways while in the other corner KiwiRail relies on drip-feed funding to sustain a minimal rail network. It is time for the NLTF to be used to maintain and develop the rail as well as the highway network according to rational set of criteria, with rail operators KiwiRail and Transdev paying rail-user charges into it exactly as road-users do. Then we could have rapid progress on such no-brain rail developments as completing the electrification of the Main Trunk and Bay of Plenty lines and buying a fleet of heavier, modern dual-voltage electric locomotives, along with the many other rail productivity and service improvements that are currently passing us by.

        “With more freight shippers choosing the more attractive rail services, our highways would become safer and more satisfactory for all road users, without any overall spending increase. And the reduction in carbon emissions (further reduced by electric rail operation), combined with lower highway accident rates and less land required for roading purposes, are just some of the other pay-offs to the nation.”

        Andy Maciver is a former senior Dominion Post sub-editor and occasional commentator on the rail industry. He prepared this article with the help of New Zealand railway professionals working in New Zealand and overseas.

      2. I had read similar comments concerning DL vs EF in one of the rail mags.
        The electrical upgrade for the EF would include modern electronics and computing and would likely see the earth fault detection, electronic breakers, rectifiers and swicthing equipment brought up to latest standards. Its unlikely expensive traction motors would need replacing.
        Doing all of this and not ensuring complete compatibility with the Auckland 25Kv system would be crazy
        I would expect cabs to be updated, better ergonomics for LE.

  25. @Greg N and Big Ted.
    Are freight trains inherently a lot slower than passenger trains? I remember catching the overlander and the night one around 2000 and it taking 12 hours (with lots of stops in various towns etc along the way) Departed at 7pm arrived 7am.
    It seems bizarre to me that a freight training not needing stops (except the 2x 10min stop in Frankton and Palmy) should take 6 hours longer!! 18 hours is a ridiculously long time. In reality passenger rail should be able to do it in 8 hours and freight in 12.

    1. A lot of the freight trains do stop though. I frequently see them out back of the mitre 10 at Te Rapa unloading timber into the yard there.

    2. It is not actual rail travel time, the 18 hours is between the cut off time to rail Auckland to the time they are available for pick up in Wellington.
      If it is going by road it is half way there before the train is made up and departing.

    3. Yes, freight trains are slower. More mass, takes longer to get up to speed, and longer to slow down, and lower top speeds as they make more of a mess when they derail. And yes, they derail a lot more than passenger trains, so slower is better. But plus, also, they need to be subservient to the needs of passenger trains (which, luckily for freight trains, we have so few of) and so they need to pull over and let faster trains go past and keep to schedule. Well, in theory, that would happen if we had any fast passenger trains… So – often in Europe, the freight runs at night, and passenger trains during the day, to get around that.

  26. Part 1

    Look, I am only going with figures top of my head really. And what experts tell me as well. I have regular exposure to them and what they say. Okay, obviously there are reports that DL’s cost $3.75m. Well, that’s what I originally believed many years ago now as well. Read that in reports, reviews, blah, blah. But I think you may find that the second delivery of the first batch (delivery of 14 DL’s, units 7-20) actually cost under $3m per unit. Now the second batch, the next 20 (units 21-40), I honestly have no idea. Perhaps you are right, could have well cost over $4m per unit. But is anyone brave enough to say how much the last 8 x DL’s cost? I think you would all be quite surprised. But guess what, I’m not saying because, I’m what tuk tuk? what was that again Hypobolic? Posting links to companies that can provide equipment to New Zealand that suit our conditions? There is a lot more to all that than what you are saying. Since you think I am basically dreaming, I won’t expand on that, as I simply can’t be bothered looking for links that take me hours upon hours to find. I appreciate you posting those, and we all stood around scratching our heads for about 3 years as to why not ourselves when we first heard about the DL coming our way back in 2008 (DK project then).

    Now when I mentioned the $12m per unit under tollnz, that is an estimate off the top of my head. But I don’t think you will find it to far out. It was something like $8-9m per unit. The minimum order was something like 20 units with GE. Servicing facilities would be provided compulsory. That drove the unit price up to $12m. So I assume the price of the servicing&maintenance facilities was somewhere around $50m. Keep in mind that most likely included wheel lathe the works. Problem was they simply didn’t have the money. IIRC they could only afford to purchase 8 units with their budget, which works out to about $96m. So I assume they had a budget of $100m at the time. But GE would not take an order for our gauge under 20 units. Wasn’t end of that story though was it. Instead they overhauled the DX’s, purchasing second recondition diesel engines (that’s what we call them here, not prime movers like they are supposed to be called). Some of these have larger cylinder volumes, giving them the 3200hp rating higher than the 2900hp that was already there. As well brightstar was installed… and then some bright star, started installing them on the DFT’s as well(another f up, DF’s should never have been turbocharged going against the advise of GM EMD). So that resolved that for a period didn’t it.

    Now getting into Dogs and Lemons. Well well. Some of the staff absolutely hate the DL locomotives. The fact it comes out of China turns them inside out. I wonder if the staff making those comments are the same ones, having the same problems on these locomotives and take to our DAS display screens with screwdrivers? I’ll tell you what though, I don’t know many that don’t get aching feet in those things. I know I certainly do. But there is no doubt about it, as I have already mentioned. DL’s have had their share of problems. Absolutely correct. They still do have problems. But once again, their performance has increased dramatically. I checked the stats today at work. One DL failure recorded back in December. But I know that is incorrect, because a colleague had one shut down on him at Horotiu last week, and it could not be restarted. No mention of that in there. So, there is an example of why you might hear, or see me speak what I know, instead of give links and uploaded documents as the statatistics tuk tuk refered to may not be entirely accurate(in fact could be far far far from the truth). That the rail for you in NZ. Rail is dysfunctional in NZ(But improving).

  27. Part 2

    Dgd, in regards to the overhead being replaced. It doesn’t need replacing. Operationally it would do under such a method of operation though. If the whole NIMT was to be electrified, it is quite likely it would need replacing. The alloy it is made of is quite different to what is used in the overhead in Auckland. I have tried looking up the compositions of them both. I can not find sorry. I have had many conversations face to face and online with engineers about this. This is part problem in example being, the overhead between Te Rapa and the isolated section at Kopaki. It will experience a voltage loss when two heavy freight trains hauled by electric locos are in this section. This reduces the speed of at least one of the trains drastically(if not both, most likely the furthest from the source). Anywhere down to between 5-40kmph. So there goes the high power thing now doesn’t it. Try find some documents on that one…. And lets not get into how much problems they had like that on the steeply graded Kakahi – National Park section when 4 x EF locomotives are coupled in doubles on 2 x trains @ 1800 tonnes a piece. Shit, could be this one, hullo, dumb LE goes back on his stalled EF hauled train, starts up a trailing DX, isolates the vigilance, gives it power, it moves off, he climbing back aboard the loco resulting in a serious injury. Dumb thing to do, silliest, but lucky he had his wife on board up the front huh? That one I will give you a link to!!
    TM related yes, overloaded train yes. But obviously there were many problems back then, as there always has been with the NIMT electrification…..

    Now, adding to that train stalling in that report (click the link, read the long report, which I know is actually fact) it is most likely one of the electric locos had a TM fault resulting in TM cut out. The TM’s on the class 30 EF electrics are known to actually burn out their traction motors. They have been like that for years and years. When one goes, 3 x TM’s have to be cut out. Since there is only 6 x TM’s, that only leaves 3 x of working TM’s. basically half power on that loco. Now I wonder why they have never been replaced? Now I also wonder why they haven’t REALLY been upgraded? There was a mass of parts stored in the UK to overhaul the class 30 EF after 25yrs service, BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED. Because all those parts from the builder, Brush are lost. No one knows where they are!
    Keep in mind, during 2009, we were in the height of our latest recession. Trains on the NIMT were down to 8 through a day Te Rapa – Palmerston North. Problems like this weren’t really occurring. I can remember mates telling me about the long slow drags on the electric hauled trains…. hmmm. No wonder it was 18 hours Auckland to Wellington. Now note, why would KR simply employ Diesel Electrics on their new services instead of electric locomotives in that section of track over the last 5 years? Probably because they are more than aware of the operational problems that would occur with to many electric hauled trains in the central north island…. Something I can’t be bothered looking up, because there probably isn’t anything in writing any longer(if there was). Replacing the overhead with a different contact wire would help eliminate most of that, but not all of it. And quite likely, regeneration back into main power grid via the overhead still wouldn’t work like people think it would.

    1. SJC, that was an interesting and somewhat revealing post.
      Its incredible that the various operators culminating in KR who were aware of the voltage droops and perhaps other electrical reasons why 4 EF locos could not operate at full efficiency in certain sections of the electrified NIMT, permitted this craziness to continue.
      If the current (amperage) capabilty limited the EFs then why was this never addressed?
      If more feeders from grid to OLE were needed to prevent voltage droops then FFS get them installed, not rocket science or billions$.
      I hope Mr Reidy offers the EFs to AT

      Just on DL efficiency, why are there still daily NAL northbound freights being pulled by three DCs? Observing these screaming and belching pollutants as they labour up the hill from Fruitvale to Glen Eden (compared to the quieter DFs or occasinal DX) is it not about time a DL replaced the 3 DCs?

      1. DL locomotives can not run on the NAL. Just like high cube containers etc. The load restrictions are greater on the NAL than most routes.

        In regards to power drain. A wire can only provide so much.

        The system in Auckland is different even though it is 25kvac. I would have thought the efs would be better off working the otiria tunnel in the sth Island.

        I don’t understand, what would AT do with the ef locos? They are of no real use to them.

        1. DX can run on NAL , is there a load difference between DL and DX?
          AT own 100+ SA and SD and EFs would be ideal to make 7 car trains running under Auckland 25kv wires. Apparently there is a 3.7 year lead time to get more AM sets and with patronage growing way more than AT projected there may well be a shortfall in trainsets quite soon.

        2. Given Auckland’s housing crises, I am amazed that electrification to open up a commuter corridor between Papakura and Hamilton is not being given higher priority. From my time in NZ and since then, the feedback is that EFs go very well on passenger ops and with the SA-SD stock, could provide a great basis for an hourly Waikato connection running as limited stops along the third main line within Auckland to boost capacity. Over time, in fact one could end up absorbing pretty much all the EF fleet into this sort of work leaving freight to new-built heavier modern specification electric locos.

        3. tuktuk – no-one has ever tried running EFs in urban/suburban service or with SA/SD sets, so any feedback that those arrangements could work well lacks credibility. At least on this blog, that sort of feedback seems to be coming from just a few individuals keen to push that particular barrow without any of the required specialist or trchnical knowledge (apologies if that’s not the case), intent on emphasising their perceived positives and ignoring the many potential risks and other negatives, which have been listed here many times.

          That’s not to say that Auckland-Hamilton electrification isn’t a good idea, because it is, but to plan such an important project on the basis of old hand-me-downs not designed or built for this purpose is setting things up to fail. Remember the dramatic increase in performance when the SA/SD sets were withdrawn, or the ignominious performance of the EO/SE set in Wellington?

          There’s a well-known decision-analysis square that places all decisions in four categories – doing the right thing right, the right thing wrong, the wrong thing right, and the wrong thing wrong. Hamilton electrification is the right thing – let’s do it right.

        4. Mike TLO – an excellent naysayer response, you appear to not appreciate the suggestion of using EFs with SA/SD sets because that has not been done before.
          Wonderful approach to discouraging open discussion and even listening to others opinions by trying to marginalise those with different opinions to you by labelling them as ‘pushing a barrow’
          FYI, EFs have pulled passenger cars many many times and I have never seen anyone provide any reason they cannot do that.
          Also there has not been any technical or business reasons detailed here with refs as to why an EF cannot ever run under the Ak 25Kv wires. All I hear from you is generalisms that its unproven, has lots of problems and is probably in the ‘too hard’ basket.
          Meaningless references to distant history Wgtn EO/SE experience serve no purpose.
          Lastly I apologise to the Blog if my opinions on EF/SA/SD use is not what this blog is about.
          Since Patrick clearly agrees with your posting then perhaps people, like me, with definite opinions on Transport issues are not welcome here

        5. I don’t know what it is about rail discussions that get people so steamed up (pun intended), but different views, indeed ‘definite opinions’, are exactly what makes this site valuable.

          It is absolutely a space for people to disagree, with civility; if everyone agreed on every detail or possibility there would be no point in it really.

          So please don’t go, I certainly value your input. I learn a lot from all the technical knowledge on display in threads like this.

        6. Goodness me what a strong response! Mike T.L.O – you might indeed consider this remark – ‘ few individuals keen to push that particular barrow without any of the required specialist or technical knowledge (apologies if that’s not the case)’. Apology accepted 😉

          In any case, in the light of day, I whole heartedly accept that brand new EMUs probably are a better bet because as you say – ‘Hamilton electrification is the right thing – let’s do it right’. And any squabbles over suitability of EFs on passenger trains are a distraction from the main game which is that electrification is something to be developed in NZ with its peculiar hilly terrain, clean green image used to sell food and tourism, housing crises pushing new housing developments, and 80% renewable electricity all within close proximity of the main trunk, and not too distant from the Golden Triangle.

        7. …steam pressure relief valve was jammed hence strong response, sorry, normal pressure resumed now, no more wheel slipping etc..

        8. Dgd – ☺☺!

          tuktuk – I thought I was being quite restrained! And very happy to apologise. You’ve hit the nail on the head about peripheral arguments distracting from the main game – that is a really key point.

          PR – thanks, and fully agree about informed discussion. That’s how to develop what the Right Things are, and then how to do them Right (RTR). Doing the Right Things Wrong (RTW), Wrong Things Right (WTR) and Wrong Things Wrong (WTW) (examples of all of which I suspect we can all think) are generally worse than doing nothing.

        9. Dgd, great to hear you steam has let off! As Patrick says, your input is valuable, as is everyone else’s. Now that being said, there is data out there about the class 30’s running under the wire here in Auckland. You could try searching here – – I remember it being posted there. Be my guest searching that forum, I am sorry, I really don’t have the time to look lately There are posters on this blog that were posting at that site about this, and actually attended the meeting where KiwiRail pointed out it simply WAS NOT safe to run Class 30 EF electrics under the overhead in Auckland.
          Additonally, using them as motive power for SA/SD or even bringing SA/SD back into service would be a thorn in AT’s backside. Two things there. 1/ I have operated SA/SD trains thousands of times with DC/DF loco’s and they simply would bring rafts of complaints back to Auckland metro. Continuous door issues, pneumatic park brakes applying when they shouldn’t, air bag failures, platform overruns, poor braking performance. They are all things that resulted in regular withdrawl from service when they were already being highly maintained. 2/ Running them with EF locos. Well there is the problem of them running safely off the overhead. Then because they are so damn powerful, they have to stop as well. Which most likely means the installation of ETCS. In fact, if the SA sets return to service, I think we would all find that they would have to be fitted with ETCS. That is most likely a requirement of the LTSA and the company holding the licence to operate. That is to help prevent a possible collision or similar should there be a LE overrunning a signal at stop (which could result in many deaths). That sought of equipment does not come cheap. I forget, but I probably be bludy well hypobolic again saying just shy of $1m per unit. (We had one fitted to an SD cab for testing in 2012, it was about that much, that’s why it didn’t go further… cheaper to put them in when building an EMU).
          Now I will add in here, a personal dream. I was like wow, when I heard they were going to put electric locos on the SA/SD sets during 2010. wohoooo. I can assure you I was absolutely gutted when they told us, no, no way a class 30 can be used in Auckland. Not without a very expensive overhaul. And there wouldn’t have simply been enough of them either. That was when they looked into purchasing electric locos from overseas. But of course that fell through because they got such an excellent deal on the EMU’s.

        10. SJC, thanks for your reply, unfortunately it doesn’t really convince me that the concept of running EF under Auckland 25Kv is impossible or that the changes needed would be so expensive as to make the effort uneconomic. I agree it may be dangerous in their present configuration but electronics, fault detection and possible breaker updates could IMO change that. However, despite optimism and ethusiasm to see EF used there is just so much negativity and complete trust that KR’s desire to dispose of them is logical that their likely future is an appointment with the cutters torch. Shame.
          And now you shift attention to the SA/SD fleet and again only have negative things to say about them. The listed problems appear to be minuatae and to scrap the entire fleet for such piddling reasons would be nothing less than shameful. Or maybe not so as neither AC, AT the Auckland ratepayers and NZ taxpayers don’t really care that several hundreds of millions of $ reccently spent on the SA/SDs should be written off.
          If we go back to the original reason for EF/SD/SA suggestions it is the looming fact that the existing AM sets will run into capacity problems as the rail patronage way exceeds AT projections. The near 4 year lead time for new AM sets (unless AT have some special relationship with CAF to complete and AT order in a lesser time) leaves little hope of handling the growing demand up to 2023 with 57AM sets.
          As others have pointed out the correct solution is more AM sets and ordering them now

        11. Dgd – why would you spend $400 – 500 million dollars to electrify the Auckland to Hamilton line to run unproven (either way) electric locomotives towing carriages that were not built for this length of service? Surely if you were spending this much on electrification you would then invest in some new electric trains built for this purpose at the same time.

        12. Dgd – you don’t appear to have digested what SJC. has said. Indeed nothing is impossible, but the original electrification proposal was to have a mixed fleet of loco-hauled carriages and EMUS, but after detailed analysis the loco-hauled sets were rejected in favour of EMUs. Roll forward half-a-dozen years, and one significant thing that will have changed is that locos and carrIages are that much older, meaning spending any significant money on them (and it would be significant) is even less justifiable. Given that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting a different result, no-one (fortunately) is likely to be prepared to waste ratepayers’ money on reinvestigating this suboptimal option.

          As you say, the right thing to do is to increase capacity by reducing dwell times and inter-station speeds, and buying new units.

        13. SJC, concerning ETCS, do you have references from KR on what the cost of the trial ETCS in the SD was? or any info on how the trial went, I assume it was successful.
          One million dollars looks on the excessive side, I could understand a few tens of thousands since the cab part of ETCS is basically a computer and the RF transciever to talk to the track balises. I could understand higher $ if AT went to ETCS level 1
          Perhaps some of the excessive per cab cost is software license fees or royalties to Siemens.
          Since I remember reading there were balise problems and the supplier wanted out of the ongoing support contract, was an NZ or OZ based source for this equipment found?

        14. Jezza, actually I agree with you, there would be no sense in spending the 400or500 mil to electrify Puke to Ham so that EF/SDs could operate there. That makes no sense. I was proposing EF and SD combos as an interim on AT metro services until (eventually)more AM sets arrive.
          SJC did make a very interesting point and that was the Waikato expressway completion and with the AMs running to Puke then a southern motorway/AT metro station interchange at Drury with appropriate large PandR could be a successful motorway to MetroRail transfer facility. At least until the population growth in Hamilton justifies a full electric rail system.
          A DMU service to Hamilton/Tauranga still looks good.

        15. Mike (tlo) I found SJC’s explanation interesting but its history. I have a rather on-eyed view of the present situation which was not forseen the years ago the decisions on electric loco hauled SA were considered.
          57 AMs are not enough. Rail RT patronage growth is going to surpass 57 AM’s capacity.
          Do you seriously think donking about with dwell times and resolving ETCS controlled train crawling away from stations will create the capacity needed for patronage growth until new AM sets arrive here?
          I suspect that in a few years when capacity is reached people will be left standing at stations in peak times, lose interest in rail and return to roads in SOVs.
          I hope I am completely wrong.
          i also thought somehow SAs could be used to assist until more AMs arrive. Whether pulled by EFs or perhaps DLs, DFs etc, at least the opportunity for, perhaps cross town services.

        16. Dgd – as I would have thought you would understand by now, all the evidence is that your rebuilding programme would have enormous difficulty even getting onto the table, let alone being implemented. As you know, if anyone was brave enough to approve it would be expensive and complex, so would not be at all quick. And all it would do is buy some breathing space, and then you’d have to find the money for new units anyway, so forget it: put that barrow away.

          Guy M – it’s a myth that a broader gauge would enable faster, bigger or heavier trains. Whatever the gauge (within reason) it’s generally the alignment that dictates maximum speed, the structure gauge that dictates size, and the standard of track that dictates weight: changing the track gauge does nothing for any of these, unless you’re building a completely new line (as in Japan). Much bigger/heavier trains than ours run on the same gauge as ours in South Africa, much faster in Queensland (faster than any Oz standard-gauge trains).

        17. Mike, yep, got that. I was the one arguing against the logic of changing tracks at this stage in the game – we’ve got what we have got, and that’s as good as we are going to get. Narrow gauge will work fine for NZ, the main battle is trying to keep it all running, seeing as so much money has been taken out of it. Reminds me of Maggie Thatcher when she was running LUL into the ground, and they took literally billions of pounds to get that up and running once again when the 20 years of maintenance backlog was due. Its a hard road to catch up. Better to keep up with the maintenance….

        18. Mike (tlo) I understand what you are saying and I agree there is little enthusiasm on the part of KR or AT to embark on a project to use EFs with SAs on the AT metro.
          That may change if the growing RT patronage and 4 year leadtime for new AMs leads to capacity problems and disappointment for passengers.
          Rather than accept your advise to stop pushing this barrow I would prefer to keep the idea alive as there is the possibility someone, politician or other decision maker may see and appreciate this as a solution, short term or otherwise, until new AM stock can be ordered.
          I notice others are thinking the same use for EFs, so this barrow could easily become a bandwagon 🙂

        19. Re-electrification of the Otira – Arthurs Pass section is highly unlikely. The issues that caused electrification to be installed are now resolved. The current downturn in both volume and prices of export coal further reinforce the improbability of re-electrification.

        20. Yes, there is a big down turn in coal. For now. But there is still freight moving from the coast. Milk products, logs, and the coal that is still coming. Additionally a passenger train, that is set to maybe, perhaps multiply soon. The issues are resolved with the tunnel? First I have heard of that, but way out of my area that tunnel. I assume because there is now fire suppression equipment inside the locomotives long hood, that resolves the issue? I would have thought the best solution in that hole was a electric overhead.

        21. But the whole point of the conversation is not about Otira and the South Island, but Auckland to Hamilton.

          In my mind (and why I never brought it up in the first place), there is absolutely no chance of our South Island lines being made to run on electric. Never, ever. Not going to happen. They will be diesel to the day they die, primarily because it is freight only, with one minimal passenger tourist train per day, and no electricity anywhere on the line (Otira tunnel electrification has been long gone).

          Whereas in Auckland, it is – I think – completely feasible that you could in fact argue that extending electrical lines from Pukekohe to Te Rapa is not that big a deal, is in fact a logical and sensible thing to do, would fit in well with Auckland’s plans and appetite for almost infinite expansion, would help Auckland avoid the seemingly otherwise entirely inevitable march towards total gridlock, is environmentally advantageous, chews through renewable energy and so avoids creating additional CO2, and would mean we wouldn’t have to buy more diesel locos but instead could use new or refurbished electric locos more logically over more of the entire network – and avoid having to (effectively) scrap the untold millions we have already invested in electrifying the NIMT.

          That, my friend, are the reasons why we should do it.

  28. Part 3

    Now read this article:
    Are you going to say tuk tuk, that the CEO of KiwiRail is basically a dreamer(hyperbolic) also and should provide the paperwork as well?
    I quote from that article, Peter Reidy says “Your numbers around the cost of electrifying the whole network are also incorrect. $1bn would only electrify the main trunk line. To electrify the entire North Island – as would be required – including the Tauranga to Auckland route, regional feeder lines and purchase of circa 60 additional electric trains, would cost more than $4 billion”.
    So for over $4bn, you get the works on the whole NIMT, and the ECMT. Not the rest. Everything else misses out. The prospect of even getting that sought of money to make the whole network efficient on the main routes (Invercragill – Auckland using diesel electric) is HIGHLY unlikely.
    That’s why I back Reidy. That this way everyone up and down the country gets a piece of rail. Not just the North Island. And as stipulated, the overhead will stay in place in case anything does change.

    1. Based on his comparison in the original press release that the change of locomotive in Hamilton and PN is like changing aircraft twice on a flight from Auckland to Wellington, yes, Peter Reidy is into hyperbole. He also seems to take the most expensive case to contrast that with his proposed solution.

      1. I’ve been through that loco change on the old overlander a few times. It takes a couple minutes. While that might still be a big and expensive hassle for operations and staff scheduling, it’s nothing like disembarking from one plane and boarding another. More like changing pilots and cabin staff at a place where you stop anyway.

        1. Nick R there is big differences between changing locos for trains like the the old overlander and freight trains. 1/ it takes place at different locations, and 2/ recharge times of BP are differ dramatically (call it hyperbole if you like, doesn’t worry me in the slightest), 3/ the train being disconnected from, or reconnected to has to be either secured or monitored by yard staff… so there is another cost(bigger than what most think as well). Example being with and incoming train(I’ve done this many times before) at te rapa, it takes a good 2-3mins to stop the train. With DAS, make it 4 mins. Then the driver needs to apply the brakes full service(to do this takes time as well)approx. 1 min more. The incoming locomotives then need to be disconnected and stop 30secs Blow and behold it doesn’t disconnect (quite typical) another 2-5mins. The signaller then needs to give that incoming loco/s a signal away from that train. 1-5mins (if not more). Move away clear from the train. 2mins. Outgoing electrics, 2-3mins for time delay and signal back on top of train. Move on top of the train 2 mins. Stop legally short of train. Couple to train. 30 secs. If all going well, other wise 1-5mins(or more). Re-pressurise the BP. This could take up to 10 mins, or more. If done properly the BP is exhausted after disconnected to 0kpa, and needs recharging to 550kpa before the next step of intermediate brake test being done. Intermediate brake test 1 min. Back up to speed after getting a signal 2-5mins. So at a minimum by my hyperbolic calculations 30 mins lost during a loco change over for a freight train. And again at Palmerston North if running straight through to Wellington like 211/217 were doing. A whole hour of running time lost. So big differences there. And you have to ask, was your loco change done correctly as well. I would hope so. By my calculations (and I have been in place for MANY loco changes at both te rapa and palmy on passenger over the years) It used to take at least 10 mins. Not a couple of minutes.

        2. Thanks, SJC – given Peter Reidy’s commitment to simplification, it’s easy to see why he wants to get rid of the costs and complexities of the two loco changes incurred by Auckland-Welington trains – not merely the time or the hardware, but also having at least three people involved instead of just one.

          Of course there is another way of eliminating these changes, but that requires capital investment that will be way beyond Mr Reidy’s (and his board’s, I suspect) authority.

        3. Thanks SJC for the explanation of the change-over procedure. I suppose we were all arguing on the basis of the passenger train times. In Ulm, Germany, there is also a regular change-over between electric and diesel locomotives on passenger trains, with the time between arrival and departure 9 minutes southwards and 10 minutes northwards (IRE Stuttgart – Lindau; similar to Hamilton with the loco on the same end of the train; at stations where the locos are at opposite ends of the train it’s 7 minutes, even when additional carriages are added in the changeover, for example EC Munich – Zurich in Lindau).

          And your argument isn’t hyperbole. You didn’t claim that it’s like having to repack your station wagon on the side of the road when going on family holiday. Maybe it’s different technology, maybe different procedures that add such additional time to a change-over compared with Europe.
          What would be good is for KiwiRail to acknowledge that it is at the very most a finely-balanced decision and set it in context, rather than use catch-phrases like “railway within a railway”.

          While operationally the decision may make sense at the moment (and I am not fully convinced that it does), the goodwill that is lost is substantial.

  29. Righto SJC and others, have had a wee look at all this after the all important tennis this evening in Melbourne. I have some information dealing with MDBF or mean distance between failure which I want to do some background checks on. A big issue is the inconsistency and mis-informed nature of some of the KiwiRail information.

    When Peter Reidy says that all North Island lines would have to be electrified to make electrification work he is either being mis-reported or he is speaking in a manner which lowers his credibility among international rail professionals. It also lowers the weighting that one would give some of that other information. One would hope it is simply a case of Peter Reidy being mis-reported as in other areas, it is my observation that he has played a critical role in turning KiwiRail around.

    1. Mean Distance Between Failures. I sure hope that DOES NOT include train stalling’s with certain coal trains(and others) that have been overloaded and have nothing to do with the loco itself. Or running out of fuel at manurewa because it had been sitting around idling for 8 hours before departure. I hope not.

      1. I will have to go have a look myself now tuktuk. This week. All I know is, more and more DL hauled freight trains are arriving as they should. I seem to keep repeating myself that they didn’t have such a good start back in 2011, and have taken a while to remedy, and get up and running as they would like. Didn’t help with the asbestos issue, which was weird, unfortunate, and very time consuming. Please, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying they are the perfect engine. Far from it. Heck, we can’t even use them on most of the work trains, they can’t go north of Newmarket…. What I am saying is that we are lucky to have them. If I had my way, I would definitely looked more into the other manufacturers, or the purchase of the second hand stock from Mexico in particular.
        Changing subject I think we be silly to put the wire up south of Auckland metro at this stage of the game. Especially with the Waikato expressway nearing completion. From what I understand, folks maybe able to simply jump off at Drury and catch an EMU one of these days in the future. I don’t know if that is rumour or not, but it sounds like a very competitive and exceptional idea in this country which has a small population, and we are mainly talking about EMU services linking Auckland with Hamilton which also has a very small population. I am a firm believer, build something like that, and they will build around it. But it doesn’t seem to be how it works in this country. And then we get back to the good old crossing of regional boundaries and who pays for what. And then adding to that, where on earth do the freight trains run without a third main all the way to Hamilton?

  30. Would the overhead system in Wellington be compatiable to switchover to 25KvAC without much reworking assuming the Matangis been fixed up to handle the new current?

      1. Not necessarily true, Chris. While circumstances in Wellington (which is 1500V, not 800V) will not be identical, in Britain several stretches of 1500V overhead have been converted to 25kV while continuing to use the same overhead wiring.

        But changes to the power supply will be major, which is why conversion to AC in Wellington hasn’t happened (and is highly unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future).

        1. And then there is the signalling. And I would not be surprised if the ltsa enforced an etcs installation in cab as well. Then conversion or more new units. Gee this country must have $bn’s to waste on rail.

        2. The big issue about converting any one system to any other system, is: what do you do in the mean time?

          This applies whether you are talking about overhead electric wiring or converting all cars from petrol to hydrogen. While iPhone software can be updated simply, easily, and effectively overnight, the same cannot be done for any physical hardware.

          Clearly, while changing over from DC to AC and differing voltages, even if it were theoretically possible, there would have to be a period where wires were changed, voltages adjusted, substations and step-down transformers installed, etc etc, all of which would take months of work. In the mean time, the entire system on the route in Wellington would have to be shut down, and probably replaced with buses. It would be a humungous logistical nightmare, one that I would never recommend any one ever try…

          Similarly, with cars and their fuel of choice – an entire new network would need to be in place, and everyone would need to have hydrogen cars already, before you could go live. One of the President Bushs’ proposed Hydrogen, but as you may have noticed, some 20 odd years later, there’s not a single hydrogen car running around America (well, probably there is one or two, but no more). But at least they wouldn’t have to change the roads – just the entire fuel system on the cars, and the entire fuel system on the supply side to the gas stations.

        3. Isn’t that what Christmas/newYear shutdowns are for? Assuming’ all the 25kv feeder sub stations can be built and tested before shutdown and maybe physical wires don’t need changing then the changeover could be less onerous than you think

        4. dgd – you’re being very optimistic there…. This Christmas, they shut down the line up through Paekakariki, for about 10 days continuously, and managed to do some work on 3 small sections of the line, each about 20m in length. To do something that would involve the entire line, having to (at the very least) unclip old sections of wiring and clip on new sections of wiring, fire things up, test it at least once or twice, switch off the old system, with completely over to the new system etc etc – there’s no point just doing 100m each weekend, you would need to do the whole 20km in one go and then have a new set of trains running on the tracks etc etc – at the rate that old hardworking rail crews go, and assuming that they don’t have to renew the entire cable down the entire length (which is more likely), it would take months. So, basically, never ever going to happen.

        5. Sorry for sounding so negative. I just mean that some things are doable, and some things are just… highly unlikely. I had a similar conversation with a colleague once, over whether it would be worth NZ digging up the existing narrow gauge tracks and replacing with broader gauge so that we could run faster trains. You could sit and discuss that topic for days, or else you could just say – “realistically, never ever going to happen” – and leave it there.

        6. the original Eurostars were also dual voltage AC/DC. I was impressed in 2005 that when the one ahead of us broke down (why I don’t know) our Eurostar train leaving Waterloo was diverted through Croydon on suburban third rail lines. Used pantograph in Chunnel and in France. I think the third rail and signalling slowed the dual Eurostars in the UK, as well as the poor track geometry.

  31. This post like most rail posts has proved very popular and not a little contentious. Which is great. Here, very quickly, is what I feel I’ve learnt:

    1. Kiwi Rail have decided the electrification issue is an all or nothing game: either both main NI lines are fully wired or all traffic goes diesel. This of course leads directly to the only possible choice; it essentially prices out any electric freight operations anywhere. Hard not to be a bit cynical about this (come in mfwic!) this reeks of a political rather than a practical process, like the Wellington Spine Study.
    2. This is because if any electric upgrades and operations require $1b in capex then it is likely killed by relatively low return both economically and environmentally: 1. A Billion in spent elsewhere on the rail network could almost certainly produce greater climate outcomes than network electrification, by enabling growth of the business. And $1B say spent on a new passenger line in AKL (light or Heavy) is also likely to have greater climate change and emissions outcomes by reducing congestion and diverting vehicle trips. Though that claim deserves needs further study.
    3. All is not lost: So long as the existing electric assets are not killed with neglect, if there are real efficiencies from a standardised fleet KR should focus on building the biz so the case for filling the electrification gaps is much stronger in the future, and when the political and environmental context has changed, as it not doubt will.
    4. Electrification of Papakura to Puke, 3rd/4th AKL Main Trunk, a 3rd on cheaper sections of the AKL port line (GI-Otahuhu), capacity improvements on Tauranga line, re-opening of Napier-Gisborne all should be reevaluated/accelerated instead.
    5. Still I would like to see cost/benefit of Papakura to Ham electrification plus upgrade or new E-Locos. We know Papa-Puke is inevitable in the near term, so are there economies of scale with continuing to Ham? AK-TAU would mean one change, and AKL-WTGN would mean one change. Existing diesel locos would be freed up for the East Coast run. I am assuming Locos that can run on both 25kV systems are doable, not necessarily the existing ones?

    1. Thank you Patrick for hosting this post. Much useful discussion and information from a range of perspectives has come out of this which is great and many thanks to all who have taken the time out to contribute. For me the most concerning aspect out of the whole KiwiRail Plan is the very fuzzy numbers. The plan advocates standardisation, nothing wrong with that. But you have to go very deep into the KiwiRail documents and reports to hear any passing comments about operating costs in which it is very quietly acknowledged that even now in their degraded state, the EF fleet has lower operating costs (half actually) than the DL fleet replacements. It may be redacted information, however I do not see any acknowledgement that the refurbishment cost for the whole EF fleet is lower than the 8 new DLs proposed. There has been no public disclosure of any monetary sums.

      Most recently, I have two documents both supposedly official documents in which the MDBF figures conflict with each other. The report which went to the government has a few numbers “rounded up” in regard to the DL diesels to put it very generously. MDBF = Mean Distance Between Failures which is an international measure of locomotive reliability. Why does this matter? Because KiwiRail have used this as their main numerical measure to support their case.

      There are just too many aspects to this whole exercise that look to be the outcome of a sloganeering session rather than the value engineering process that should be driving the decision making.

      1. Cheers tuktuk

        1. The thanks should go to Guy for writing it; we love guest posts as we are stretched on this volunteer site.

        2. I completely agree; so many holes in the info. It really is a much more politically controlled issue than we’ed all like, sadly.

        3. The double role KR has of husbanding a huge legacy infrastructure burden while running a logistics business is, as ever, the elephant in the rail discussion room. This structure needs reform.

        1. Patrick – very happy to have started off this conversation, and yes, I have also learned heaps from the helpful contributors here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – a facility like Transport Blog (which I have been reading since Josh Ashbury (sp?) used to run it many years ago – is only as good as it is because of the excellent, tireless posting by you guys (Matt L is a legend!) but also the excellent responses by the wider transport community. There’s a wide, wide range of experiences, viewpoints and arguments here, and its all a good forum to discuss them in.
          Plus, it makes a good change from reading about Donal Trump all the time. Sick of him already!

          What would make it even better is if the people really involved started contributing freely as well. For instance, imagine if Peter Reidy had felt able to contribute on this thread – or previous heads of NZR, or Toll, or that guy who ran away to Switzerland with all the money…. Or, more happily, if the Head of Auckland Transport had the nous to front up, lay some cards out on the table, and discuss things in public. There is no obligation to do so, but we have a few Councillors in Wellington (Andy Foster in particular) who are happy to log into blogs and comment on what they have been doing about issues. That makes for a much brighter, more enjoyable debate for all. So: welcome any time David Warburton!

        2. …and big thanks to you Guy M for putting this together. 🙂 It has been a means to bring out into the open, a discussion that has needed to be had for some time.

  32. I wonder how many trains are terminating at Palmerston North. Quite a few I would think with wagons being shunted off to Mainfreight and Toll also the Kotahi ones being shunted to the various dairy and meat plant around the lower North Island. I can understand why Kiwirail would be keen for their Auckland Wellington trains not to have to change Locos but if the train is being broken up at Palmerston North then we only have the one loco change anyway. Ditto to Hamilton with wagons ethier going North to Auckland or East to the Mount.
    So as a compromise refurbish ten of the best EF’s for the heavy hall main trunk stuff which is probably not so time sensitive and use your DL’s for trains which are running straight through.To my way of thinking if Auckland Domestic freight arrives in Mainfrieghts Palmy depot at 8 am thats good enough. Containers of milk powder and meat dont care what time they arrive as long as they dont miss the ship.

    1. My suspicion is that there is management-aversion to refurbishing the EF’s, possibly stemming from lack of familiarity with the concept of locomotive overhaul. Just my guess.

  33. Why not convert the EF’s to passenger use in Auckland ? Given that it’s at least a 3.7 year wait for new EMU’s from CAF, there needs to be a “temporary bridge” of passenger capacity to cope with Auckland’s rail passenger growth. The EF’s are much more powerful than the DC’s previously used on the suburban network, and would be capable of hauling 6-car trains with acceleration similar to the EMU’s, a high level of reliability and low running costs. It would also be a great political fix for the government and Kiwirail.

  34. Dominion Post is today hosting a Comment by Russell Tregonnong:
    Author: “Russell Tregonning is an executive member of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, an organisation of more than 500 medical doctors and other health professionals. The council promotes action to avert the approaching climate crisis.”

    In the article, he says: “KiwiRail uses short-term financial grounds to reject buying new electric locos. But even if a very short-term economic case stacks up, failure to consider the “externalities” of diesels weaken the economic case overall.

    These externalities not only include environmental, climate and health damage, but also oil dependence. New road building also imposes similar unaccounted-for costs, plus the costs of road surface damage, traffic accidents, and congestion. Most of these costs will be borne by the public, not the freight companies or KiwiRail. KiwiRail say it won’t scrap the electric infrastructure – it knows that all-electric is the way of the future. But why on earth wait? A major new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (October 2016) urges governments to shift more investment for sustainable infrastructure to spur growth.
    “The next couple of decades, and particularly the next two or three years, will be critical to the future of sustainable development,” says world-leading economist Lord Nicholas Stern, commission co-chairman. “We cannot continue with ‘business as usual’ which will lock in high-carbon infrastructure.”

    The World Health Organisation warns that climate change is now the greatest threat to global health. Diesel is a major transport culprit – volume for volume, burning it produces more CO2 than other fossil fuels. It also produces soot, and tiny particles which can get into the blood stream from the lungs – cancer, heart attacks and strokes among other illnesses are associated. With our electricity generation mainly fossil-fuel-free, electric freight and passenger trains are a climate, health and economic no-brainer.

    So where is our Government in all this? Just over a year ago in Paris, we joined 195 nations committing to reduce our carbon emissions. Transport Minister Bridges claims that KiwiRail’s decision is beyond his control. But KiwiRail was set up under the State Owned Enterprises Act (1986), and its annual statements of corporate intent must be scrutinised by the ministers of finance and transport. This Government is to be congratulated on its recent multimillion-dollar commitment to the rail network, after years of neglect. But it cannot now wash its hands of KiwiRail’s climate pollution.

    Our Government needs to reduce its roading obsession and move fast to favour electric rail over both diesel locos and new motorways. KiwiRail’s plans must be stopped, the electrification completed, and new electric, not diesel locomotives purchased for our main trunk line.

  35. How many other CEOs regularly leave opinion pieces in the mainstream news? I’ve just noticed that Peter Reidy, the CEO of Kiwirail, has said this recently:
    (late December 2017) but has also previously said this:
    (August 2015) and of course also:
    (Jan 2017). He’s a one-man walking PR machine for rail, and especially for diesel hauled freight.

    1. Hey Guy,
      This great post from you, I read it cover to cover back then, but it is about a year old now.
      Much has changed [mostly for the better I think] since you wrote it.

      Any chance of a follow up post in 2018 perhaps just reviewing issues and incorporating the new things raised in this one in the light of these “one year on” changes?

      Obviously change of Government is a big one, but also AT recently committing to deploy BEMUs for trains going out to Pukekohe [until the electrification is put in place there] is another.

      There is also the likes of the proposal from posts on this log for to look at a deviation in the NIMT to go through the Bombay hills via tunnel cutting a big dogleg off the track between Tauranga/Auckland and Hamilton/Auckland for both freight and passenger services.
      Plus of course the planned coalition government investment in revitalisation of the railway north of Auckland.

      All of which no doubt change many of the aspects of the business cases and issues raised here.

      One last comment, I see a lot of resistance (pun intended) in comments to this post regarding the need to swap locos at Hamilton and Palmerston North. There may be reasons why the changeover is cumbersome as it is, but that doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.

      The problem with electrification as Patrick raised above is that it imposes on the way KR runs its network, an either all or nothing requirement – either the line is fully electrified or it is not.
      Implying and continuing the faulty logic that a partially electrified line is worse than useless [as you have high sunk costs in the electrification but can’t reap the benefits yet so your operational costs are higher to boot].

      While important to electrify the line as much as possible, an interim [hybrid] step is required to bridge the gap from no electrification to full electrification.

      I fail to see why KR cannot think outside the narrow box it continually confines itself to.

      And look to deploy trains with both diesel and electric locos on the same train, with the lead locomotive (whether electric or diesel is irrelevant) controlling all locos on the train [as happens now with multiple loco “lash-ups” commonly used by KR. While allowing easier motive power changes at stops on the way without the need to “break apart” the train – which is where the inefficiencies/complications supposedly arise.

      Yes I know that KR currently requires separate certifications for drivers of electric versus Diesel locomotives, however a driver change is the simplest way to achieve this – is easily managed and driver changes would naturally occur at Hamilton/Frankton and Palmerston North stops now anyway.

      So all that happens in addition what happens now at the stop, is the departing Locomotive Engineer (LE) simply “idles” the diesel or electric locomotives they used, and the incoming LE activates the locomotives they will be using for the next leg prior to the normal checks and departure.

      Yes it ties up more locomotives per train than usual, but such hybrid running is not unique or particularly onerous. And buys us as much time as we need while we “fill in the gaps” in the electrification of network, whether than takes a few years or a few decades.

      Allowing us to avoid the pitfall that a binary “all or nothing” approach lends itself to.

      Anyway, have a think about a updated guest post.
      And keep up the good work regardless.

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