Some great news yesterday with the government announcing yesterday that the electric locomotives in the central North Island will be refurbished and keep running.
The Government is keeping electric locomotives on the North Island Main Trunk Line running to help meet its long term emissions goals and boost the economy.
The 15 electric trains will be refurbished by KiwiRail and will continue to run between Hamilton and Palmerston North.
The refurbishment of the trains and electric control system is funded with an additional $35 million over four years. This is additional to the $4 billion for public transport and rail under the National Land Transport Programme.
Deputy Prime Minister and shareholding Minister Winston Peters said refurbishing these trains in New Zealand was looking to the future of our environment and economy.
“We’re making the right decision for the long term. Replacing electric locomotives with diesel would be a step backwards.
“By refurbishing these locomotives here, we’re creating jobs in KiwiRail’s Hutt Workshop and supporting our local rail industry. It just makes sense,” Winston Peters said.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said this decision supports the Government’s wider $4 billion package in public transport, rapid transit and rail.
“Rail connects regions with the cities and helps create a more modern, sustainable transport network. Keeping the electric trains shows that we are continuing to invest in the future,” Phil Twyford said.
Acting Associate Transport Minister James Shaw said New Zealand can’t move to a zero carbon future by moving away from clean energy.
“Choosing to invest in clean, electric transport is essential to meeting the challenge of climate change.
“Keeping the electric trains on-track is the right thing to do for the future of rail, particularly as we investigate options for further electrification of the network and the role of hydrogen-fuelled trains,” James Shaw said.
The Government continues to work with KiwiRail, including through the Future of Rail project, to consider how the Government’s environmental objectives can be supported through investment in rail.
The project will assess the effectiveness of New Zealand’s current rail operations and identify the role it can play in supporting urban development and the growth of our freight and tourism sectors.
We and many others have written about absurdity of the decision to remove electric locomotives, especially with some of the information that subsequently made it into the public arena.
Kiwrail say that only eight of the 15 locomotives are currently able to be used with the fleet breaking down on average every 30,000km, well below Kiwirail’s target of 50,000km. They also say:
“The Government has shown a clear commitment to rail, including NZTA funding business cases for further electrification of the Auckland rail network from Papakura to Pukekohe and adding a Third Main line in Auckland.
“KiwiRail has been talking with the Government about the possibility of further electrification and is also exploring the use of other fuel sources.
“Rail is an environmentally sustainable form of transport, with freight shifted by rail producing 66 per cent fewer carbon emissions than freight moved by truck. We take our environmental responsibilities seriously and are actively working to reduce our carbon footprint.
“This month, KiwiRail took possession of 15 new locomotives which were ordered before the EF decision was made. These are critical to boosting our busy North Island fleet, allowing a cascade of other locomotives to replace the oldest South Island engines, which average 46 years of age,” Mr Moyle says.
With electrification to Pukekohe on the planned, the gap between the wires in Auckland and those from Hamilton will shrink to about 85km which should only help increase the case for closing it completely, thus allowing for an electric locomotive to run all the way from Auckland to Palmerston North. Addressing this would help reduce the chances of the same discussion happening again in 10-15 years when the benefits of the to be extended life of these locomotives comes to an end. Wiring up this section would also allow for better discussions around passenger rail services between Auckland and Hamilton.
In past assessments of closing the gap, it’s been noted that it’s not worth doing unless you also electrify the line to Tauranga given that’s where the majority of freight is going to/coming from. At about another 100km, that’s adds quite a bit of cost but perhaps we need to take a page out of Germany’s book. This article looks at differences in costs between the UK and Germany.
In Germany there is a rolling electrification programme that aims to electrify 200km of track a year, every year, which creates a stable work bank and leads to companies investing in machinery and people. However, most importantly, a rolling programme of electrification reduces unit rates (the cost per kilometre).
I don’t expect us to be doing 200km a year but setting up an ongoing stream of work is something we should consider. For example, what if it was signalled that straight after Pukekohe we then carried the work on to get the wires to Pokeno, then work away at getting it to Hamilton before starting towards Tauranga. Other work could include extending the wires on Wellington’s network etc.