KiwiRail is a neoliberal nightmare whose underfunding is coming home to roost


KiwiRail is a neoliberal nightmare that just never ends.

Let’s remember that the wankers who privatised it, stripped of assets and sold it back to Kiwis…

…so Faye and Richwhite advised the Government to sell off the railways, went and quietly bought it themselves for a fraction of the real value, made a fortune asset stripping it, left behind a broken clusterfuck the Government had to buy it back, and because it’s been so underfunded for such a long time, the entire struggling super structure of the system is fucked!!!!

Wellington train disruption could now last days instead of weeks

The organisation came under heavy criticism on Friday as it was announced Metlink train services would be reduced throughout May after a 70kph blanket speed restriction was to be imposed on KiwiRail’s Wellington network starting Monday – because the country’s only track evaluation car broke down.

Its chief operations officer Siva Sivapakkiam said on Saturday the track evaluation car could leave its Auckland workshop early Sunday morning and arrive in Palmerston North that night. The company is aiming to have all speed restrictions dropped by Friday night, May 5, at the latest.


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The exact same bullshit happened in Auckland in 2021…

A year ago yesterday, and in the middle of Auckland’s second lockdown, speeds on the entire Auckland rail network were slowed to just 40km/h as a safety precaution after Kiwirail revealed wear on the tracks, known as Rolling Contact Fatigue (RCF), was more widespread and severe than they previously realised. At the time they said they urgently needed to replace 100km of track across the network.

A week later they shut the entire Eastern Line between Quay Park and Westfield down for two weeks in order to accelerate that work. That two weeks extended to four weeks and over the subsequent six months or so the rest of the rail network experienced various closures as Kiwirail worked to fix the issues. As of early February, with just the Pukekohe line to go, Kiwirail said:

“So far we have replaced more than 112km of damaged rail which is 84 per cent of the required re-railing work overall. At the same time, we’ve replaced close to 20,500 sleepers and destressed 95km of rail track.

They now say they’ve replaced 130km of rail which is significant when you consider there’s just over 180km of track passenger services run on.

After thinking the work was all done, more issues surfaced in mid-June which saw Southern Line slowed down again and services reduced as a result which lasted till late July. This and issues like left over rail causing $250,000 of damage to Auckland Transport’s trains and Kiwirail prioritising of freight prompted letters from the Mayor and AT and included calling on the government to put people with asset management and public transport experience on the Kiwirail board.

…and how did this all happen? How did all these underlying issues suddenly spring up?

An independent report has been released providing a route cause assessment for how the network (AMRN – Auckland Metro Rail Network) got into this position.


There were three key areas studied, the track, the vehicles and the wheel rail interface (WRI). Here are the findings for each of them.


The report highlights that while there has been investment in network improvements, such as double tracking, new stations, new signalling, electrification and new trains, the “existing track and civil infrastructure, including historic formation was not upgraded under any of those programmes“.

…here’s what does my head in…

In 2014, prior to the commencement of the new electrified service, AT engaged Network Rail Consultants to evaluate the overall state of the infrastructure. The evaluation effectively concluded that substantial investment (~$100m) in the AMRN [Auckland Metro Rail Network] track assets was needed to ensure it would be fit for purpose for the proposed EMU operation. This investment was not approved and the parties instead relied on increased inspections for safety, track speed restrictions, and accepted the infrastructure would provide lower levels of service.

…so they knew there were these huge legacy infrastructure problems and their cheaper solution was an increased inspection regime, the very regime that has broken down in Wellington.


An asset that was privatised to the rich who helped sell it to themselves, stripped it of all its assets, left the Government to buy back a fucked up broken system and instead of upgrading, they chose a cheaper inspection regime, one that just broke down.

If the rich paid their fair share, we could rebuild the infrastructure they robbed us of.

Bernard Hickey has argued, “We could have gotten $200 billion in extra tax revenues if only there had been a fair tax system which meant that capital gains were taxed at the same rate as every other type of income.”

There are 14 Billionaires in NZ + 3118 ultra-high net worth individuals, let’s start with them, then move onto the Banks, then the Property Speculators, the Climate Change polluters and big industry!



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  1. Who appointed the board members to KiwiRail? I think it’s an organised group called the Labour Party.

    Will anyone lose their job or board position over this? No they won’t.

    • The Labour Government have been donkey deep in this.
      They’ve just had 5 plus years to do something, they’ve done nothing.
      Another Labour Government failure.

      • Oh Jesus. Go fuck yourselves you two chattering little apes.
        Go fling your faeces at something else. Hey! I know! Try each other?
        You’re like two sad parrots who’s only squawks you have left are dull and repetitive.

  2. Hence why we keep getting 20 year old second hand cheap as chips ferries that keep breaking down that are not fit for purpose.

  3. Martyn – I have a soft spot for Trains…but, nearly every time I go on a Auckland Train I witness the following
    – Anti Social behaviour – smoking, vaporing, heavy swearing, loud music being played, people running around the carriages,
    – Vandalism
    – The prices are high – an 20 minute trip – costing $8!

    Sort out the above concerns – then come back to me

    • All due respect Nathan, we need to sort out the tracks and trains first. If the trains grind to a halt because there is no investment in repair and maintenance, then when the trains breakdown, yes, that behaviour will cease, but to the detriment of every other passenger that doesn’t display antisocial tendencies.

      • standalonecomplex – Agreed…but, until the above issues are sorted – wonderful trains, and tracks will not really matter..people will chose not to ride.

        • Don’t know what line you are riding but the western line is standing room only for about an hour or so every morning. And this is six carriage trains we are talking about.

          As for vandalism, I’ve seen much worse overseas, and you don’t have to get on a train to see antisocial behaviour, like I said stopping the trains won’t stop any of that.

    • Trains and busses work well in Sydney.
      What is wrong here in the land of the long white cloud?


    • Nathan
      That is a bit surprising because we have such a well-respected laws in this country. Those vandals would have been shit scared of the cops being called in, let alone be charged and convicted, so it’s a bit of a surprise they behaved like that – in a public place!!!! I mean, you’d never find kids out on the street at night stealing cars and doing crime, so those train vandals had better watch out. Our judges will show no mercy!

    • Concealed carry would fix it eh! I traveled by train for 15 years into the city often returning late at night. My teenagers use them all the time. Never had a problem. Compared to the London Underground or NY subway, Auckland trains are tame.

      • boomer gloomer – Correct…both London/NY subways have armed Police working solely in those trains, and stations

  4. The story of privatisation of the NZR seems almost impossible to be believed. The advisors became the buyers, the poacher turned game keepers. Their insider knowledge invaluable. As it always is!

    Then as you say, they asset stripped everything, literally that was not bolted down, then leasing it back. I recall thinking how is it financially better to lease back aged items like the rolling stock, mostly at or towards the end of their economic existence when you already own them freehold? Little did I know that the real reason was to boost the share price because the books never looked better from the infusion of cash that year. The share price skyrocketed with investors convinced privately owned companies were miracle workers and Faye and Richwhite quickly and quietly divested themselves of the looming catastrophe with massive profits and lived happily ever after. Somehow this was legal!

    A vital public asset was in essence set on the road to bankruptcy, the taxpayer was royally fucked over, dumb National politicians thought they were smart and no one but no one was ever held to account for this outrage. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it got worse.

    Tranzrail not surprisingly were going bust by 2003, the then Labour government were quietly trying to buy it back for as little as possible because it was worthless and along came John Key, Nationals transport spokesman, who just so happened to have a portfolio of Tranzrail goodies. He had the opportunist foresight to ask all the right questions in parliament, under privilege to ensure the governments intentions were outed, with an accompanying share price sugar high resulting, ch – ching!

    And then along came vulture capitalist Toll, who bought the whole lot for a song and spent the next 5 years blackmailing the government with line closure threats until the taxpayer paid over the odds in 2008 to buy the place back so rail could survive. Think about it, roughly 15 years of a rail system performing hugely below potential. And the taxpayer fucked over, royally, for a second time.

    Its been millions or billions of dollars uphill every year since for the taxpayer so a handful of filthy rich men could get even richer, to the total detriment of NZ.

    Again, just so unbelievable that this could ever happen to us. But it did!

    • ‘dumb National politicians’. Mind exercise for National to prove they are not dumb.
      How many anagrams can you make from ‘dumb’? The prize is an asset-stripped chocolate fish without a skeleton. The chocolate will melt in your mouth in seconds you upstart loonies.

    • The peasants have to stick up for their lord barons for their miserable existences, in the vain hope lord baron might smile on them. The mind numbingly stupid reactions by the peasantry to the recent report on how small a percentage in tax lord barons pay on their income, is a shining example.

      Fay Richwhite were just smarter than the rest of us so we deserved to get ripped off. I hear that sort of peasant nonsense from wannabe’s every day.

  5. for the end result of any national policy look at america….do you want your kids to grow up in the alabama of the pacific?

  6. It was Ardern’s (and Hipkins’) job to fix stuff like this – that’s where your anger should be directed. But they were too busy with their cultural revolution.

    • So when private individuals strip assets to the point of making that asset a liability, and then government has then bail out that asset, that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

      Seems to me, that the only point that you have made is, don’t sell assets, fund correctly, and to do that Government needs to raise additional funds ie taxes.

  7. And to think idiots are stopping traffic in Wellington in an effort to get the government to increase railway use. I have just comeback from Melbourne were they have good public transport but my son would not let me catch it late at night as it is known to be dangerous robbery and violence are common

    • They have certainly got plenty and did well out of the Privatisation of New Zealand State Assets, along with their buddies Roger Douglaas and Richard Preeble.

  8. I am sick and tired of the petty point scoring attempts by some commentators when the issues we face are so enormous. Labour under Lange opened the political door to neoliberal economics. National could hardly wait to get their hands in sink. So between our two political parties over the years every state entity that could generate income for us all has been sold off. We have also had the increasing privatizing of Healthcare, education, and other public services hocked off
    I dont particularly care which bunch is our next government as long as they sort out the bloody mess they have all had a hand in creating .

    • It seems to me that Labour had the idea that if they were the ones to introduce the Third Way that somehow that would both stymie National’s right wing plans especially in conjunction with a better more-business system into Sleepy Hollow, which was the image that the smart arses chose to spread.

      Once the work of economic change had been done, then Labour would be the natural political choice and National would be sidelined to just barking dogs. Nice bedtime Labour story; do they show dog trials on tv any more or has the political furore of the day taken its place? The sounds of growling and snarling battling for pre-eminence fills the air rather than informed visionary discussion. Suggestion – need more training from the times they are puppies with the intention to get mature balanced dogs, rather than the scrappy triennial dog fights held for the benefit of wealthy punters.

  9. National also instructed KiwiRail to sell assets, and close down services, to ensure it wasnt a threat to the trucking industry.

    • That I agree with Millsy.

      Something very annoying about following 3 Mainfreight trucks while next to the highway is a empty train track.

  10. sigh….many issues in NZ caused by the same cause – under investment in infrastructure. Ultimately this comes down to the politicians we elect who make these choices and hope for the best.

    Lots of us moan and groan about the state of things so imagine a political environment where the following solution was a viable option…

    Consider a new infrastructure upgrade tax levy, essentially tie a new tax to create a wealth fund to specifically solve these infrastructure challenges. Every election the public would have a third vote in which they would rank the infrastructure priorities to target with the use of this fund.

    It would amuse me no end that the Fay Richwhite family trust had to pay a capital gains/land/wealth tax tied specifically to fund the lack of infrastructure investment that his ilk structurally foisted on the NZ population in the 80s. It would be a beautiful thing to see a new hospital or trainset or water pipes with a big splashy sign on it – “funded by the NZ Infrastructure Levy”. The political conversation would immediately switch from the tax itself to what problems we want to fix and completely tie National up in knots in the process.

    And if we really wanted to get dirty as part of the law introducing the levy we would identify who paid the Infrastructure levy, their contribution and the IRDs assessment of their wealth. Of course this would all be couched in language celebrating the generous (but obviously non voluntary!!) contribution of these individual’s to solving NZ’s infrastructure problems!

    Sadly in this universe our left are collectively too busy woking their way to glory to ever come up with that….but you can but dream

  11. How about a Belt & Road high speed electric bullet train Whangarei to Bluff via a Cook Strait tunnel and cut out all those airline carbon emissions.

  12. The government bought the railway back almost 20 years ago, so any excuses the government might have had expired LONG ago.

    So what we have here is just another example of government being incapable of running a commercial enterprise.

  13. Aus,parts of Europe and Japan have reliable and Quick rail. But we have slow trains, anti social customers. Maybe we need to look at other modes of transport. Because unfortunately trains are never going to work to there true potential in this country.

  14. Asset stripping you say.
    There was enough cash in the company to immediately compensate the new owners for their investment in the form of a special dividend.
    So they effectively paid nothing.
    This was 30 years ago, where were the supposed left then.

  15. NZ Rail wasn’t so much a thing that expired because it seemed like a good idea at the time to kill it off for the betterment of our lives and systems.Oopsie, sorry, our bad.
    No. It was a cunning plan to remove rail to hand heavy transport down to greedy scum bags in road transport.
    They saw money that wasn’t theirs and, like all good criminals, decided that, that money would be put to better use in their pockets.
    Sabotaging NZR was a tactic. The Mighty Sneering Pig Thought Big and fucked an essential public resource and in so doing The Pig oversaw the literal destruction of a taxes paid for resource that linked far flung rural towns servicing our primary industry with the bigger cities.
    Of course, too, the post neoliberal carnage that followed the stumpy snout saw bolger and his inbred clan of hog wooers complete dirty deals and now here we are. Without the awesome public rail transport we had only to be replaced by logging trucks tearing up our roads, the roads we maintain with public money.
    Can I be clearer? There were no good intentions re rail. It was crooks being crooked. But wait! They still are.
    A public inquiry please. Let the truth be out.
    Proverb: truth will out
    ” A mystery will always be solved; truth will eventually and inevitably be discovered.”

  16. John Key told us mum and dad investors would buy our assets, but he didn’t tell us was mum and dad lived in Canada or America.

  17. Oh look, another critique of rail in 2023 blaming something that happened 30 years ago. This is getting tired. KiwiRail’s network is in as good condition today, if not better, than pre-sale in 1993. It’s just been through 19 years of upgrading having had well over $10b thrown at it. That’s MORE funding than it was starved of during the privately-owned years. That excuse doesn’t wash anymore, it’s the distant past.

    The problem isn’t funding. It’s the fact that the network hasn’t been unbundled yet. Imagine if telecommunications in NZ was still just state-owned Telecom, and nobody else, in 2023. We would all be using landlines except for a few rich folk who could afford a brick-sized cellphone on a $400 monthly plan with coverage only in the main centres.

    Rail is never going to grow in NZ until the network is separated from KiwiRail, and opened up to any rail company who wants to use it. Australia did this, and tonnage tripled. South Africa has just done it, and five new companies are on the rails now in addition to the incumbent state operator. Growth and innovation comes with a competitive environment.

    Did you know KiwiRail no longer provides a freight service to New Zealand businesses? It has booted almost every customer it ever had in recent years. The only freight business it wants is import/export traffic to and from the nation’s ports. The only domestic business is carting freight consigned by Mainfreight, Toll, Owens etc between Auckland and Dunedin and a small amount from Tauranga and Hastings. Stuff all. KiwiRail has fewer than 100 customers in 2023, so time to open up the tracks to other players.

  18. only 1 track inspection car for the whole of NZ we really are a fuckin clown show of privatised neo-lib failure


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