During the budget announcement in May, the government confirmed that the funding would be made available over the next two years, including $NZ 375m for new rolling stock, $NZ 35m for Cook Strait train ferries and $NZ 331m towards upgrading regional lines to support economic development.

A $NZ 331m investment over two years is intended to address legacy issues on the network and move it towards a sustainable ‘steady-state’ condition, with measures including:

  • increased investment in track, bridges, tunnels and signalling around the country, upgrading the Kaimai Tunnel, modernisation of train control systems, and general track renewals
  • investment in freight handling equipment, mainly at the Westfield and Southdown depots in Auckland
  • mechanical overhauls for existing rolling stock and the plant and equipment upgrades required to do this, and
  • a new freight reservation, booking and tracking system for customer use, which will include real-time tracking. The system will enable KiwiRail to increase its share of the freight market, which is currently 16%.

The government has also allocated $NZ 375m over two years towards replacing rolling stock that is at the end of its useful life, and to upgrade maintenance facilities which are no longer fit-for-purpose.

This will include:

  • final payment on 15 new CRRC diesel locomotives for the North Island, which arrived in New Zealand in October 2018 and are currently being phased into use, with 14 now in operation
  • replacing KiwiRail’s 48 oldest long-haul locomotives, some of which are 50 years old, 52 short-haul locomotives, and a small number of electric short-haul locomotives. Specification and market engagement is estimated to take around 12 months, with delivery expected in 2022-23
  • replacing 900 flat wagons, which will be used in the busiest corridors, allowing the worst of the 900 existing wagons to be retired with a small portion of those being re-purposed to carry logs. The wagons will be used on the Auckland - Tauranga and Auckland - Christchurch corridors, as well as lines serving ports in Napier, New Plymouth, Wellington, Timaru, Port Chalmers and Bluff. KiwiRail expects to select a supplier and place an order in late 2019, with delivery from late 2020, and
  • major upgrades at the key Hutt and Christchurch maintenance facilities to improve efficiency and safety.

Transport minster, Mr Phil Twyford, said the government’s rail plan, which is due to be released later this year, will outline the government’s strategic vision and give a 10-year programme of indicative investments and benefits.

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