This is a guest post from Dr Roger Blakeley, former Secretary for the Environment; Bob Norman, former Commissioner of Works; Alex Gray, professional civil engineer and Senior Project Manager; and Keith Flinders, Electrical Services Consultant.

On 10 May 2018, Radio NZ reported that, in a briefing to Ministers on 21 March 2018, KiwiRail said that it had received no direction from the Government to cease the de-electrification programme on the NIMT and is continuing its work to decommission the electric locomotives fleet by 31 March 2019.

There are three key issues in KiwiRail’s advice to the Minister of Transport, as explained in the Radio NZ item of 10 May 2018, that are not correct:

1. Costs of Diesel v Electric Locomotives.

KiwiRail advised the Minister that: they could not afford to buy new electric engines; that it is hard to justify on cost grounds replacing electric locomotives that are near the end of their life with new electric locomotives; and that it is estimated that diesel engines are between 30 and 40 percent cheaper over the course of their lives.

The facts are:

  • KiwiRail’s current electric locomotives are midlife and not at the end of their useful life as stated by KiwiRail in their briefing to the Minister. As noted by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU), the electric fleet locomotives are the second most modern mainline locomotive in KiwiRail’s fleet. Refurbishing the electric locomotives is a valid commercial proposition. KiwiRail’s best locomotive, the DX class diesel-electric locomotive, was introduced in 1972 and received a comprehensive overhaul in 2006 – 34 years after introduction. By comparison the EF class electric locomotive on the NIMT is only 32 years old.
  • The lowest cost option considered by KiwiRail in its ‘Better Business Case’, dated 21 December 2016, was an upgrade of the electronic control system on the electric fleet. This would have cost only $10M. If the electronic control system is upgraded, the electric locomotives’ life would be extended by over 20 years.
  • While the diesel locomotives have lower capital costs, they have higher operating and maintenance costs, and only half the life of electric locomotives. The ‘whole-of-life’ costs of new electric locomotives are less than new diesel locomotives.
  • In the KiwiRail December 2016 ‘Better Business Case’, the diesel option was calculated to have a Net Present Value cost range of $204m to $236m (lower and upper bounds), compared to the electric option, which had a range of $242m to $310m.
  • However, a leaked (early 2017) KiwiRail internal review critiqued the financial modelling that informed the Board paper at the end of 2015. It said that the financial modelling under-represented the cost of the diesel option and over-represented the cost of the electric option. Based on the corrected model, that review assessed the cost of the electric option as $230m cheaper than the diesel option. The final ‘Better Business Case’ appeared to ignore that internal review. It is still being ignored in advice to Ministers in the new Government in March 2018.

2. Reliability and Time performance

KiwiRail advised the Minister that the current locomotive switches from diesel to electric locomotives, and back again, at Te Rapa and Palmerston North affects the reliability and time performance of KiwiRail’s services, and reduces the attractiveness of rail as a freight option compared with road.

The facts are:

  • The scheduled delays in the ‘Better Business Case’ of 21 December 2016 are for 40 minutes at each location of Te Rapa and Palmerston North. The redacted sections of the ‘Better Business Case’ (leaked to the authors) included four trials in July 2016, which found that the delay for each locomotive change was on average 5 minutes, rather than the 40 minutes scheduled. The average 5-minute delay at both Te Rapa and Palmerston North is negated by the faster speed of electric locomotives on the electrified section of the NIMT, which makes up 10 to 20 minutes. Therefore, the decision to switch from electric locomotives to diesels cannot be justified on time-saving grounds.

3. Greenhouse gas emissions

KiwiRail advised the Minister that a shift from electric to diesel locomotives would provide a more consistent and reliable service for modal shift onto rail: “For every tonne of freight moved by rail there is a 66% carbon emissions saving over heavy road freight”.

The facts are:

  • The same reliability, efficiency, reduction in travel time, and corresponding mode-share shift would be achieved by new or refurbished electric locomotives or dual-mode locomotives travelling between Auckland and Wellington – see 2 above.
  • In New Zealand, 80% of electricity production is from renewable resources such as hydro or wind power, with a new government target of 100% renewables by 2035. Consequently, only a small proportion of electricity supply required for an electric locomotive fleet depends on burning fossil fuels.
  • KiwiRail will burn an extra eight million litres of diesel per year using diesel locomotives on the electrified section of the NIMT. This is in direct conflict with the Government’s target of reducing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Professor Ralph Sims of Massey University said “the rail network would generate 12,000 tones of carbon dioxide per year by de-electrifying – more than cancelling out the 9,000 tones saved by using 3000 electric cars”.

4. Towards Full Electrification of the NIMT

A critical issue in this decision is the importance of retaining the long-term capability to fully electrify the NIMT.

The KiwiRail decision to switch from electric to diesel locomotives on the NIMT involves retaining the electrified infrastructure required for electric trains on the NIMT, and keeping the lines maintained, inspected and energised, at an estimated cost of $2m-3m per year. This funding could be at risk from future budget cuts, which could jeopardise any future opportunity to electrify the whole NIMT.

The options of a new electronic control system for the electric fleet, new electric locomotives or dual-mode electric-diesel locomotives would all potentially be part of a long-term transition to a fully electrified NIMT. A first step could be electrification from Papakura to Te Rapa. This would also allow the extension of the EMU commuter service from Auckland to Hamilton.

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  1. +100
    I’m quite surprised the new government hasn’t made this change as one of its first decisions since it is a relatively easy and cost effective decision to make. That’s before you even get to the environment issue or the fact that oil prices have doubled over the past couple of years.

  2. +100 We need to keep the pressure on to bring some sanity here. Environment and value-for-money are both priorities in the GPS, so doing anything other than reversing this decision is counter to the government’s policy statement.

  3. So what’s behind all this? Why would Kiwirail and/or the management team who put together the recommendation get it so wrong and then not act on advice to correct it? What possible motivation can they have? Are they corrupt? How can anyone be so stupid?

    1. My guess is they don’t want the cost of maintaining wires and poles. They have been in for years now and it must be damned expensive. Presumably they don’t want to openly say that electrification was never a good idea in the first place. It is an easier sell to say it isn’t working for them going forward.
      Remember even when the whole thing had just been built there was a strong argument that it was cheaper to not turn the wires on but to continue running diesels.

      1. Then where it says above “The ‘whole-of-life’ costs of new electric locomotives are less than new diesel locomotives,” are you suggesting that the full system including the wires and poles is more expensive over its life for electric engines? Do we have an analysis of that?

        1. I don’t but it is likely to be true. There is a hell of a lot of overhead infrastructure between Hamilton and Palmerston North for a relatively small number of trains that run on the line.

        2. I haven’t seen any analysis either way Heidi, but I know the electrification was a debacle from the beginning. It was part of Muldoon’s misguided idea of reducing reliance on imported fuels at the very time when imported fuels were dropping in price from all time highs to generational lows. I can’t think of a single one of those projects that was a good idea. Motunui wasted years of Maui gas turning it into petrol at a higher price than we could have bought the stuff. NZ Steel produced steel at a higher price than it could be imported until they wrote of the capital. The high dam at Clyde didn’t generate any more than the low dam option. Aramoana never got off the ground. Marsden B was built and mothballed.
          The NIMT electrification was forecast to cost $100mill but cost $250mill and even then the Lange Government debated mothballing it once it was finished.
          The one thing I do know is that if Kiwirail thought it would be cheaper to keep it going they would. There is no incentive for them to choose a higher cost option.

        3. Some good thoughts here.. but it begs the question: all things equal, how many trains does it take to make trackside gear cost-effective? The whole of Europe and Asia can’t be wrong..

        4. Do you not think that the petroleum fuels RAP (Refinery to Auckland Pipeline) was a good idea. Or would you have preferred that the oil terminal stayed at Freemans Bay, with the associated shipping and fleets of tanker trucks traversing through downtown Auckland.

        5. Right… because there have already been three railway de-electrifications in New Zealand’s history, what’s one more?

        6. Maybe it looked like a good idea at the time Graham P but the refinery expansion, hydro-cracker and pipe were costed at $320 million and ended up costing $1.84 billion. So no, with the benefit of hindsight it probably wasn’t a good idea. It is never a good idea to impoverish people in the long term just to create the impression of a booming economy in the short term.

      2. Surely the business case would of included the cost of maintaining the wires & poles as well or at least in part?

        I presume nothing else uses the wires as yet?

      3. Infrastructure costs associated with the electric overhead are very small. KiwiRail spends about $1.6m per year on NIMT overhead maintenance. The biggest costs are actually grid connection fees at $2m per year. Electricity is a much cheaper fuel than diesel, typically about a third the price. Total overhead costs are typically around $5-6m per year, which is lower than the cost of 8 million litres of diesel!

      4. Copper wire and concrete poles? you don’t need to paint them and they don’t rust! – it costs very little to maintain. There are no moving parts and the wearing parts (contact wire) wear very slowly.

        Electrification costs large sums of money to install and that is why you only see it on busy tracks. But once the wires are installed the system operating costs are very low.

        KiwiRail spends about $1.6m per year on NIMT electric infrastructure maintenance, about $2m on connection changes and $2-3m on electricity consumption depending on demand. A total of $5.6-6.6m per year to save 8+ million litres of diesel.

        How much does 8 million litres of diesel cost KiwiRail? as a guess on today’s market $0.95-1.05 per litre (they buy 50 million litres a year and get a pretty good discount).

        So you have a pretty simple choice, $5.6-6.6m on electric infrastructure and consumption or $7.5-8.5m in diesel. The difference is the cost of “standardisation”. A rational business making a commercial decision would put more emphasis on optimisation rather than standardisation.

        Now compare diesel and electric locomotives:
        Diesel locomotives have a diesel engine with thousands of moving parts that wear out and need to be maintained, rotating machinery (alternators, exciters, radiator fans, engine room fans), a more complex cooling system, fuel tanks and fuel pipe work. Lots of vibration, lots of heat (thermal expansion and contraction), exhaust soot and grime (used to be acidic but now with the sulphur removed it’s not such a problem)

        Electric locomotives have very few moving parts, little vibration, minimal thermal stress, no fuel contamination issues and no exhaust gasses. Not much to go wrong, not much to maintain.

        They have some common parts- both have bogies, traction motors and traction motor fans, control systems, brake systems, crew cabs, radios,…… But everything else being equal an electric locomotive will be much cheaper to operate and have a much longer life.

        and that is why most people don’t believe KiwiRails business case.

        1. Not all the conductors are copper… the catenary wire which supports the contact wire (HD Cu) is Al coated steel…

        2. I was going to mention this as well. Not even the contact wire is pure copper. It is an alloy. It is no good for anything but a contact wire. Same with Auckland’s contact wire, but it is a different blend.

    2. I don’t know if this is true but someone told me that a number of Kiwirail board members are from the trucking industry – maybe it’s time to replace them with people who actually know how to run a railway properly, and are not there to run the thing into the ground.

    3. I would say the influence of the big red dragon over certain blue politicians and their KR appointments probably had something to do with it… if you join the dots.

      1. a) “Yellow Peril” scaremongering should have no place in civilised discussion;
        b) the People’s Republic of China is a leader in electric transport, why would they want us to use diesel?

        1. How is the sand you have your head stuck in Daphne? The Chinese don’t give a rats about the environment and know that a DL won’t last as long and will need more parts etc.

        2. Actually that’s not entirely true. Until recently, it’s true they didn’t give a rats about the environment. But after a experiencing the effects of poisonous smogs in Beijing, pollution has become a major issue in China. And things are changing fast, for instance, introducing thousands of electric buses. China is the world leader in battery bus production.

        3. Yes they are now making efforts however given the scale of the country they are small and they are still the worlds largest CO2 emitter.
          They are cleaning up their act slowly so perhaps I should have said they don’t give a rats about polluting other countries.

        4. China is the largest manufacturer of trains in the world, and the most technically advanced. However if we want to order lumbering diesel locomotives built to be backwards compatible with 1960 technology, they can build that too. Obviously.

          It doesn’t mean they like building old shitty designs, it means we asked for them.

        5. Source?
          No way is China the most advanced builder of trains. Japan/France/Germany are all more advanced and China has been illegally copying them for years.

    4. I suspect that the underlying reason behind KiwiRail’s determination to phase out the EF locomotives is a fixation on having a unified fleet of one single type of locomotive (the DL), and a rigid belief that the efficiencies this should bring outweigh any reasons in favour of keeping the electric operation. KiwiRail has suggested that if Te Rapa-Papakura could be electrified then they may consider it worth retaining the electrification, but we have yet to see this project announced.

      KiwiRail’s justification for its policy was laid out in its “Better Business Case” study. However it is understood that various reviewers of this study including consultants Worley Parsons have found that its finding were biased in favour of switching to new diesels and that in reality, overhauling the EFs to bring them up to acceptable reliability standards is the most cost-effective option.

      We await a change of heart by KiwiRail, or else intervention by the government as they said they would if elected into office. Otherwise NZ risks taking another big step backwards environmentally and in its credibility on the world’s environmental stage.

      1. NZ’s credibility on the world’s environmental stage? Our Prime Minister saw to that by personally taking part in an advertising campaign to promote one of the most fossil-fuel-intensive businesses we have; international tourism. It seems that a lot of people though that it was amusing.

        1. Its all well and good to be critical of the PM there but lets be honest, we do not have the luxury of Austria/Switzerland/Czech/Slovakia and other European countries (or American/Asian) where we can walk/cycle/bus/train to another country.

          We are damned by our location and my industry (Aviation) is the only sensible way time-wise for NZ to interact with the rest of the world.

          Even here in Europe where I live and work, Aviation carries a significant number of people around the continent over short distances eg. from London to Newcastle, Copenhagen to Oslo, Basel to Zurich etc.

          A big issue across much of Europe is even with our great rail infrastructure, its still cheaper and often quicker to fly then train. I can train to Paris from London, but its cheaper to fly quite often, especially on the day.

          And while people complain about the price of “Dora the Explorer” she is cheaper then a ticket on the day by train from London to Edinburgh/Glasgow and that’s running on a fully electrified network.

    5. TheBigWheel – The decision is largely ideological. Running infill electrification up from Hamilton to Papakura and from Palmerston down to Waikanae, and running bi-mode electrics the whole way. This eliminates changes and speeds up journey time considerably.

      The initial cost isn’t trivial, but the savings in staff time and complexity would be significant, and there would be the huge social and knock on economic benefits of the infrastructure also being there to be used for running an hourly or two hourly commuter rail from Auckland to Hamilton and dramatically improving the decaying Capital Connection from Wellington to Palmerston North. it would also allow for Pukehohe to be brought properly into the AT electric network, rather than running as a crappy diesel shuttle – as it does now.

      The current electrification is useful, but it is incomplete and was never intended to be used as it is now. However the hard work has already been done. Rather than wasting that, making one push and finishing the job to get the full benefits is just common sense.

      It will save money in the long run, but most importantly deliver the most social and environmental benefits. One of the most toxic legacies of all of Rogernomics, is the persistent belief that absolutely everything comes down to a simple profit value without any regard for wider social, environmental and qulaity of life concerns. If it is simply about saving money, then close down the entire network, including AT and Metlink, because it all costs money.

  4. The rail line between Papakura and Te Rapa needs to be electrified, then the use of electric locomotives becomes far easier to justify for purely operational reasons, not taking into account the environmental benefits. Also the diesel locomotives are incredibly noisy at times when compared with the electrics, I wonder what people living near to the railway line think about the change.

    1. The majority of trains that run between Papakura and Te Rapa continue on through to Tauranga so would need to be diesel even if the line were to be electrified.

      1. An isolated section with it’s own group of captive (old)locos is always going to be difficult to justify when you have new diesel locos that are perfectly capable of handling all trains without the extra complication of changeovers. It won’t affect the ECMT trains but electrifying the Papakura Te Rapa section is the only long term solution. It would also allow the use of EMUs on regional services.

        1. Agree. Electrification will likely happen between Papakura and Te Rapa once the frequency of Intercity passenger trains between Auckland and Hamilton makes it viable.

        2. Or the other way round. Do the electrification first, and then the service will grow to suit after. Keep treating it as a shitty old diesel back yard line with no services, and of course no one will use it.

        3. That’s a lot of upfront cost for something that doesn’t exist yet. Those sort of upfront costs, ‘do the lot at once’ are what set back rail in Auckland for decades.

          Rail in Auckland finally succeeded when the approach changed one of making use of existing assets and adding incremental improvements, the patronage growth then grew the case for significant investments such as electrification and CRL.

        4. There isnt going to be frequency you think on Auckland Hamilton passenger trains. NZ isnt Switzerland with 6.5 mill people in an area just smaller than Canterbury region.
          Compare regional lines in Victoria , Melbourne Ballarat which is 1 hr 40 min which still has DMU’s for 27 or so daily services from Ballarat. Plus a reasonable stretch of track is the electrified suburban line.
          The Geelong is even busier at every 20 min during day and hourly in evening ( but only 85km) . Still DMU’s

          Im not sure why all electric locos are more expensive per unit than their diesel electric counterparts. Both use electric motors to drive the wheels , while one uses a pantograph for the electricity supply the other needs to have a diesel engine plus a generator for its electric current. Surely the diesel -electric is more complicated and heavier or am I missing something.

        5. I see your point Duker. However, I think hourly all day and more frequent at peak is quite realistic, while this might not meet the financial threshold for electrification the climate is changing (both figuratively and literally).

          Victoria made its decisions on rolling stock a number of years ago, I doubt new rolling stock for the Hamilton route would be being purchased until mid next decade. By then I’m not sure how many organisations would be committing to equipment that has a 30-year life that runs on diesel.

          While you are right about Switzerland’s density, they have many electrified lines that only see one train an hour in each direction in parts of the country that are much less dense than the Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga triangle.

        6. Buker.. you are right. Diesel vehicles are more complicated and heavier than electric vehicles. Electrics substitute a whole thumping great diesel engine and all its fuel systems for not much more than a modestly-sized transformer, circuit breaker and pantograph. If diesels seem cheaper in any particular comparison it can only be because the specs are different, or perhaps the diesel version is available in large numbers and the electric one isn’t, which might be an issue with our narrow gauge for instance.

        7. @Duker most electrics are far more powerful for their size too so you often need 3x Diesels to do the job of 2x Electrics.

  5. You can argue about Kiwirail’s “Business case” until you are blue in the face, but the biggest failing has to be laid at the door of Minister Twyford who has not done what Labour promised they would do before the election….. (Both the Greens and NZ First also have pro rail policies)

    But it appears they are quite happy to do nothing and let KR continue down their path, gee thanks guys….

    22 August 2017….
    “Today I have written to the KiwiRail CEO to provide fair notice that if elected, a Labour Government will issue a clear letter of expectation to cease work on de-electrification.”

    March 2018
    “KiwiRail said it has received no directive”

    1. What is needed, some directive telling Kiwirail to select the cheapest option of spending $10M upgrading the electronic control system on the electric fleet? Or at least a please explain why they’re not proceeding with the cheapest option?
      Its now a long time since the election, and we’ve heard nothing and seen no action from the three ministers of transport, namely senior minister Phil Twyford and two associates in Genter and New Zealand First’s Shane Jones, as well as SOE Minister Winston Peters.
      Whats going on?

      1. I would suggest – wait till tomorrow. Thursday is budget day.
        So I wouldn’t go spouting off that this is a failure, as they’ve actually been quite busy making all sorts of changes to NZ, and certainly more than Nats did in 9 years of government.

        1. @Guy, nope Kiwirail got nothing extra (excluding an already mentioned Wellington Metro upgrade )

          In fact you could say they had funding cut, as the $260 million Capital allocation they received in 2017/18 has been reduced to $230 million in 18/19

          Sure there is hand wavy promises from Shane jones’ slush fund, but there was nothing specific in this budget for Kiwirail to reverse de-electrification

        2. It shouldn’t need anything in the budget for KiwiRail to reverse de-electrification, because upgrading the EF locos and retaining the electrification has been shown as cheaper than buying new diesels.

          The govt just needs to get off its chuff and make sure this happens.

          Hard to see what is holding them back.

        3. One could also add the cut was bigger than that – the budget included $160M for rolling over of a loan, that’s not providing $160M. So funding for KR in this bidget is about 72% of last year’s budget…

  6. I speculated there may be kick back to kiwirail offical from the diesel fleet provider. The officals wants the business case to be engineered to favour the predetermined outcome.

    Government should audit the business case, or have its own business case.

  7. +100 Given the price uncertainty of diesel fuel over next 3-4 decades, and that electrical power infrastructure is in place for majority of the route, seems like a no-brainer for me (admittedly I know nothing about it)

    1. The crucial point is the electrical power infrastructure is not in place for the whole route. From a management point of view, it’s much easier to hook up a diesel loco to a freight train at Westfield and run to Wellington without having to organise motive power changeovers.

      1. We did discuss this extensively a year ago, here on this blog:

        Electrifying the two remaining sections of the NIMT was noted as being perfectly possible by all, but some noted that it would be prohibitively expensive. My (completely off the back of an envelope) calculations place it in the “completely do-able at a reasonable price” bracket, based on an inflated $1m / km of line needed. Recent electrification in the Wellington region was done for a fifth of that price per km, so even allowing for 500% inflation, it is still possible.

        The other option, of course, is to order dual motive power locos – ie electric and diesel. They are more expensive than just a single power source, but could do the entire line in one go, without stopping for a shift change. They are heavier and more expensive, but entirely feasible, and available almost off the shelf (although of course everything has to get built specially with projects this size, and for NZ’s narrow track size).

        Main motive coming through appeared to be that this was a purely politically motivated ploy, in that we have to buy Chinese product to make up for the massive amounts of milk product that China is buying from us. It’s not me being paranoid or xenophobic – there does appear to have been a strong political direction from the National Government at the time: buy some Chinese locos.

        1. I don’t think dual motive power locos are a practical reality for freight trains on the NIMT.

        2. You think, or you know? Plenty of other people have said they would be fine. Just a question of cost, and of commitment

        3. My co-authors of the guest post and I investigated whether dual-mode locomotives would be suitable on the NIMT. The Swiss locomotive manufacturer Stadler confirmed in writing to us (14 June 2017) that recent designs of dual-mode locomotives have an axle weight of 16 tonnes (within the acceptable axle weight limit of 18 tonnes) and they will be suitable on the curves of the NIMT route.

        4. “recent designs of dual-mode locomotives have an axle weight of 16 tonnes”

          A DL weighs 108 tonnes. If this recent design of dual mode locomotive is assumed to offer similar power off the wires then the designers have added around 7 tonnes of transformer, breakers, pantograph(s) etc plus another couple of tonnes in an extended frame and come up with a total mass of 96 tonnes. Truly remarkable, especially if they are claiming a similar tractive effort as a DL. So remarkable that it is very unlikely that they are comparable.

          Did you check that it would fit the Kiwirail loading gauge? Vossloh (whose designs Stadler inherited) was involved in a fiasco in South Africa where their dual mode locomotives were 175 mm too high for the SA loading gauge.

        5. Giving up 2t per axle in tractive effort on the middle of the NIMT sounds like a pretty poor choice to me. It’s not an accident that the DX, EF and DL all weigh close to the maximum allowable. Not that the 16t version is the right option, anyway. The lighter ones have puny engines only good for last mile and shunting work. As MFD says, the loading gauge is another matter altogether. A quick look puts them well over height for NZ operation. All that I’ve seen fails to provide a better solution than either a short term dieselization or a long term full electrification.

        6. Reply to MFD: Yes Stadler is fully aware of the rail gauge used in NZ and the height limitations. Stadler is a reputable Swiss company and it is unlikely to have made false claims. What it is proposing for NZ is the new Asia Light model, different to the Vossloh locomotives which had issues in South Africa, that I understand were not necessarily the fault of the locomotive provider.

    2. This you tube video shows the change over from electric to diesel on the Overlander at Hamilton and it didn’t take that long . The scene happens around 1hr 15mins into it

      1. Now substitute a substantially longer freight train with a different braking system from a passenger train requiring a longer recharge of the brake line. Take into account the time to decelerate the freight from 80 km/h and then to accelerate it back up to 80 km/h. Add in some inclement weather and five minutes sounds wildly optimistic.

        1. The union and railfan community like to bang this drum too. Only 5 mins to swap trains… Kiwirail’s figure of 40 minutes is not just for the physical swapping of the train… freight trains have 30 minutes leeway to allow for weather, faults or other disruptions. 10 minutes are given to do the swap plus 30 minutes of arrival window = 40 minutes that have to be scheduled for each swap. It’s no good scheduling just 5 or 10 mins for a loco swap if the arriving train is allowed to be 30 mins late. Then there’s all the MFD’s things either side. On top of all that there’s an hours worth of loco prep and radio checks before the next loco even makes it to the swap over. Then there’s however much downtime the retiring loco has before it is called up for another job, often many hours and it may continue idling for much of that time. I think it’s a bit cheeky for people to be implying creative accounting on Kiwirail’s part when they’re happy to ignore all these offline operations associated with loco swapping.

        2. I fail to see how a 30 minute arrival window can be included in the total change over time. That window would apply to arrival variation even without the loco changeover. Unless the changeover time is deliberatly padded out to use 40 minutes then the actual changeover time is 10 minutes and this is apparently easily made up with electric traction hence also negating the deceleration and acceleration times
          Also a DF is using negligle fuel (none) while waiting unlike a waiting and engine idling DL.
          The cost of the changeover kerfuffle is way way more desirable than the extra tons of co2 emissions using DLs under the wires.
          What is wrong with KR management, has common sense left them or is it no longer common?

        3. A DL at Palmerston North or at Te Rapa is sitting ready, idling for that whole time, with crew (driver and shunter to do the swap), waiting for the EF to show up, whether it arrives early or late. Waiting for its slot in the schedule when the next opposing train clears the single line block ahead. If there is no interaction with the yard, that 30 minute window just gets pushed through to the next leg, leapfrogging into an advanced slot, because noone else is waiting. The schedule can be tightened up. Only part of these questions of time are about the overall journey time for a given container to travel from one end to the other, as important as that is for a customer. The costs to Kiwirail also depend very much on all of the unbillable minutes of preparation and standdown required to ensure reliability of service.

          KR management are not in charge of this country’s emissions profile. If the government wants Kiwirail to take responsibility for that, they need to arrange for that to be part of their job. Common sense would dictate that you don’t squander your limited resources doing someone else’s job for them, so maybe common sense isn’t the problem here.

  8. No, no, no. I’m afraid these experts in various fields, none of which are rail freight operations, will have to go back to the drawing board if they want a pass mark on this lot. Kiwirail’s position on this is a product of the hand they’ve been dealt and is factually consistent with their real obligations. These other wants and needs are entirely valid, but until the government steps up and puts some new cards on the table, this cannot change. All 3 government parties claim to have cause firan electrified future. They need to stop bluffing and empower Kiwirail to deliver it.

    1. I agree. Kiwirail already struggles to be time competitive on the Auckland-Wellington section compared with trucks. When the Waikato Expressway is completed, the situation will be even worse. An electric future for rail is going to require a lot of investment.

  9. I understand that the auckland electric trains are compatible with the voltage of the main trunk.
    Has Kiwirail looked at trialing a 3 car electric train run between Palmerston Nth and Te Rapa to determine if it
    is a future passenger rail option?

    1. No, because the EMUs are owned by AT, not Kiwirail, are required in Auckland and are, I believe, too wide.

    2. Which EMUs would you use? Are you suggesting reducing a 6-car set to a 3-car set for the duration of this trial?

      I would have thought it would make more sense to trial this with one of the numerous carriages parked up in Taumarunui, then it could be proven to be a failure without causing Auckland commuters to cram into a 3-car set.

        1. I’m well aware of that. My point was that if a 3-car set was taken for this trial, then one of the existing 2 x 3 car sets would have to be reduced to a 1 x 3 car set.

        2. Also what ever is going to do the Auckland Hamilton route, as the running time will exceed 2 hours there will need to be toilets on board which te ENU don’t have.

  10. Looking at this subject objectively and from KiwiRails view point, they have a very finite budget and are still maintaining the network as a stand alone business, so something has to give.

    The EF’s are requiring substantial money to be spent to overhaul them but they are absolutely limited to the North Island Main Trunk between Palmerston North and Te Rapa. And I suspect this part of the network is not high volume such as the East Coast line to Tauranga. Toll were going to abandon part of it I recall.

    Next they have invested and more or less put all their eggs in one basket in buying the Dalian manufactured DL loco’s. These are powerful, nearly as much as the EF. And you can couple a DL at Auckland and run it to Wellington, in theory. No changing loco’s 3 times

    Having said that the DL’s have been rather problematic to put it diplomatically. They were designed to haul freight at 100 km/hr but deficiencies in the bogie design means they are limited to a rather outdated 80 km/hr. And despite all of that KiwiRail keep buying them.

    To retain the EF’s the government must increase Kiwirails budget substantially, have a broader policy as toward climate change with meaning and lead from the front and I would suggest with the cooperation of both the Waikato and Auckland Councils, electrify the NIMT to Auckland and consider doing so to Tauranga.

    Otherwise they are rather pointless as it stands.

    1. Also the DL’s came complete with asbestos insulation, and run an antiquated DC motor system rather than an AC motor system, thus making them prone to flashovers and hence very unreliable. As the old ad said, “Barks like a dog, Phil!” And that wasn’t even Twyford but seems appropriate now!

      1. Every loco we’ve ever had came with asbestos content and a DC motor system. Those observations, however accurate, are not really a strong case for keeping an older and even more unreliable DC motored fleet staggering along.

  11. Although the election seems a long time ago now, tomorrow is actually the first Labour-led coalition governments proper budget.

    Up til now most of the what Labour/Greens/NZ First have been doing is tinkering around with the left-overs from Nationals last budget.

    Tomorrow is when the government of the day get to confirm exactly where the money goes for the next 3 years. This is where the rubber meets the road, if its not in the Budget it won’t get funded.

    So many of the things promised and spending committed to will be formally tabled in tomorrows budget and once the urgent budget night legislation is passed, will begin to move into the “being delivered” phase.

    Tomorrow, I fully expect to see Kiwirail broken into several parts tomorrow when the budget is announced.
    Likely being the freight/passenger operations bit and the track bit.

    The track bit will move under the aegis of NZTA and redirecting the NLTF funding rules away from roads only focus.

    In effect removing the issues with de-electrification and track away from KR will let them focus on what they do best.

    KR will also be “reminded” I am sure during the budget of their obligations towards making NZ a low CO2 economy. Therefore I expect the de-electrification decision and implementation to under-go a complete reversal in short order too.

    Tune in again this time tomorrow.

    1. Did I miss that part of the budget? The only relevant part I noted was that the amount granted to Kiwirail was reduced. I understand the grandoise transport plans are actually a 10 year plan but it would have been encouraging to see a start on something relatively low cost such as the third main Wiri to Westfield.
      Why do I have this glass half empty feeling that 3mWtoW wont happen until after 2020?

  12. To me, it makes sense to have the North Island Main Trunk line electrified from Auckland to Wellington by upgrading the Hamilton to Palmerston North the power distribution to be the same specification as the Auckland suburban network to Waikanae and electrify Hamilton to Tauranga for freight and passenger operation.

    Refurbish the current EF fleet with updated electrical equipment for dual voltage operation. The Union has said the the EF chassis are in good condition and by refurbishing and upgrading the electric equipment will allow KR to operate EF’s from Auckland to Wellington and possibility to Tauranga for bulk freight with out locomotives changes. By doing this, it will meet the government’s C02 emissions and have greater operational efficiency. The DL’s can be used on non-electrified routes.

    Electrifying Auckland to Wellington and Tauranga, will allow regional and inter-regional passenger train services using dual voltage EDMU or EMBU’s, which is what the Greater Wellington Regional Council is looking at.

    If the NZ Superfund wants to invest, own and operate Auckland’s light rail system, there is no reason for the Superfund to invest in upgrading NZ’s under utilized under funded national network on a PPP basis.

    Alot of things have happened when the Hamilton to Palmerston North was electrified. Climate Change is now a major concern worldwide and the Auckland suburban electrification network was still a pipe dream.

    1. Based on the numbers of EF left that havent been scrapped or cannibalized, there is only enough locos left to run the existing electrified route.
      Superfund would only be an investor, they would be in a partnership that would do other things like operation and supply the LRVs. Thats the model that these sort of investors use.

      1. KiwiRail has 17 EF locomotives that could be upgraded. Of those,15 are in-service, and the other two are parked due to deferred repairs and maintenance. The lowest cost option considered by KiwiRail in its ‘Better Business Case’ dated 21 December 2016 was an upgrade of the electronic control system on the electric fleet. This would have cost only $10m. If the electronic control system is upgraded, the electric locomotives’ service life would be extended by over 20 years. KiwiRail rejected this option.

    2. I wonder if even just electrifying a single track (with a couple of passing loops) between Pukekohe and Frankton to reduce the cost would work? Freight to Tauranga would still be diesel on the non-electrified track with passing where needed. Could potentially save $50m or so until such time as duplication was needed and would save 5-20 minutes in Frankton.

      1. My guess is that would save practically nothing, basically just the cost of the materials in the second set of wires. 90% of the work to get access, set up worksites, install foundations and masts, build and connect substations, etc is the same whether you do one track or two.

        1. It would also dramatically restrict the capacity of the line. Dual line running – one all up traffic, one all down traffic – has a lot more capacity than two single lines where one is diesel, both directions sharing one track, and the other is electric, both directions sharing one track.

        2. There have been other posts in here suggesting it costs around $1.5m per km for single track nearly double for double track so yes if that is accurate it is possible to save a lot of money.
          DLs can still use both tracks and since there are only a handful of services a day not going to Tauranga it shouldn’t be hard to schedule them in. Of course nothing to stop them upgrading it later but this could be a good way to start it. Most of the time in NZ double tracks use almost completely separate OLE rather than the larger gantry style that is used more for triple tracks.

        3. AKLDUDE: but every one of those trains not going to Tauranga would turn the double-track main line into single tracks, reducing capacity massively. I can’t imagine that anyone could justify this sort of expenditure to *reduce* capacity! And of course it would preclude any decent electric passenger service.

          KiwiRail is increasingly using one structure to cover two tracks, eg in replacing wooden traction poles in Wellington – one foundation is cheaper than two.

  13. This isn’t really EF verses DL, KiwiRail have – I suspect – done their sums and can’t justify maintaining all that overhead wire for a handful of trains a day. So when the EFs needed renewing KR seized the chance to de-electrify. Also,there’s probably an overall reduction in the number of locos needed with the diesel option. I think the government’s going to have to subsidize the electrics if we want to keep them.

    1. The cheapest and best value option is to refurbish the 17 EF class locomotives, which are at mid-life not end-of-life, at a cost of $10-12m. That is much lower than the cost of 8 new Diesel DL class locomotives of $37.5m. If the decision is to buy new EF class electric locomotives, their ‘whole of life’ costs are lower than diesel locomotives. This is because although the diesels have lower capital costs, they have higher operating and maintenance costs and shorter service life than electric locos. Refurbished or new electric locomotives are a better commercial decision than new diesels, as well as being in the national interest because they won’t emit an extra 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere – when Government has set a target of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. The other advantage of electric locomotives is that they are consistent with a long-term transition to a fully electrified NIMT.

      1. Although many will completely agree with your post the politics seem to interfere in seeing the obvious and refurbing the 17 EFs. One one side the environmental issues support this electric NIMT future but on another side is the trade with China and protecting the diary export industry. Does anyone doubt the DLs were simply a trade off for milk powder.
        Do CRRC Dalian make electric locos or dual mode electric diesel locos?
        Perhaps they might take back DLs trade in

  14. The problem is the minister too easily accepts weak excuses from Kiwirail. Changing engines takes bugger all time, and electric operation is superior in the long run. Those electric engines have served well, as demonstrated by the selection of the design as the basis for Eurotunnel Class 9.
    The priority should be increasing the amount of electrified line not reducing it.

    Second and third world countries manage to maintain more electrified line than we have.

    1. “as demonstrated by the selection of the design as the basis for Eurotunnel Class 9”

      Bogus claim. About the only thing in common between the 2 designs is the wheel arrangement and that was in use in Japan, Switzerland, Italy and NZ before Brush used it.

        1. There is something else in common – both were built in small numbers and are unique to a single operator. So successful that no-one else in the world bought them.

        2. So the wiki on EF locos is incorrect in saying the EF loco design was used in developing the eurotunnel class 9 locos.
          Perhaps you should edit the wiki

      1. Given the choice between a statement that’s supported with references to three credible sources (as the Wikipedia Eurotunnel Class 9 entry is) and an unsupported statement from an unidentified blog contributor (as here), I suspect most people would go for the former, that the EFs were the basis for the design Eurotunnel’s Class 9. “Bogus claim” doesn’t quite hack it!

        1. How about we actually read those references? Of all the Class 9 ‘s design elements discussed, it seems quite clear that the only significant or critical commonality with the Class 30 is the bogie layout, which even then was chosen for a different reason (2/3 redundancy instead of 1/2 with the Class 90 versus capacity to cope with tight curvatures for the Class 30). While the Class 30 bogie design is the starting point for the Class 9 bogies, it was redesigned for higher axle load, higher speed, straighter routes. This is not a way a case of interchangeable parts or common loco design or some revolutionary technological advance. “Selection of the design as the basis for the Class 9” is a bogus claim, just as it was the last time it was made here and doesn’t bolster the case for retaining the EFs or electrified central NIMT. It’s just not relevant.

        2. It may not be relevant, but it’s very important to get facts right – so, given the strong (and now, fortunately, supported) word “bogus”, shouldn’t you be editing the offending statement on Wikipedia, as already suggested? (Excellent if you have!)

  15. This seems is out of touch with current overseas thinking. In the UK the government has halted all new electrification projects because of the likelihood of hydrogen powered trains becoming available

    1. Not so. The UK is indeed an example of overseas thinking, but very much an outlier: and the halt is because of escalating Network Rail electrification costs, not because of hydrogen trains. The UK is going heavily for diesel bi-modes, a compromise between DMUs and EMUs (with all the consequences of being a compromise) in order to avoid main-line electrification.

      As far as I’m aware no other railway is taking this approach: elsewhere bimodes are used to plug unwired gaps, not to operate long stretches of unwired main line.

  16. Outside the box thought here… would it be possible to create a battery carriage with lithium ion batteries to power EFs when not in the Auckland or NIMT EOLE? The likes of Tesla are really cramming a lot of power into their installations now including grid backups etc. Wouldn’t add to the axle loading as would be a separate carriage. Would allow for AKL to Tauranga too. Considering the sections without EOLE aren’t particularly demanding should mean there wouldn’t be too much power needed. Could also recharge from the EOLE.

    1. I imagine that would take some major modifications in electronics/switchgear on the EF is enable it to interface to a low voltage <1kv DC battery system. Without doing the sums the Ah capacity of such a battery trailer using something like LifePO4 cells would need to be very substantial for an EF towing the average freight train Hamilton to Tauranga.

      1. Yes this is true although Tesla grid systems for example can output up to 625kV so 25kV shouldn’t be a problem. Might need a bit of engineering but possible. Remembering that it would be used on easy terrain with not too much current draw needed.

  17. Why do these gentlemen insist on pushing so many falsehoods and misunderstandings about this topic?

    1) “That diesel locomotives have a higher operating cost.”

    This is true of the locomotive, but not the infrastructure. With diesels, you only need to maintain the track and track infrastructure. With electrics, you need to maintain the track and track infrastructure, but also the electricity infrastructure, including substations. This requires duplicate resources and duplicate staff. In fact you need three maintenance depots instead of one. Diesels are considerably cheaper when you factor this in.

    2) “That it only takes 5 minutes to exchange locomotives.”

    This is not the issue. The issue is the significant overlap in locomotive hours at Hamilton and Palmerston North. Each diesel and electric locomotive spends around four hours there during each exchange. The end result is that it takes around 24 locomotive hours to move a train from Auckland to Wellington, vs 16 locomotive hours with one diesel locomotive all the way from Auckland to Wellington. It therefore takes far fewer locomotives to do the same job, if the line is fully dieselised. The option is between 16 electric locomotives and duplicate resources, staff and costs, or 8 diesel locomotives and no duplication. It’s easy to see why diesels are the better option.

    3) “KiwiRail will burn an extra eight million litres of diesel per year using diesel locomotives”

    The additional cost of continuing with the inefficient operating structure of electrification is an opportunity cost. If the money was otherwise spent on new rolling stock, new freight facilities and better track, it would achieve greater modal shift of freight from diesel trucks, to diesel trains. Since diesel trains use five times less diesel than diesel trucks for any given task, this is where the environmental benefits of less diesel use comes into play. Put simply, diesel trains are at least as good for the environment as electric trains. But the added benefit is that fewer trucks will be on the roads, delivering other benefits as well, such as safer roads.

    It is time to remove the ideological blinkers and let KiwiRail get on with running their freight business in the way that is most economical, and ultimately, better for the environment and road users.

    As an aside, the dieselisation project is almost complete. 80% of trains within the electrified section are now hauled by diesels, and the few electric trains that still operate are breaking down on a near daily basis. The electric locomotive breakdowns have cost several hundred hours worth of delays this year to date, and frustrated customers. It is time to retire them, and move on.

  18. What makes you think that the Worley peer review is any better? Take the statement by them that a DL has 2100 kW available for traction. That implies a 77.7% transmission efficiency. Implausible. Looks like a made-up figure. I would estimate a figure of around 2500 kW based on typical DC-drive diesel electrics. There’s nothing like good data on which to base decisions…and that’s nothing like good data.

    Consider another statement: “EF wheel has larger diameter: EF 1100-1000mm, DL 936-844mm. Theoretically the EF wheel should last at least 1.3 times longer than the DL wheel for the same service.”

    Which theory is that? Maybe his calculator is broken.

    And another: “The NIMT overhead line is in good condition and does not require much capital investment over the next 30 years”

    . …provided that you don’t want to run more than a handful of electrics in a section at one time over the next 30 years. It’s barely fit for purpose at the moment, let alone anticipated increases in traffic

    I could go on…but I won’t. I hope the taxpayer didn’t pay for this report.

    As for one of the Kiwirail documents (although it is a “draft”); the author doesn’t seem to understand the difference between kW and kWh and assumes that all of the energy going into the electrical system ends up as tractive effort at the locomotives. The NIMT electrification is notorious for voltage drops to the extent that at times of high load around a third of the energy goes into heating the electrical conductors in the distribution system.

    It’s really difficult to have a rational debate on this subject when it is surrounded by clouds of misinformation, guesses and axe-grinding.

    1. You make some good points. As for the OLE being hardly fit for purpose I understood after talking to a kiwirail electrical engineer that the OLE was in excellent condition. The problems with power voltage droops and therefore limitations on the number of EF locos in any one section could be resolved with additional power feeder stations. If energy is being lost as heat in long runs of conductor then same solution, more feeders.

      1. Of course it can be resolved with additional feeders. A simple matter of running a 220 kV line from the nearest point to a transformer with breakers etc. The NIMT system has 4 feeds; one at each end (approx.) and 2 in the middle giving 3 sections between feeders. Add 3 additional feeders to the mid-point of each section in the central NI.

        Want to hazard a guess as to how much that would cost? Maybe $10 to 25M each? (HV transmission lines in rough terrain don’t come cheap) ….and our peer reviewer from Worley Parsons says the overhead won’t need any investment for the next 30 years and goes on to discuss the relative repaint costs of various locomotive types FFS.

        That peer review is a shoddy piece of work.

        1. I agree with you in that greater use of the NIMT electric will need investment in additional power feeders. This would need to be budgeted for if more electric locos or regional rail emus are planned. Seems the reviewer missed this obvious issue.
          So for the pukekohe to Te Rapa OLE there’s additional two power feeds

        2. Not necessarily. My understanding is that the original NIMT system uses a galv. steel messenger wire. A new install with a copper or bronze messenger wire would go a long way to addressing voltage drops. In addition the terrain is unlikely to see simultaneous high loads from different trains in the section.

        3. I thought the messenger or catenary wire is primarily there as a mechanical support for the conductor wire hence galv steel for strength so that it can be tensioned. The conductor wire, copper or alloy hangs below using dropper cables and zig zags between main supports.
          You say replacing messengers with copper or bronze, would this be capable of being suitably tensioned for OLE, wouldn’t stretching deformation be an issue?
          Am I wrong in thinking that the conductor wire is the main power link between feeders and as you imply it is actually the messenger/catenary? This would imply the conductors are only energised in relatively short continuous sections.
          Or does the NIMT have an auxiliary in the OLE and this is the actual power line with droppers to the conductor and its this aux that is galv steel that could be upgraded to bronze/copper?
          (Im not close to NIMT south of Te-Rapa to actually see OLE)

        4. Galv steel is used because it’s cheap and not attractive to thieves. A more modern approach is a cable that contains copper strands and steel strands, which makes it work better, but more difficult to process for illegal scrap.

          The line tension is controlled by weights strung over pulleys (when done properly, at least), which take care of stretching and thermal expansion/contraction. Work hardened copper alloys are well able to cope with these loads. aluminium is even used in some HT cable applications.

          I don’t know about the older installations, but newer ones have multiple connections between main feeders. It’s easier to run heavy insulated supply cables underground than to string up massive cables overhead.

        5. So the NIMT OLE is not the latest design but basically there is nothing wrong with it. Its working as designed and despite voltage droops these are a feature of normal operating. The control people will know what they are doing in running EF patterns that do not exceed the current capacity of any one section. Sure if there is a need to increase capacity with more electric locos or emus then perhaps additional power feed points will be needed but that can be addressed when that need arises.
          None of these tech issues mean the NIMT electric should be abandoned. Spend the $ and refurb the EFs. Use them to the max

      2. Now we are talking facts. And are we aware of how many $m’s of taxpayers money will be needed to spend putting in place these new feeder stations and the supply? This is where kiwirail has really failed. Not disclosing these costs, just like the botched time savings at te rapa and palmerston North in their report. Hence why they are going diesel in the meantime. The deal is already done from the previous government. The locos are due here very soon.

    2. Yeah, I get around double the wheel life (consider 3-5 tyre turns and 1.18 x longer tread) I guess the person was just playing devil’s advocate – even if you assume the worst of the EF, and the best DL cases, the EF still comes out on top.

      And its not just the transmission efficiency, but all the parasitic loads, blowers, fans, exciter, compressor and efficiency of the alternator itself that suck the power away after the MTU donk has done it’s bit.

      I’d be keen to see all this stuff that MFD seems to know about overheads and locos and get him to write a less-than-shoddy report about said topics, instead of his/her seemingly baseless trolling that seems to have infected a number of GA threads.

      1. Looks like the “Hairy Arm Theory” smoked you out “NIMT”. How about you tell us where the “strictly confidential” Kiwirail document on the WordPress site came from. It’s not the one on their website, it hasn’t been released under the OIA and you created an alter-ego to publish it under.

        …but now that you are here tell us about your cunning plan to electrify Papakura to Te Rapa for $64M as featured on your WordPress site:

        Papakura-Pukekohe is budgeted at $130M so somebody better tell the gummint that they are being ripped off. Probably better coming from you as you have all the details….oh and “Chinese trains only having a 10 year service life”. Is that actually true?

        1. The Waikato electrification stuff was all researched from Google / Wikipedia, etc. Basically, after paying $80million for wires and $80 million for signals in Auckland suburban area which has more trains, a more complex network with more stations and junctions – Papakura to Hamilton is straight track so I applied the costs proportionally on a track km basis.

          I think the $130 million may include trains, but still seems a bit expensive.

          Thanks for the plug. Feel free to browse and comment constructively.

        2. Last time we discussed this subject, WTB, (September last year) you wrote:

          “So say $1 million per km. Double track: $2 mil per km”.

          Papakura-Te Rapa is around 90 km and mostly double track so how do you get $64M?

          Papakura-Pukekohe has clearance problems with 3 road bridges with the SH1 motorway bridge being the most significant. One or 2 challenges with civils can blow a per km rule of thumb right out of the water.

        3. I was prepared to take KiwiRail’s $2.5m/km per route km and $4m/km fr double track at face value and this possibly is correct when factoring in the substations and the like. I am sure it has been checked off current international benchmarks.

          However, if one considers the 80 route km (196 track km) of the Auckland network, and the quoted $80 million contract price, then we are down to $1m/km. That $80 million must surely be incorrect. Anyone care to elaborate and clarify that cost to electrify the Auckland network?

          Of some interest are the cost overruns on recent UK electrification schemes. There are claims that the cost/km is out by a factor of 3. The debates rage on over there. Gold-plating? Or, lost technical knowledge? The argument is that the intellectual knowledge on how to do bean-counter friendly electrification, disappeared out of the UK after their last major scheme was completed, between London and Edinburgh, by the former British Railways, about the same time the Hamilton – Auckland NIMT scheme was completed.

    3. So let me get this straight,
      A professional rail engineering consultancy don’t know what they are talking about but MFD does??

      Ok, lets test this.
      A rail wheel cross section is a circle. The area of which is equal to: π*D*D/4

      EF Wheel at maximum diameter (no wear) has 950,331 mm2 of area
      EF Wheel at minimum diameter (full wear) has 785,398 mm2 of area
      The total area available to wear is the maximum less the minimum:
      950,331-785,398 = 164,934 mm2 of wear area.

      Now the DL
      DL Wheel at maximum diameter (no wear) has 688,084 mm2 of area
      DL Wheel at minimum diameter (full wear) has 559,467 mm2 of area
      The total area available to wear is the maximum less the minimum:
      688,084-559,467 = 128,617 mm2 of wear area.

      Ok so the EF has 164,934 mm2 of wear area and the DL 128,617 mm2.
      164,934 mm2 divided by 128,617 mm2 = 1.28 or 28% more steel to wear. Therefore, the wheels should last 28% longer (roughly 30%).

      So maybe WorleyParsons calculator works just fine-

      1. “So let me get this straight,
        A professional rail engineering consultancy don’t know what they are talking about but MFD does??”

        Not just a professional rail engineering consultancy but the principal thereof who is, no doubt, a subject matter expert. I was unashmedly trolling NIMT/WTB – see above.
        Seriouosly, Steve, you can theorise on EF wheel wear, hypothesise on the effect of the wheelslip system on it and make assumptions on the amount of material removed in turning them and make reference to scholarly papers regarding wheel-rail geometry but what’s the point when there is 30 years of actual data (or should be). There’s nothing like actual data…and that would be actual data.
        Similarly with the “power available for traction” comparison. It’s not as if it’s difficult to measure.

    4. Time for some corrections,

      The NIMT system has 5 wires, 4 of which are copper. The fifth wire is steel. The wires are as follows
      • Contact wire (copper 27.5kV)
      • Parallel conductor (copper 27.5kV)
      • Return wire (copper at rail potential)
      • Feeder wire (copper at 55kV)
      • Lightening arrestor wire (steel at earth potential)

      There are no capacity problems on the NIMT electrified section. The system was designed for much higher freight levels in the mid 1980’s. Even with the higher mid-eighties freight levels the system was oversized.

      No new feeders are required, in fact the system can run “extended feeding” with one or two feeders turned off.

      The NIMT overhead is monitored by a SCADA system so all the data is available. If you want to check this you could use the OIA to confirm the capacity and any low voltage problems seen on the network.

      The system is an auto transformer system- the best (and most expensive to install) you can get. The losses due to transmission are very very low. So low they can be ignored (again use the OIA to prove this). For reference an EF at full power pulls 110 amps from the overhead. The conductors have very low resistance so line losses are negligible.

      The rumour of line volt drop problems has an explanation. In 2012 a new event recorder was installed to the EF. During this install a mistake was made with the wiring. The VCB open signal was accidentally wired to the low line volts output. So every time a fault caused the VCB to open the event recorder registered “low line volts”. This wasted a ton of time for years as people blamed the overhead for faults that were actually the locomotive. Again, use to OIA to confirm that “Traction” have not seen any low voltage problems on the NIMT network.

      KiwiRail have the opposite problem – not enough traffic density. Look at this youtube video (link below). Note the sparking at the pantograph. This is caused by the wire freezing up in cold conditions. Ice forms on the wire and the ice prevents good conduction from the wire to the locomotive. If the line volt losses were significant and “…around a third of the energy goes into heating the electrical conductors…” as suggested by MFD, then the wire wouldn’t ice up.

      1. Hi Steve
        Very interesting and informed comments there. The myth was always that there could only be 3 EF hauled trains in any one section between sub-stations. I am unsure as to whether this was for single or double EF hauled trains. From what you are saying this is untrue?

        These sorts of things matter for any business case retaining the electrification as you will be well aware. How many EF equivalents can fit within one of the 3 sections of track between the 4 sub-stations?

        1. Tuktuk,
          I don’t think it is as simple as “you can only have this many in one section at a time”. Many factors would come into play; What loads are they carrying (how big are the trains and grades)? How far away from the feeder are the loads? Are they all working at the same time (hard on single track at least one will be waiting in a loop)?? Are you willing to tolerate reduced performance (loco’s can shed load to preserve line volts)?

          Dave B would be the man to comment. With the current schedule would 3 EF trains be in the same section at once? An if so, would they all be motoring?

          I have never seen the locomotives pull the line volts down lower the 21.5kV and this was for less than 30 seconds. The EF will give full power down to 19kV, lower than 19kV it will turn off traction amps and lower than 15kV it will open the VCB. The traffic density on the NIMT is so low it will never be a problem. Again as above, you could request this information using the OIA.

          I don’t know much about the Auckland system or it loads- so take this with a grain of salt. Look at Auckland for traffic density, they have 50 odd 1.5MW units and only two feeder subs. Makes the NIMT look very manageable.

      2. Steve, Thanks for posting this info, it clears up a lot of misinformation concerning the state of the OLE and feeders. Are the EFs really in such bad condition as others have posted here?

        1. Many thanks Steve for the feedback which is clearly well informed.

          Bogle – there are several key components inside the EFs which are knackered with the traction control system being the biggest issue.

          But to put that in context, think of what DXs were like before the upgrade program began from the early 1990s which progressively included the Brightstar traction control system.

          The DFs became DFTs became DFM became DFB during various upgrades that included at two different traction control systems with the Brightstar system being the ultimately preferred option.

      3. Great video Steve, but those EFs are going downhill. I ran the video backwards so that the locos were loaded and the arcing disappeared!

        Thanks for the data you posted:

        “For reference an EF at full power pulls 110 amps from the overhead”
        What’s the power factor on the 110 amps? Do the EFs have PFC?

        “The EF will give full power down to 19kV”

        So can we assume that full power sees 110 A delivered to the transformer at 19 kV?

        As for line losses being negligible – that very much depends on who is doing the neglecting. With a 19 kV traction cutoff the designers must have considered anything up to 31% line loss acceptable. You make a valid point that there just isn’t the traffic on the NIMT to give rise to these sorts of I²R losses but is this going to be the case for the next 30 years when viewed through the RRR lens that sees regular EMUs to Te Kuiti(!) and the general increase in freight as outlined in the National Freight Demands Study 2014

        1. I don’t want to go to much further into it, even though I studied a little physics at school, because I would still be to far out of my league. But there definitely is not five wires between te rapa and kopaki. And I am aware of certain tranzlog anomalies, although that was the first time I had heard of that, and how tranzlog would effect an electric like that is amazing. But how does that explain any stalled trains recently because of another service working a heavy train on a grade at the same time in that section if the problem has been rectified. There’s so much misinformation it’s unbelievable. I spoke with some of my colleagues at one of the spots concerned who were all unaware of the report and that it had been made available on kiwirails website. When I showed them the charts for changeover times, they near pi$&(d themselves laughing. Maybe doable, but one would have to be in a hell of a rush, not carrying out safe working procedures (mandatory technical tasks associated with train running). And one very very lucky run with TC and other train movements. 40 mins sounds about right for a changeover in the yard(including locomotive changeover), 30mins for a mainline loco changeover including time loss for slowing, stopping, departing, accelerating, contacting Tc etc. The way some of the times are listed, gee one could near rip the couplers out of the wagons. Lol.

        2. I have the greatest respect for the guys on the sharp end, SJC, the guys on the tools. Decades of experience in engineering have taught me to listen to them. Actuality trumps theory every time. If you say 30 minutes for a changeover then it’s 30 minutes.

        3. The EF was designed to have a power factor greater than 0.95 at all times. Presumably this was measured during commissioning and acceptance. I don’t know what would be at 110 amps, I think you would have to measure it.

          110 amps at 27.5kV. Obviously at lower voltages you would pull more current to deliver the required power. Older 25kV systems (Single system AC and booster transformer) can suffer from low line volts. I presume that is why the EF was built with the capability to run down to 19 kV. The locomotive is a 25kV locomotive designed independently from the overhead. The choice to run down that low would allow it to run on both auto transformer networks and older AC networks.

          The important thing to remember is that the NIMT is an auto transformer system. It distributes at 55kV and only brings the voltage down to 27.5kV every 10km. Half the current is carried by the contact wire and catenary, the other half by the feeder wire. Only in the small section where the locomotive is running are the currents combined. This is why it has low levels volt drop and power losses over large distances. Here are some links to some good reading:

          EMU’s for regional?? Very small load (1.5MW) I guess spaced 30 minutes (20-30km??) apart and only significant when accelerating?? Doubt it would register. As for increased load with future freight increases?? That would be a good problem to have! I would have thought the bottle neck in terms of the network would more likely be the signal spacing, loop sizing and location before overhead capacity became a problem. But that was just a guess and not fact. Someone might have done some modelling; see what the OIA brings up.

  19. Seems to me it all comes down to whether we let the directors run Kiwirail as a business or whether we think it is fine to try and get politicians to make them run it a particular way. Remember when Rob Muldoon got to decide what make of engines were attached to Air New Zealand’s planes? That business model didn’t turn out so well.
    The argument seems to be that Kiwirail should be made to do something they don’t want to do because it will make other people feel good about themselves.

    1. Except Kiwirail are prevented from being run like a business. They can’t raise private equity, invest in plant or sell assets without politicians giving the tick and they are required to maintain and operate a public good monopoly network out of operating revenue.

    2. Come on Miffy, play fair. Take your mind back to the days when the bells Tolled badly for KiwiRail. In fact – pre-kiwirail. Just Toll Rail. Or even pre that. That was full, hands-off, business-knows-best ownership of the NZ Railway system. You know it well – you were probably working for them back then. First Fay Richwhite, then Wisconsin, then Beard, then Toll – all just took a cut, took as much money as they could stuff in their pockets, and then fucked off out of the country never to be seen again. That’s what happen when you let a national organisation be run like it is someone’s personal used car lot. KiwiRail are doing what the government allows them enough money to do. They need damn good direction.

      1. I think that the advice of a few well intentioned greenies is going to help them to make money, or increase freight volumes, or do anything useful other than encourage more people to send their goods by truck. Could you imagine Freightways stopping at Palmerston North to swap tractor units to a clapped out electric one, then stopping in Hamilton to swap back.
        Electrification was a daft idea dreamt up by people who should have known better in order to get Muldoon some votes. Labour then debated not even turning it on! Since then it has been a mill stone for the rail operators. No one is ever going to extend it unless the Greens get themselves into a post election position to really screw the taxpayer.
        Let the directors do what they want. FFS the chief proponent here is the dude that lobbied to encumber us with the one step Unitary plan process that turned out to take longer than the old way and gave people less chance to be involved in the bits that mattered! If he is for electric trains then sensible people should be against them on principle.

        1. The EF locos are not ‘clapped out’, there are 15 of them working and working well on the NIMT
          It matters not a jot the history of how the NIMT electrification came about, it’s history. For a multitude of reasons the future of freight movement on NZ railways should be by electric traction. Investing in fossil fuelled traction may indeed have some short term business advantage but it’s just so obviously wrong to many people.
          Although I wish the gummit it had the balls to call an end to diesel engined private transport in a few years and the same for the road transport industry with 10 to 15 years.

        2. And according to the reliability data in those docs ref’d above they are considerably more reliable than the diesel fleet and would be more so after the refurb.

        3. Not anymore, It’s a rarity to see an EF working on the NIMT now. Almost totally DLs.

        4. “If he is for electric trains then sensible people should be against them on principle.”

          A modicum of cynicism is healthy. Several modicums not so much.

  20. You will see in the top link the WorleyParsons Interim Report to their client KiwiRail. This was a peer review of the late 2015 Board paper and Cost Model. Under 1. Executive Summary, second to bottom paragraph WorleyParsons said:

    “At this stage of our Peer Review we are unable to determine, based on the information provided, which of the three options considered in the Board Paper is the most appropriate solution for KiwiRail. lt does appear however that the Board Paper is biased towards the DL option at a number of levels.”

  21. All of the coalition parties campaigned on retaining the electrified sections so they better get on an do it. And if anyone can come up with a plan on how we can become carbon neutral in transport without having an electric railway they better speak up. And don’t tell me tree planting we will need that to offset animal emmisions

  22. Boogie, you are very well misinformed. The electrics have been run into the ground. Very few of them work to full performance. Sometimes 6-7, quite regularly only 4. In amongst regular failures due to a lack of maintenance and regular network delays due to the overhead coming down due a many various reasons that obviously kiwirail management and selected analysts don’t even understand.

    1. Ok, I defer to your knowledge of the EF’s condition. Does ‘run into the ground’ mean they are too dilapidated for a mid life refit to bring them back into full service? All 17 of them?
      So the 8 DLs to replace the EFs are already ordered and on the way?
      Do you consider the OLE is worth saving

      1. I would like to see another review. One that looks more at running a mix of both electrics and diesels. Overhaul what they can, even if it is for 15years extra lifespan. Focus on heading through trains at te rapa and palmerston North with diesels. Heading trains that only run between te rapa and palmerston North on the nimt(so this would include taranaki, wairarapa, BOP tonnage) with electrics. That way we end of with a mix of trains hauled by both electric and diesel which supports the central network in various ways. Not only that, it may just appease the situation all round. The DL’s aren’t the dirty diesels as been stated…. Technology is improving, less fuel is consumed by locomotives per net tonne as the years roll by.
        An example I can use for what I mean by support…. Overhead fails, no power, the a following or opposing diesel hauled service can abstract the electric hauled train. Another is, in the likes of the te rapa kopaki section, where it is ideal to only have one electric hauled train in that section at a given time, the rest of the services are diesel hauled through there, instead of a big costly upgrade to the overhead. In fact, I wouldn’t be half surprised if this is exactly where it is heading. Although crystal ball glazing, it will go all diesel for a period while the electrics either get done up or replaced.

        1. You have a pragmatic approach to this subject. Good as it is and diesel efficiency improves there is the underlying massive PR issue with a future KR depending on diesel traction.
          This is completely a govt issue who have promised retaining electric traction, now they need to actually do something. And soon.

        2. SJC – I have held my tongue on this one so to speak while keyboards once again get a work-out on this topic. Since it is a while since we jousted, I though I should drop by to agree with you!

          I think it is now inevitable that the NIMT is going to be all diesel for a while. However, the good bits are worth saving; the NIMT OLE is in good shape. To give context; Wellington’s OLE lasted for 60 years before needing to be replaced. The bodies of the EFs are well engineered for our loading gauge and made from anti-weathering corten steel. The EF bogies ride smoothly which indicates they are a lot easier on the track then the DLs are. They are also in good shape.

          Then it is a matter of agreeing on the level of upgrade. A basic reliability upgrade will lead to a further 15 years use among a mix of diesel services on the Te Rapa – Palmerston North section. What SJC has described is a very likely scenario under this arrangement.

          A high end AC traction upgrade of the existing fleet or brand new AC traction electrics with small emergency “last mile shunt at the container terminal or get out of trouble when the overhead is out” diesel donk is another matter altogether. To make it work will require additional sub-stations, likely axle load upgrades to make use of the AC traction power, and a commitment to a 100% electric trunk between Te Rapa and Palmerston North with an extension to Pukekohe, and ideally Mt Maunganui also part of the package.

          If the AC traction upgrade to the EFs turned out anything like what Queensland achieved rebuilding part of its electric loco fleet 10 years ago, drivers will love handling the “new” machines. They will have the confidence of knowing that when they “turn the juice on”, the power is available off the overhead, the traction is there, and the “little things” like brake resistor racks are up to the task. But all that requires money – modest money compared to some other transport projects (…way less then the $4 billion that has been mentioned) – but nonetheless money from the government that just isn’t there for KiwiRail right now.

        3. This is good stuff, gents… I hope the various debating factions are listening.

        4. Yes, it’s all very interesting, and I wonder if you guys could put together a post on a pragmatic way forward?

  23. This just goes around and around doesn’t it. Unfortunately to get something back up and running to its full potential, it seems it has to hit rock bottom first. A bit like the back caps rickety team…. There is ALOT of work to make kiwirail fully functional again. The last 15yrs has only seen money thrown at it to keep it going with improvements here and there. Britomart is proof of that recently.

  24. Great discussion essentially about economic versus political decision making for rail in NZ. Sadly rail in NZ has become so politicised when it should be about achieving economy and good engineering.

    The fundamental economic problem with rail in NZ is that trains need to be much heavier. That is there is need to go from 18t axles to 36t axles plus. Once this is done then rail becomes extremely significant for NZ and therefore foolish to interfere with it politically.

    I would suggest this government develop a North American short haul heavy axle model for some of the lines relatively recently mothballed by KiwiRail while at the same time propping up KiwiRail as they deem politically expedient; it would seem there is not much trust between them.

    With the short haul heavy axle model then about the only thing that stays the same is the track gauge. Everything else changes and can be modernised with proven railway technology including embankments, ties, rail, bridges, cars and locomotives (diesel or electric or both). New Zealand needs to rediscover what much of the rest of the world has already discovered. That is that rail is not a lame duck. Do it one line at a time.

    1. That’s the diesel-only version, Paul. No electric roof furniture. Not sure where they would put the transformer but I guess that the dual-mode would be longer, higher and heavier.

      1. Its all about how you squeeze a standard proven selection of equipment into a non standard profile. Siemens did quite a good job for Queensland. Go look up: Siemens E40 AG-V1

        The Siemens new-builds were almost identical to a locally built extreme AC traction make-over of an “EF” era vintage Queensland design. The UGL/Siemens rebuild proved the design which was then built brand new in Germany when further locomotives were required. Of interest, the original Queensland design had their underframes frames weighted to bring them up from around 110 tonnes to around 126 tonnes. The Siemens design is 132 tonnes. However, the point is one could do a lighter underframe, although you would be losing a good chunk of that juicey 450kN continuous tractive effort. I have considerable confidence that a minor trim around the top corners of the car-body would bring it into loading gauge.

        Locomotive crews love working on these machines and with their top-of-class traction control systems, and all round reliability, they would monster the NIMT and Mt Maunganui lines. They would of course struggle to get through the Paekakariki hill tunnels without far more substantial re-work I suspect. But surely worth some investigation.

      2. Yes, the -Light ranges (AsiaLight, EuroLight) appear to be diesel-electrics. It’s the -Dual ranges (EuroDual, AfroDual) that are bimodes, and it would be good if someone could point out which model in that range meets NZ’s particular size, weight and power requirements. The ones that I can see appear to be either too big, or too heavy, or underpowered in diesel mode for linehaul operation on the NIMT.

        1. To add to my post, you can explore Stadler’s range at The only bimodes that they appear to offer are the UKDual, which would probably fit but has just 708kW in diesel mode (basically a last-mile donkey engine); and the EuroDual, which wouldn’t fit (I’ve seen mention of an AfroDual, but not mentioned here). Both are standard gauge, and not being in the -Light ranges implies that their axle load (not gven in these references) is greater than NZ’s 18t.

      3. Yes, that’s the diesel version and the only documentation currently available. The suggestion previously, if it’s still visible, was that Stadler can build an electro-diesel version of that to NZ loading gauge. I can’t say I’m convinced that the suggestion was made backed by a full set of facts, but such a solution is conceivable.

        1. If they can meet the 16 tonne axle load for the diesel-only version then 18 tonne axle load for the dual seems feasible. Still looks a bit like vapour ware.

          Back onto the OHE voltage drops: I found a reference to problems with the EF power-factor correction equipment. Assuming that they use thyristor control then uncompensated PF is going to vary from around 0.85 under full load to around 0.5 under partial load. Might explain anomalous behaviour that appears to be due to the OHE but isn’t.

  25. 153 comments yet only 125 are visible, what happened the the rest and that video showing the EFs running under iced conductor?

  26. If it wasnt a technical issue then whosoever removed these 20+ posts please explain.
    There was some very interesting info on the NIMT OLE that I wanted to research to assist in an enquiry I intend to submit to the Minister of Transport.

    1. Take a look at the user guidelines. They state that the administrators reserve the right to delete comments. You could contact them and ask for an explanation.

  27. I think a big part of what is missing in this analysis isn’t corruption or stupidity, but ideology. Kiwirail is an SOE, which under the formula introduced by Rogernomics means it is legally obliged to act solely on the basis of profit maximisation and loss minimisation, without regard to environmental or social need – except where dictated otherwise by law (i.e. complying with H&S to the minimum regulatory standard).

    Kiwirail makes a loss. In keeping with it’s legally mandated commercial focus, it must minimise losses as quickly as possible. On this basis Kiwirail itself proposed to shut down it’s network and divest the assets (land, buildings, ferries etc) to recover as much money as possible from a business with no short term profit potential.

    Political considerations pressured the government to reject this, but NZ governments have long been hostile to the concept of public good in favour of “user pays” and “government as business” – and have attempted to divest themselves of Kiwirail before. Therefore, unable to do a quick shutdown of the network, the next best policy from this perspective, is maintaining the existing policy of “managed decline” – cutting back the network bit by bit to reduce public resistance. The slow painful death of intercity passenger services, and the closure of Stratford-Okahukura and Gisborne lines, the Rotorua and Opua branchs and the slow death of the North Auckland Line are a testament to the policy.

    The solution to this isn’t taking the dismantling of the NIMTs infrastructure as an isolated issue, but to put an end to the existence of kiwirail as a business, returning instead to it’s essential role as key piece of public infrastructure that exists for the public good. Indeed the same should be true of all essential services in NZ – but the cult-like fervour of the government for “market solutions” makes it an uphill battle. As long as Kiwirail is a “business”, it will slide toward extinction.

  28. It will be an interesting year for KiwiRail. After 9 years of ‘managed decline’ and 1 year of the government getting their heads around what sort of direction KiwiRail should head in; it will be I nteresting if the old fiefdom can be broken or adapt to something more progressive in response to climate change and transport efficiency needs. A new KiwiRail Board Chair and vice Chair and the exit of the former CEO, and more recently the resignation of the NZTA CEO (NZTA is rail regulator under Railways Act 2005) and their regulator functions under review indicate change maybe on its way. Also strong indication that the Marsden Point line will be constructed. All signal change is in the air -but we wait and see. Very difficult for managers that are used to running down infrastructure to turn 180 degrees and progressively address the weaknesses in that infrastructure – against their past political will. There is also the geopolitical issue with KiwiRails love affair with PPD and China at the exspence of Kiwi businesses and jobs to deal with. A major railway infrastructure failure will make things interesting and expose KiwiRail to scrutiny for past deficiencies. The politicians will prefer KiwiRail to remain an SOE so they can stay clear of direct responsibility.

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