KiwiRail fails the sustainability test


Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 9.43.25 am

KiwiRail is failing to fulfil its environmental obligations says Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson.

“KiwiRail is considering replacement options for its electric fleet operating on the Hamilton to Palmerston North line. Yet one of the options under consideration is replacing electric locomotives with diesel locomotives”.

“KiwiRail is considering an option which will take the company and the country backwards” says Wayne Butson.

“Mighty River Power is planning to convert 70 percent of its fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles. This is a positive move for the country, the company and its workers. Meanwhile KiwiRail is considering converting its electric fleet to a fossil fuel fleet”.

TDB Recommends

“There need to be clear sustainability guidelines for public companies. The sole consideration should never be profit. KiwiRail owes it to the country and its workers to rule out diesel locomotives over electric locomotives” says Wayne Butson.


  1. Thanks for alleviating this stupid Kiwirail plan to do a u-turn back to diesel from electric motive powered locomotives.
    Are they stupid?

    We had all the money ($750m) for loco’s, waggons & track maintenance stolen for Auckland passenger rail and some Christchurch and Wellington passenger services after the $750m was given to Kiwirail when National rejigged the Kiwirail stable in 2009.

    Government in 2009 under Steven Joyce as Minister of transport sent out a demand for Kiwirail to stand on it’s own. (sustainable)

    Kiwirail was forced then to come out with a “10yr turn around plan’ (slash & Burn) which has now proved now to have been an abject failure, and caused more harm then good, and if left alone the rail would have been much better off now.

    During the six years into the 10yr plan we have seen several regional rail service lines closed and scrapped and others leased long term to tourism ventures “rail bike, carts etc.’ and other lines pulled up and used as cycle ways.

    None of these gave any meaningful cash flow to Kiwi rail’s balance sheet, so Kiwirail is going down a slippery slope now to oblivion with no way out.

    Recently as 2012 even the track maintenance staff and services was savedgely cut back and one particular rail service 212 kms long was severed by faulty drains and culverts after a storm.

    This was just as the east coast Napier Gisborne rail service had increased it’s freight task by double from any of the five previous years and did this in just eight months!

    The Kiwirail Management were asking for more staff, loco’s and waggons for more freight and were told none were available, so they had to turn away yet more freight.

    Kiwirail have made some bad decisions and have showed incompetence with its actions here.

    There is still a Local Council, HB regional council has offered to lease the rail for freight but Kiwirail has stalled the negotiations currently, while Kiwirail continues to become close to insolvency.

    Wake up Kiwirail and offer the lease to HB Regional Council so you can receive new capital for your failing business.

  2. If Kiwi Rail abandon and dismantle the electrified network between Palmerston North and Hamilton is tantamount to environmental espionage. National have no or little concern about the environment so we would be naive to think the government would step in and to assist Kiwi Rail fund the purchase new electric locomotives or refurbished the current fleet.
    Kiwi Rail operate diesel locomotive that are over 50 year sold so upgrading the twenty seven year old electric locomotives may be a viable option.
    Greater Wellington Regional Council are going to abandon the Trolley bus network in 2017 for unproven hybrid technology that is still an immature technology that may prove totally unsuitable for Wellington’s difficult terrain.
    Electric traction is the way of the future but Kiwi Rail and GWRC seem to want to step back in time, short-sighted decisions that well intimately prove costly and against overseas trends.

  3. Present loadings on NIMT trains between Hamilton and Palmerston North and Hamilton is probably only half of what would justify electrification being continued. To be justified the Palmerston North – Wellington section would have to have it loading gauge ( the width of wagons and containers runnable) widened, to allow modern wagons full clearance over the NIMT.
    The 1.3 billion investment by National in rail , crowed over by Todd McLay is a drop in a bucket and no where enough. Finance Minister Bill English constantly complains about rail being a black hole of loss, with permanent subsidy of $250 million required, which he appears to be attempting to close by running down and eventually closing most of the South Island system which will be inevitable as the two rail ferries Arahura and the Aratere are withdrawn.
    I somewhat disagree with cleangreen as modern rail in most nations is mainly for passengers and in the Muldoon period of government it would have been much more useful if Auckland – Hamilton and WEllington Palmeston North had been electrified for passengers and modernised.

    • Trouble with high Tory’s “opinion is that he/she leaves out many “cost externalities” as the Nats do as they dismantled the environmental footprint and only concentrated simply on the flawed “economic modelling so they left out how much rail saves our cost to prop up road freight task.

      It is forecast in the latest ” 2014 Freight demand study” that freight demand will increase 70% by 2021, and this imopact on road freight will cause roading costs Maintenance/resealing/base strengthening ect’ will escalate beyond sustainable levels.

      Thus again the taxpayer will yet again be levied to subsidise the private (mostly Foreign owned) trucking industry, as we do now.

      As IPENZ stat’s show rail pays 77% of total rail costs, private motor vehicles pay 66% and road freight only 53% of total road maintenance costs.

      Put this together with the Environmental costs road freight causes to residential communities, is huge.

      Air pollution, vibration, noise levels of 24/7 truck movements though urban residential communities is not included either in Tory’s’ simple economic modelling.

      If he was discussing this in EU he would have to revise his argument and then include the “Cost externalities” of all effects not assessed by Tory or his Nats Government.

      Just some Cost externalities;

      Air quality degradation, loss of sleep and associated health impacts from truck noise vibration, and air pollution and the cost to the country in lost work hours and medical treatment caused by 24/7 truck freight movement through all residential urban regions.

      Rail in current government reports from Fuel and energy studies and NIWA confirm these issues are real and far less impacts from rail freight.

      But Government has closed the book on cost externalities and environmental impacts, AND ONLY CONCENTRATE ON THE ECOMINIC MODEL DEVIOD OF HUMAN HEALTH COST. WE WILL PAY FOR THAT SHORT SIGHTEDNESS

    • Present loadings on NIMT trains between Hamilton and Palmerston North and Hamilton is probably only half of what would justify electrification being continued.

      The justifications for electrical rail are:

      1. Electricity is cheaper than fossil fuel
      2. Electricity doesn’t cause anywhere near as much environmental damage
      3. With a little bit of investment electricity becomes completely sustainable which fossil fuels will never be

      Then there’s the justifications of rail over trucks:

      1. Rail is cheaper than trucks
      2. Rail causes less environmental damage than trucks
      3. Rail doesn’t damage the roads reducing the costs there as well
      4. Rail is faster than trucks thus improving efficiency

      Finance Minister Bill English constantly complains about rail being a black hole of loss,

      That’s because he set it up that way same as he set up Solid energy to fail.

      Why is it, do you think, that National always sets up what we as a society need to fail and then sell to their rich mates?

  4. Looks like you want even more taxpayers money to be chucked in to the fiscal black hole that is nzrail. I thought you lefties thought government owned businesses were more profitable than private ones.

    • When it was in private ownership it was near death. Remember?

      And if I was chucking tax payer money at the rail system in this country none of it would go to senior mis-management. Nor to anyone who sees rail as some sort of cash cow.

      As for this ‘government’ – it’s infested with ‘managers’ and ‘specialists’. Steady as it goes, middle of the road, rather die than think. Bowing and scraping to overseas interests and sending work we could have done to other countries that respond with stock that needs upgrade and rebuild so soon.

      So, Gosman. If the ‘free market’ cannot provide, nor the government, nor the managers – then how about the workers, and the local councils and the sub-contractors working as a practical co-operative? With a few checks and balances to ensure that the natural rip-off, skiving and cheating that is the time honoured Kiwi way doesn’t bring the whole thing down…

  5. You might think National would actually want to preserve the electric network as (ironically) they actually built most of it in the 70s and 80s. A rare example of a bit of forward thinking from National but that of course was long ago before the current crop of neo-liberals got into power.

Comments are closed.