Wednesday 21st December 2016
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KiwiRail, the state-owned rail and freight operator, said a small fleet of electric trains on New Zealand’s North Island would be phased out over the next two years and replaced with diesel locomotives.
The North Island Main Trunk, or NIMT, runs from Auckland to Wellington but is only electrified between Hamilton and Palmerston North with a fleet of 16 almost 30-year old electric trains, Wellington-based KiwiRail said in a statement.
"KiwiRail is essentially running 'a railway within a railway' by having the electric section,” said KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy. The doubling up of service facilities, inventory, training and maintenance with two separate systems “adds to the inefficiencies and unreliability,” he said.
Several alternatives were studied over a two-year period, including upgrading the current electric fleet. However, the cost of a new or refurbished fleet couldn’t be justified, Reidy said.
According to KiwiRail, the cost of electrifying the whole NIMT was estimated at more than $1 billion and feeder lines would still require diesel trains.
Currently, only eight diesel trains need to be purchased as other diesel trains can be used more efficiency to cover the work of the electric trains, KiwiRail said.
It did not specify how much the purchase would cost, citing commercial sensitivity. However, the overall cost of the diesel option was estimated at 20 percent to 30 percent lower than the overall cost of the electric option over its operation life.
Reidy noted a small number of staff may be affected but staff and unions will be consulted well before the phase-in begins.
“Our preference is always to redeploy our people where possible and the project will take up to two years to implement,” he said.
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