During the budget last month it was announced $1 billion of investment in Kiwirail over two years.
This includes $375 million for new wagons and locomotives, $331 million to invest in track and other supporting infrastructure and $35 million to begin the process of replacing current ferries that are nearing the end of their lives. This funding package includes $300 million from the Provincial Growth Fund allocated for investment in regional rail initiatives.
Yesterday the government announced more details of exactly what this will mean and includes a significant amount of new rolling stock.
“We’re addressing the last three decades of under-investment in our rail system, and enabling growth that will ensure rail is sustainable.
“Part of the funding package will go towards replacing the tired and worn-out 50 year old locomotives in the South Island. We’ve kick-started the replacement process for more than 100 locomotives. New locomotives mean more reliable services and less maintenance costs.
“In addition, 900 flat-top container wagons will be replaced with new, larger ones in our busiest corridors, giving KiwiRail a more competitive freight service,” Winston Peters said.
To put those numbers in perspective, Kiwirail says they currently have 258 locomotives, although based on wikipedia, over 80 of those are only for shunting. This means these 100 new locos represent a replacement of more than half of the fleet. Kiwirail also say they 4,605 wagons so 900 new ones represent a significant chunk. There is further detail below
$375m: over two years towards replacing rolling stock that is at the end of its useable life and to upgrade maintenance facilities which are no longer fit for purpose.
This will include:
Final payment on 15 new locomotives for the North Island (arrived in NZ in October 2018).
- These locomotives are progressively being phased into use and 14 out of the 15 are now operating. These new locos are more reliable and greater numbers of locos allow KiwiRail to improve the fleet’s reliability.
Starting to replace KiwiRail’s oldest 48 long-haul locomotives, predominantly in the South Island, 52 short-haul locomotives across the country, and a small number of electric short-haul locomotives.
- Over time these will be replaced with approximately 50 long-haul and 50 short-haul locos, and new electric short-haul locos.
- The South Island locos are up to 50 years old. Replacing them with new locos, means more reliability and lower maintenance costs.
- For the locomotives, the specification and market engagement is estimated to take around 12 months, with a further two years for manufacturing, delivery and commissioning of the locomotives once the order is placed.
- The first locos are expected to arrive in New Zealand in 2022-23.
Replacing 900 flat-top container wagons. These will be used in the busiest corridors, allowing the worst of the 900 existing wagons to be retired with a small portion of those being re-purposed to carry logs.
- The busiest rail corridors these new wagons will be used on are Auckland-Tauranga, Auckland- Christchurch, and all lines serving ports (Napier, New Plymouth, Wellington, Timaru, Port Chalmers, Bluff – in addition to Auckland, Tauranga and Lyttelton).
- The benefit is in replacing existing wagons that could potentially fail in service. The new wagons will generally be larger and able to carry more than the existing wagons.
- Re-purposed wagons would be used for forestry, predominantly in the North Island where harvests are expected to increase.
- For the container wagons, KiwiRail expects to select a supplier and place an order in late 2019. Delivery of new wagons from late 2020.
There is more detail on some of the other spending detailed here.
But one thing I was disappointed not to see was any information what is one of the most critical rail projects in the country, the third main between Westfield and Wiri. The rail network through this section is at capacity and is one of the key things preventing better off-peak frequencies for passenger trains as well as impacting on the ability to run freight trains. The list below is some of the key outcomes from delivering this.
In saying all of this, I wasn’t expecting to the government to announce anything. Since some rail funding was included in the Government Policy Statement for the first time the responsibility for approving the project sits with the NZTA and they have reportedly been dragging it through business case hell along with another key project, electrification to Pukekohe. For their part, Kiwrail say they expect to get approval for and to start work on the project (as well as improvements around Quay Park) in Q1 next year.
Interestingly this post is very similar to one I wrote exactly 2 years ago in which it was revealed Kiwirail would use more funding from that budget on among other things, new locomotives and wagons. Back then I was also frustrated at the lack of progress on the third main. Although it seems one thing that has changes is the position of Simon Bridges. Back then as Minister of Transport he was reported as saying
“KiwiRail has achieved significant productivity and efficiency improvements over the past two years, despite the challenges of the November 2016 earthquake and the Midland Line fire,” Mr Bridges says.
While yesterday he said:
“In transport, I see a rail announcement today – that’s a bottomless pit. It’s not really achieving anything,”
So they’ve been improving or they haven’t, which one is it?