The New Zealand Government has provided more detail for its rollingstock and rail revitalisation program after the recent budget committed roughly $1 billion to renewing the nation’s rail network.
In a detailed statement on June 25, a quartet of ministers provided more information on how New Zealand will spend the new rail money.
“We’re addressing the last three decades of under-investment in our rail system, and enabling growth that will ensure rail is sustainable,” deputy prime minister Winston Peters said.
The budget, revealed earlier this month, provides $375 million over two years to replace KiwiRail’s rollingstock that is at the end of its useable life, and to upgrade maintenance facilities deemed no longer fit-for-purpose.
Some of the money is a final payment for 15 new locomotives delivered to the North Island in October 2018.
Next, 48 long-haul locomotives predominantly on the South Island, 52 short-haul locomotives across New Zealand, and a small number of electric short-haul locomotives will be replaced over time, starting in FY23, with a new fleet of roughly 50 long-haul and 50 short-haul locos, and new electric short-haul locos.
“New locomotives mean more reliable services and less maintenance costs,” Peters said.
The rollingstock money will also see 900 flat-top container wagons replaced, with the worst of the old 900 to be retired, and a small portion to be re-purposed to carry logs. The wagon program will target the busiest rail corridors, with KiwiRail hoping to select a supplier and place an order in late 2019.
Finally, this portion of the budget funding will also see major upgrades at the key Hutt and Christchurch maintenance facilities, with work aimed at improving workshop layouts and seismic strengthening.
“Rail has huge benefits for New Zealanders’ wellbeing, including unlocking regional economic growth, reducing emissions and congestion, and preventing deaths and injuries,” finance minister Grant Robertson said.
“Our Government is already helping create 40 new jobs at KiwiRail’s Hutt Workshops through our investments in rail, including the new Hamilton to Auckland commuter service.”
$35 million will let KiwiRail progress design and procurement of a pair of rail-enabled ferries, to replace three ageing ferries currently used by Interislander.
The budget includes $331 million over two years to address the nation’s rail network.
“After the chaos for Auckland commuters last week, it’s important to reassure New Zealanders that we are investing in tracks, bridges, tunnels, signals and control systems around the country to make train services more reliable,” transport minister Phil Twyford said.
The ministers said this money will work to improve resilience and reliability of rail infrastructure through New Zealand, prioritised according to levels of risk and growth opportunities. It will also pay for new handling equipment (hoists and generators), mainly at Westfield/Southdown in Auckland, with the aim of more efficient processing of freight at the largest inland port in New Zealand.
The money will also facilitate mechanical renewals for existing rollingstock and the plant and equipment required to do this.
Finally, a new freight reservation, booking and tracking system will be set up for customer use, to provide real-time tracking of goods.
In addition to the prescribed funding, the budget also includes access to up to $300 million from the Provincial Growth Fund for regional rail projects. Associate transport minister Shane Jones said this was on top of the $183 million already given to rail by the Fund.
“We’ve re-opened the Napier to Wairoa line, which will be crucial for the local forestry sector and is expected to replace 15,000 truck journeys each year on the region’s roads, making them safer and reducing wear and tear,” Jones said.
“Despite it only being re-opened for two weeks, it has already created four jobs and KiwiRail expects to recruit even more staff. The value of rail to the economy carrying freight alone is over $350 million per year and as champion of the regions, I’m working to make sure that the regions get their fair share of the opportunities.”
“We can’t wait for the budget every year to make sure KiwiRail has the resources to keep their services on track. We plan to integrate rail alongside roads, motorways and all transport investments so that decision-makers can consider it alongside all transport options and invest in the best option,” Twyford said.
“Our Rail Plan, which will be released later this year, will outline the government’s strategic vision and give a 10-year programme of indicative investments and benefits.”
Note: All figures in New Zealand Dollars.