Wellington Scoop

Greens challenge switch from electric to “unreliable” diesel trains

News from Green Party
Simon Bridges needs to immediately halt plans to scrap New Zealand’s electric freight trains following the release of KiwiRail reports raising major concerns about the diesel trains the State Owned Enterprise intends to buy, says the Green Party.

Documents provided to the Green Party show that KiwiRail bosses decided to scrap New Zealand’s electric trains in December last year, despite being told their diesel replacements could cost $230 million more than simply upgrading the existing electric fleet. KiwiRail were also told the diesel trains from their intended supplier had a “very high failure rate” and overall performance that was “extraordinarily poor”.

Information also obtained under the Official Information Act shows that Cabinet failed to question the decision to buy diesel rather than electric, despite being warned by Treasury officials that “the actual cost of this decision is not clear”.

“KiwiRail publicly claimed that scrapping our electric trains and going diesel would save money, be more reliable, and reduce climate pollution. In fact, KiwiRail bosses were told the complete opposite in one report,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“The Government needs to immediately halt the diesel train deal and instruct an independent party to review KiwiRail’s decision-making process.

“KiwiRail needs to prove it didn’t ‘cook the books,’ and reveal their final cost estimates that convinced them to go diesel.

“If KiwiRail is allowed to buy these diesel trains, New Zealand could be lumped with an increasingly unreliable, more polluting rail system that will cost more to maintain long-term.

“One document explicitly criticises KiwiRail advice for being ‘biased’ in favour of buying diesel trains and not giving ‘any significant weighting’ to reducing climate-damaging pollution.

“The documents identify multiple basic errors in KiwiRail’s analysis that unfairly push up the cost of options to keep the electric trains, upgrade existing electric trains, or replace them with new ones.

“An internal KiwiRail report put the cost of refurbishing the existing electric locomotives at $404 million, the cost of new ones at $515 million, and the cost of new diesel trains at $634 million over a 30-year period.

“KiwiRail defended its decision to scrap the electric trains, saying it would cost $1 billion to fully electrify the main trunk line. However, Treasury officials told Ministers that KiwiRail provided ‘no basis’ for this estimate.

“You have to question why bosses at KiwiRail are so intent on buying diesel trains when they have been told they’re unreliable and more expensive,” said Ms Genter.


  1. Keith Flinders, 15. May 2017, 15:43

    If there was one project that Muldoon’s Think Big exercise got right it was the electrification on the North Island Main Trunk line, and a pity the entire length wasn’t completed at the time. It was done as part of the need to reduce our reliance on imported fuel, but has also had positive environmental consequences which we must not reverse. KiwiRail argue that by not having to change locomotives twice on the journey between Auckland and Wellington then they can offer a faster service and take business off road transporters.

    Most freight trains don’t travel the entire distance without having wagons taken off or added to at Te Rapa and Palmerston North, so stop anyway. Some train drivers report that the locomotive changeover times are a lot less than KiwiRail indicate.

    The Greater Wellington Regional Council is getting rid of non polluting public transport, we must urge KiwiRail not to be as backward.

  2. David Bond, 15. May 2017, 18:08

    Perverse that the NIMT electrification was installed in the 1980’s to provide many of those benefits now being claimed that its abandonment will bring (“greater reliability”, “faster services”, “reduced reliance on fossil-fuel”, etc).

    Even more perverse that Muldoon’s “Think Big” programme of building infrastructure to set us free from dependence on imported fossil-fuel is now being replaced by Steven Joyce’s “Think Big” Roads of National Significance programme, which will do exactly the opposite.

    As with GWRC’s trolleybus-abandonment decision, everything now hinges on “someone else” perfecting the requisite electrical technology to make good on the emissions-worsening policies we are busily implementing ouselves.

    The gamble is that if this doesn’t happen and doesn’t happen soon, we will have thrown away for nothing some unique advantages bequeathed to us by previous generations and effectively taken a big leap backwards. But hey, we will be patting ourselves on the back about how “efficient” we have been!