Inquiry launched into Wellington train derailment

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has opened an inquiry over a July 2 freight train derailment that occurred in Wellington.

The TAIC has opened the inquiry to investigate whether or not the incident poses significant implications for transport safety. The TAIC will then make “findings or recommendations to help improve transport safety” based on the outcome of the inquiry.

The derailment occurred on July 2 at around 7:40pm NZ time at a junction between yard and North Island Main Trunk line. Four container wagons were derailed in the incident.

While no injuries were reported as a result of the incident, it did cause significant disruption for Wellington’s network, with all train services save the Johnsonville line temporarily cancelled while repairs and removal works were carried out by workers from KiwiRail. More than 20,000 commuters were reported to have been affected by the issues yesterday.

Night works are set to continue over the course of the week to fully restore the network, which suffered damage to eight sets of points and other sections of track. Metlink Wellington announced that late notice bus replacements for Hutt Valley line will be in operation tonight to compensate for the works.

KiwiRail boosts Auckland metro backup power following outage

KiwiRail has reconfigured the backup power supply for Auckland’s metro train signalling system after an outage on Wednesday morning led to significant train delays across the network.

The signal fault prevented trains in the region from moving for about 30 minutes (except for the Onehunga line, which was suspended for over two hours), leading to delays for more than 5000 commuters. It was the second signal outage in a week in Auckland, following on from a similar incident on Friday June 14.

The latest outage received criticism from Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who said on Twitter yesterday that “a second KiwiRail signal failure on Auckland’s network is not good enough”.

Goff said that he had sought assurance from KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller that the infrastructure was fit for purpose.

KiwiRail’s initial internal investigations have found that the second outage was caused by a contractor working on a nearby property who cut power to KiwiRail’s property instead of the building site he was supposed to be working on.

An independent external review will also be conducted to cover high-risk failure points. The company has boosted back-up power to the signalling system with batteries and generators to reduce the risk of future outages.

KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the system was still being repaired after last week’s failure, which meant the usual back-up systems were not operating normally.

“We have written to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to apologise,” Moyle explained. “We take our role as manager of the network very seriously and we understand how important reliability is for commuters.”

KiwiRail completes restoration of freight line from Napier to Wairoa

KiwiRail has announced that the Napier-Wairoa line has been reinstated following several years of disuse.

The 115-kilometre, North Island line fell into disuse in December 2012 after being damaged by a storm and was not repaired. It has been restored with the allocation of NZ$6.2 million in funds through the New Zealand Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

The line’s primary purpose is to run freight logs for the local timber industry. Reopening the line is set to ease congestion on the roads and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of log deliveries by road. In all, KiwiRail anticipates an initial reduction of more than 5,000 ruck journey per year on the road from Wairoa to Napier, to increase to 15,000 as services increase.

‘The Wairoa-Napier road was never intended to cope with the volume of logs that is coming on stream, and rail is the ideal way to get that timber to overseas customers,” said KiwiRail Group chief executive officer Greg Miller.

“The overall funding KiwiRail received has meant we are able to get ahead of the curve and grow our business for the benefit of this region.”

Miller said that now that work on the line had been completed, KiwiRail would work to establish a log hub in Wairoa so that trains could begin to run in time for harvesting at the end of winter.

“We know from our discussions with the forestry industry there is a need for our services,” he said.

“The amount of timber flowing from forests in the region is expected to quadruple in the next four years, and to get all those logs to market will require all transport networks working efficiently together.”

KiwiRail responds to NZ Government’s Zero Carbon Bill

KiwiRail has expressed its support for the New Zealand Government’s proposed amendments to the Climate Change Response Act.

The governing Labour Party’s Zero Carbon Amendment Bill proposes that the country achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in keeping with the aims of the Paris Agreement.

KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller stated that the company was well-placed to “help New Zealand move to a low-emissions future”.

Miller added that rail produced up to two-thirds fewer carbon emissions than road per tonne of freight carried.

This approval is in keeping with KiwiRail’s own attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which it reduced by three per cent in the 2017-18 financial year.

The company’s chief executive officer Peter Reidy was also one of 14 CEOs to join the Climate Leaders Coalition in July 2018.

The government-backed operator’s initiatives in this regard include the fuel-saving Driver Advisory System (DAS) and introduction of new electric vehicles to its rail fleet.

Last year, the government reversed a decision to replace 15 KiwiRail electric locomotives on the North Island’s Main Trunk line with diesel equivalents, announcing that it would instead refurbish the trains for continued use at a cost of $35 million.

The NZ National Party said that it welcomed the propsed amendments to the act but argued that its methane reduction targets were too severe.

“We are not convinced that the proposed 24-47 per cent reduction for methane meets our test in terms of science, economic impact or global response,” said Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges.

Methane emissions are particularly prominent in the dairy farming industry, which represents a highly important export market for the country.

Research from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in 2017 stated that 49 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the agricultural industry.