KiwiRail has released a request for proposal (RFP) for new Interislander ferries with 300 per cent greater capacity for freight rail wagons.
The announcement is the next step in the process of replacing the current three ferries with two rail-capable ships. KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said the ferries form a critical link in the country’s rail network, transporting goods along the Main Trunk Line.
“The new ships will strengthen and enhance the vital transport link between the North and South Islands and represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the Cook Strait crossing.”
Each year, the Interislander ferries move 800,000 passengers and up to $14 billion worth of road and rail freight between the North and South Islands.
The NZ 2020 Budget allocated $400 million towards the purchase of the two ships, following a request for information process that was completed in February 2020.
“Our new ferries and the associated port infrastructure will provide greater resilience for this crucial link that unites our country and will serve New Zealand for the next generation and beyond,” said Miller.
The new ships will be significantly larger than the current ferries. The ships will be 40 metres longer and 5 metres wider and can carry twice as many passengers, trucks, and other vehicles. At full capacity, the ship will carry 42 rail wagons.
KiwiRail has also stated that the ships will be more environmentally friendly and produce fewer CO2 emissions, with the ability to run on battery power at times.
KiwiRail expects to identify a builder before the end of 2020.