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Kiwirail looking to dump electric trains for diesel

Written By: - Date published: 10:24 am, April 15th, 2015 - 57 comments
Categories: Environment, uncategorized - Tags:

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57 comments on “Kiwirail looking to dump electric trains for diesel ”

  1. tinfoilhat 1

    Incredible that the most efficient form of haulage we have is treated as a sickly cousin to trucking.

    In the coming years we will be forced to ration CO2 emissions.

    Trains and their associated infrastructure will need massive investment when prices have skyrocketed. We have the choice to invest now, and encourage usage while costs are reasonable, or we can keep polluting and face crippling expenses in the future.

    • tracey 1.1

      I am in Auckland. My partner left Cambridge at 430am on Monday morning to get bak to work. She said the number of trucks on the road was incredible. All but one exceeding the 100k (she was on cruise control at 100km). One truck had a sign on the back which said something like, I am one of the trucks travelling at my speed limit of 90km. And it was. Once she hit Takanini (those in Auckland will know this point) the traffic began to bank up. At 615 the traffic was down to 15km from there to Ellerslie… No sign of an accident and no radio reports of an accident. NOTHING this government or the last have spent on roads in Auckland will ease this. Also, by 2050 the Waiuku/Kingseat area is to have a population of 30k. How many will be commuting to Auckland? There is no rail link from Waiuku. There is one in Pukekohe but not via Waiuku

      • Ron 1.1.1

        Well actually there is but it’s owned by the Glenbrook private railway. It also has a connection to the NIMT railway so it would be feasible for a connection from Waiuku back to main trunk. Of course we don’t have electrification to Pukekohe another stupid mistake by those planning for the electrification.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Incredible that the most efficient form of haulage we have is treated as a sickly cousin to trucking.

      A few people make a lot more profit from trucking than from rail because it uses up more resources.

  2. sirpat 2

    kiwirail are under ENORMUSpressure from the govt to balance the books…..bit hard when you are on an uneven playing field but one hopes they look long term and keep electric.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      From what I can make out Kiwirail are under enormous pressure from government to destroy rail in this country despite the fact that it’s a far more efficient form of transport.

      • McFlock 2.1.1

        Standard tory procedure: pressure the SOEs to cut costs and go into debt so that they prop up the government’s books, then when the enterprise finally collapses the government goes “obviously it’ll be better run in private hands” and sells the asset to further offset the government debt accrued because of the tax cuts.

        In short: The government is degrading and selling government assets in order to put essential public infrastructure into the hands of the people who benefitted most from the government cutting taxes on the wealthy to an unsustainable level.

        Even shorter: the national party is giving money and assets to its donor base by looting it from the rest of the country.

      • sirpat 2.1.2

        true one would wonder however the business model is one of balancing the books full stop……there is no longer any societal or environmental responsibility.

  3. mac1 3

    Would the agreed use only of bio-diesel affect the opposition to KiwiRail’s proposals?

    Home grown fuel, competitively priced, not a fossil fuel…………….. surely one of the ways of the future?

    • tracey 3.1

      bio-fuel is problematic isnt it? The amount of bio product required has its own environmental problems?

      • weka 3.1.1

        You’d need to do an audit on both power generation and various forms of biodiesel, and in the context of cc, PO, and a post carbon world*, along with lifetime of infrastructure within that. Eg We’re reaching peak production of hydro in the SI, so while hydro is great in the abstract, there are still substantial limitations. Ditto biodiesel of course.

        * we can rest assured the govr isn’t looking at this. The transition engineers might have though.

      • JonL 3.1.2

        Bio-fuel is a crock of shit. The amount of productive land needed to grow it far outweighs any supposed benefits, environmentally.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      There’s a few major advantages that electric trains have over diesel:

      1. Electric motors are more powerful
      2. Electric motors are more efficient
      3. Electric motors can also use regenerative breaking

      And the really stupid thing about our ‘diesel’ trains are that they’re actually diesel electric. So that means that they have the inbuilt inefficiency of transforming chemical stored energy into heat energy and then into electrical energy. Each transformation from one energy state into another loses around 30% of the energy available.

      Bio-fuels actually make this worse because they use up more energy to produce in the first place.

      • dukeofurl 3.2.1

        You are right they are looking at replacing a pure electric loco with another electric loco that has to carry fossil fuel diesel motor around as well.

        It obvious that the electric is more efficient, requires less maintenance and has lower running costs.
        The only possible way this could make sense is that a train from Auckland to Wellington starts as diesel, changes to electric at Hamilton and the back to diesel at Palmerston North.

        However I remember years ago at the central station in melbourne seeing a goods train pass through under electric power which was able to lower the pantograph once outside the metro area and continue under diesel power only.

        There seem to be many of the above dual mode locos available,

        The ‘real’ problem with these locomotives? They dont seem to be made in China ??

  4. Capn Insano 4

    This is risable, this governments answer is ‘MOAR ROADZ AN MOAR TRUCKZ!!ONE11’. Shouldn’t we be focusing on rail for the movement of bulk goods transport and passengers? I realise there may be a problem within Auckland trying expand rail without nuking needed houses but surely we can exercise some forward-thinking for a change and get more electric trains in, expand electrification and repair/add rail links to places like Northland?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      The simple fact of the matter is that electrification of rail should have started back in the 19th century. It was known even then that electric trains were better.

  5. philj 5

    Downers, Fulton Hogan and the Trucking lobby etc have influenced government. No such support for rail. It’s a third rate, poor option that is rubbished at every opportunity. Billions for roading projects (and bridges) and crumbs for public transport and rail. And there are going to be larger and more trucks in the future!

    • Ron 5.1

      Exactly. The rail tracks and infrastructure should be funded by the same fund as the National Roads. It should be their job to ensure that track is maintained and users should then pay a fee for using the track.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      And yet the demand for trains as passenger transport is increasing massively and totally against National’s belief that everyone wants to drive cars.

    • tc 5.3

      on top of the damage the increased truck tonnage allowed back in 09 by the nats is doing currently.

      On the state highways and other associated rural roads especially the soft shoulders and corners being destroyed in some places 3-4 times each year.

  6. Kiwiri - Raided of the Last Shark 6

    Did I miss something here?
    NZ has to import diesel, right?
    And NZ produces most of its own electricity, and won’t there be more power available should industries like Tiwai close down?

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      National is all about increasing profits for the rich rather than doing what’s best for NZ.

      • Paul 6.1.1

        Key reports to the same international corporate masters he worked for when he was at Merrill Lynch.

      • Kiwiri - Raided of the Last Shark 6.1.2


        if the real underlying reason is wanting to go with made-in-china trains, can someone (actually, can a few people) do the background checks for the culprits involved? for some reason, i would not be very surprised if a few nat-associated folks have quite predictably been greasing the way to seal the deal for contracts with china.

        • b waghorn

          Oraveda making trains these days??

          • Kiwiri - Raided of the Last Shark

            should also look around a bit more .. you know, like the types who take china business folks on a buy-nz tour or the kinds who arranged chinese business money into the party’s coffers

            by the way, i should look up for updates about how the China Construction Bank is faring these days

  7. b waghorn 7

    Shit if I was a share holder in a power company I’d be pissed that the government is taking a major user of electricity out of the game.

    • Ian 7.1

      Got a very good dividend from meridian today. Had jackshit to do with a train.

      • lprent 7.1.1

        Do you mean the dividend that was less than half of the dividend last year?

        But I guess that the bright news is that percentage drop doesn’t look that dire. The shares have been steadily declining in prices since last march.

        *sigh* You really should go and get some investment advice. You’re looking as bright as Cameron Slater on legal process (or politics (or retaining friends)).

      • millsy 7.1.2

        I wonder how many kids went to school without lunch so you could get that dividend..

        Amusing to see Meridian’s ad supporting KidsCan…ironically if MERI didnt charge so much for its power, those kids would have lunch and clothes.

        • Draco T Bastard


          Privatisation of essential state infrastructure is, essentially, a massive tax that hurts the poor the most. Time to return them all to being a state service provided through general taxation.

      • b waghorn 7.1.3

        You can’t imagine how happy I am for you.I would point out that at this point the trains are still electric. I guess you are praying key keeps subsidizing that struggling company Reo Tintos power usage.

      • dukeofurl 7.1.4

        Meridian, the operator of manapouri.

        Rio Tinto has been making noises about how the power supplied to Bluff from Meridian is too dear and they may walk away.

        Say goodbye to your dividend ?

  8. Maui 8

    Thanks for posting. With the $10 billion spent on motorways by this Government I think future generations are going to look with scorn at these wasteful roading based policies. Locking more and more people into inefficient fossil fuel based personal transport, when the future is telling us we need to be doing the exact opposite. I guess there has been some wins with electrification and new trains in urban Auckland, but they seem to have been done more because they have had to rather than by good management.

    • tracey 8.1

      You know Maui, In Auckland the usage of trains is rising year on year (from memory). I think this government is beginning to puts space between what it says everyone wants and what they actually want. Sufficient space that people can feel the draught.

      • Kevin 8.1.1

        On Transportblog’s Facebook page this afternoon:

        Auckland Transport have just announced there were 1.56m rail trips in Auckland in March, up 29% on last March. That’s massive growth. Across all modes there were an extra million trips in March this year compared to last year. Annually it’s increasing at 10%.

        • Maui

          Yeah that’s mindboggling, I assume the new trains are also having a lot to do with that big rise in Auckland. I thought I read somewhere when the Basin Flyover was disputed that vehicle use or traffic numbers on the road was declining overall in the country. Makes sense to build flash new roads then!

        • tracey

          I need to dig out the figure that Joyce put on increased use before they would bring the rail loop funding forward…

          • Draco T Bastard

            20m which, looking at the figures, may actually happen this year. Of course, when it happens National will come up with other excuses not to fund the CRL. Good job that the ACC is doing it anyway.

  9. dukeofurl 9

    The railways in 2008 looked into extending the electrification network

    “Work done back in 2008 for rail infrastructure agency ONTRACK provides useful a perspective on this argument. It concluded that to justify electrification, a route should be all or most of the following: at or near capacity, densely trafficked, steeply graded, involve a long tunnel or be adjacent to an existing electrified route.

    The routes to meet these criteria were
    Westfield-Te Rapa,
    Hamilton-Mt Maunganui and
    Otira-Arthur’s Pass. The first two (in practical terms one, the Westfield-Mt Maunganui route) meet the density and adjacency criteria while Otira-Arthur’s Pass meets the grade and tunnel test.

    With the very low oil price they have wasted no time to saying the diesels have the edge.

  10. Woodburner 10

    Presumably this is retiring the EF class loco’s? Hard to tell from the information provided, but it would be unlikely that Kiwirail would be making decisions about the Wellington and Auckland commuter railways as these are services funded by GW and AT respectively.

    The EF’s only run on the NIMT, between Palmerston North and Hamilton and there are 17 in service. Its a massive shame that the NIMT was never fully electrified, but that horse has well bolted and subsequent investment in different types of electrification in Auckland and Wellington would now make a standard network very complex.

    At the moment, having the dual network of electrics and diesels can only be adding cost to rail, making rail less affordable/attractive overall. That is because you cant use the EF’s to do anything but the electrified section, and in reality frieght origin and destination points don’t align. So, if something like milk is going from Hawera to Palmerston North, it either has to be on a diesel the whole way, or you run the diesel to Marton(?) then switch to the EF electric loco. Not very operationally efficient and increases handling time and opex, all of the reasons that the trucking lobby jump on to promote road.

    So, while losing the EF electrics would be a massive shame, it is really an all-or-nothing proposition. And I do think there are more environmental benefits to be gained from the billion-dollars plus that would need to be spent on total network electrification.

    • Macro 10.1

      I remember Adam Schnider announcing the electrification of the NIMT line back in the early 1980’s as part of the “Think Big”. I had just attended a Cabinet Economic Committee meeting at which the decision had been made.
      Pity Key and his lot can’t think a little bigger these days and complete the lot. It is something that will be required in the not too distant future, when the oil runs out.
      If they are worried about the extra electricity required – easy – just tell Rio Tinto to pack their bags and ship out.

    • millsy 10.2

      I think the EF locos only haul trainsets that go from Auckland to Wellington. Hawera to Auckland is all diesel.

      • dukeofurl 10.2.1

        Hawera doesnt have a direct connection to main trunk near Taumaranui anymore.
        You have to go down to Marton

        The milk run to Fonterra plant in Hawera comes through from Southern Hawkes bay .
        It fills up at Oringi near Dannevirke and Longburn in Manawatu

    • sirpat 10.3

      yes EF’S

  11. saveNZ 11

    Is Paula Rebstock still the Deputy Chairwoman of New Zealand Railways Corporation?

    • Murray Rawshark 11.1

      Yes, she is. She’ll no doubt be more interested in running things down for a fire sale than anything else.

  12. vto 12

    stinky diesels

  13. Skinny 13

    The playing field is geared towards trucking by rail having to fund maintaining the network, where as the trucking outfits don’t fund any where near enough of their share, us taxpayers do.

    National spin propaganda that rail must pay its own way, actually the wider benefits of providing an essential public transport service aswell as removing heavy bulk freight off our roads inter cities, thus lessening the damage, this is a right of a Countrys citizens. Under the outfit in charge they have increased tonnage to 55 ton trucks which is turning the country into the land of broken roads. For the likes of road builders/maintenance conglomerates like Fulton Hogan, Downers. It truly is a license to print money, in return they and the trucking companies donate heavily to Nationals coffers. No such donations from an SOE.

    Many lines are being readied to close. Few people know had National won the Northland by election they were about to close the North Auckland line. I heard Kiwi Rail had put a hold on replacing retiring NL locomotive drivers pending the outcome. I would go as far to say Peters win actually saved the Northland rail line, well for the time being anyway.

    • millsy 13.1

      “Many lines are being readied to close.”

      KiwiRail wont be actively closing lines, but they will wait for a weather event or derailment to happen and then they can close the line and say it costs too much to fix.

      In 2009 there was a derailment on the Stratford-Okahukura line, which damaged about 10km of track, so KR closed it down.

      Same with the line to Gisborne and that washout.

  14. millsy 14

    Ironically it will probably cost as much to decommission the electrification as it is to replace the EF locos.

    Seems a bit of a waste really, for the wires to come down after only 30-odd years, given the huge amount of expense put into to building it all up, and just because fuel prices are low today, doesn’t mean they will stay low. Water is an infinite resource, oil is not.

    Sadly its probably a done deal.

    We have to love the irony. When Toll Rail was purchased by Labour 5.0 in 2008, we all hailed it as a dawn of a new era in rail, Then the election happened. and now National has a chance to finish off rail for good, closing it down and selling it off for scrap, bit by bit.

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