The New Zealand Government will spend $35 million over the next four years to refurbish 15 electric locomotives for use on the North Island’s Main Trunk Line, reversing an earlier decision to replace the services with diesel trains.
KiwiRail will refurbish the trains so they can continue to run between Hamilton and Palmerston North.
The government-owned operator has said only eight of the trains are currently able to be used, and break down on average every 30,000 kilometres, well below KiwiRail’s target of 50,000 kilometres.
KiwiRail acting chief executive Todd Moyle welcomed the news from the Government, which he said would extend the life of the electric locos by 10 years.
“When the KiwiRail Board made the decision to retire the electric fleet which runs between Hamilton and Palmerston North, it was to improve reliability for our customers,” Moyle said on October 30.
“But as we said at the time, this was not a forever decision and the Government’s commitment to invest $35 million in the refurbishment provides the certainty to continue their use for the near future.”
KiwiRail plans to refurbish the locos at its Hutt Workshops over the next three to four years, creating four to eight new jobs. The team responsible for maintaining the locos will also be restored to its full staffing level.
“KiwiRail’s decision in late 2016 to retire the [electric locos] was a difficult one that came after two years of consideration and consultation with experts and unions,” Moyle said.
“In the end it was a commercial decision based on the funding available at the time.”
Deputy PM and shareholding minister Winston Peters said refurbishing the trains was the right choice for the environment and the economy.
“We’re making the right decision for the long term,” Peters said.
“Replacing electric locomotives with diesel would be a step backwards. By refurbishing these locomotives here, we’re creating jobs … and supporting our local rail industry. It just makes sense.”