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20th October 2018

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Kiwi Rail

NZ Transport Agency allocates $62m to upgrade Wairarapa rail line

rural railway line

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZ Transport Agency) has allocated more than NZ$96m ($62.06m) to upgrade the Wairarapa rail line in a bid to improve transportation and tourism in the Wellington region.

The funding forms part of the government’s NZ$16.9bn ($10.93bn) transport investment under the National Land Transport Programme to bolster rail and road network across the country.

New Zealand Minister for Transport Phil Twyford opined that the Wairarapa investment will help to prevent further deterioration and service disruptions on the line.

Twyford said: “Passengers have a right to expect a safe and reliable service, and this investment will ensure the long-term future of this route.

“Passengers have a right to expect a safe and reliable service, and this investment will ensure the long-term future of this route.”

“It also highlights the importance our Government places on public transport.”

The total investment consists of NZ$50m ($32.3m) for track infrastructure works, and NZ$46.2m ($29.9m) for the rail line south of the Rimutaka Hill tunnel as well as for double-tracking works between Trentham and Upper Hutt.

New Zealand’s state-owned agency for rail operations KiwiRail also welcomed the investment.

KiwiRail acting chief executive David Gordon said: “The network is ageing and parts of it are nearing the end of their useful life, which means there have to be speed restrictions and more likelihood of delays.

“This funding will allow KiwiRail to get the network up to standard and make improvements that will allow for more and longer trains.”

Overall, New Zealand allocated a total of NZ$196m ($126.7m) to upgrade rail infrastructure across the Wellington region. Construction at the Wairarapa rail line forms part of this investment and is scheduled to begin in April next year.

The train will get through – eventually

The washout which has delayed the reopening of the Napier to Wairoa railway line. PHOTO/FILE.
The washout which has delayed the reopening of the Napier to Wairoa railway line. PHOTO/FILE.

The reopening of the Napier-Wairoa railway line could be delayed until April next year as a result of a washout just north of Raupunga.

The line had been scheduled for reopening by the end of this year to start dealing with the wall of timber from forestry in Northern Hawke’s Bay, but the delay was confirmed by KiwiRail acting chief operations officer Henare Clarke yesterday, five weeks after the heavy rain that caused a washout which left 45 metres of track and sleepers suspended in the air approaching a bridge.

Clarke said a detailed assessment had shown it to be “a more complex situation than our initial assessments indicated.

“KiwiRail’s preferred option is to rebuild the embankment, which will involve removing a significant volume of slip material and backfilling on the site,” he said.

KiwiRail is still working through specifics such as consents, community and iwi liaison, design and associated construction programmes, and now expects the extra work to be completed by April. It is also still assessing the extra cost.

“While this setback is unfortunate we remain committed to reopening the rail line for forestry and are working closely with the other stakeholders and forestry owners to see if there are other options for rail freight while this section is repaired.

Work on reinstatement of the line which had been mothballed more than five years began immediately after KiwiRail was allocated $5 million in line reinstatement funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund in February.

New KiwiRail locomotives arrive

Four of the new DL locomotives arriving at the Mount Maunganui railyards yesterday, hauled by an earlier member of the class.
The latest batch of KiwiRail’s new DL class diesel electric locomotives has arrived at the Port of Tauranga.

The 15 engines, ordered in 2016, are joining the 48 the national rail operator already has on its books, bringing the total number in the class to 63. The first DLs arrived from Chinese manufacturer CRRC’s Dalian Locomotive Works in 2010.

After unpacking and initial testing at the Mount Maunganui KiwiRail yards, the locomotives will be transferred to Hamilton to be commissioned. They’re expected to see service on all main lines in the North Island, including the East Coast line through Tauranga, and the North Island Main Trunk.

The move to add a further 15 locomotives to the DL fleet was made by KiwiRail following its controversial decision to mothball the Main Trunk electrification, which is still expected to go ahead despite opposition from environmental groups and unions.

KiwiRail also raised eyebrows in deciding to stick with the Chinese manufacturer after earlier units of the class suffered from unreliability and asbestos contamination issues.

Last year the incoming Labour-led Government pledged to direct KiwiRail to reverse the decision to discontinue using electric locomotives on the Main Trunk, and has been criticised for not as yet acting on its promise.

The state-owned company said however that it needed the new locomotives regardless of the electrification issue to replace ageing engines in its fleet.

Public transport groups push for rail from Auckland CBD to airport

Public transport groups are renewing calls to run trains from the Auckland CBD to the airport.

A public meeting has been called by the Public Transport Users Association and NZ Transport 2050 to argue that trains, not modern trams, are the best form of rapid transit to the airport.

In recent months, New Zealand Transport Agency chief executive Fergus Gammie has said the best route between the CBD and the airport is by train to Puhinui, and transferring to buses or trams for the final 6km leg to the airport.

The transport agency still intends to build a $3.7 billion line for modern trams, referred to as light rail, from the CBD to the airport but sees the lines as combining transport and development opportunities.

Next Tuesday’s meeting will highlight an alternative transport strategy called Start, “Straight to Airport Rapid Trains”.

NZ Transport 2050 chairman Paul Miller said the Government and Auckland Council have been sold a lemon which won’t solve the massive congestion issues caused by the trending growth at Auckland Airport.

“It seems that officials have been hijacked into something which simply does not solve the congestion problem, wastes the billions we have spent on trains, will cause significant issues for those living on Dominion Rd and won’t remove a single truck from the roads trying to reach the expansive airport logistics and surrounding manufacturing zones,” he said.

Meeting organisers will present information to highlight the disadvantages trams will have to an airport, including how the bus link from the airport to Puhinui station is not a First-World solution.

An artist's impression of light rail running down Dominion Rd to Auckland airport. Image / Auckland TransportAn artist’s impression of light rail running down Dominion Rd to Auckland airport. Image / Auckland Transport

“A modern, fast train linking the airport to every single Auckland railway station and south to Hamilton and Tauranga is what we need the Government to take a serious and objective look at.

“The Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, needs to be open minded on the airport congestion issues before he commits taxpayers to fund one of the slowest tram/light-rail links in the world to Auckland airport and a “user unfriendly” airport bus shuttle link from Puhinui railway station,” said Miller.

Jon Reeves, national co-ordinator of the Public Transport Users Association said: “If the NZTA are going to fund any large-scale transport project we would like it be a something that benefits the widest reach of Auckland, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Jon Reeves, from public transport lobby group Campaign For Better Transport, wants trains to run from Britomart to Auckland Airport. Photo / Brett PhibbsJon Reeves, from public transport lobby group Campaign For Better Transport, wants trains to run from Britomart to Auckland Airport. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Auckland has spent over $6.5b on our railway network in the past 16 years, and the city rail link tunnel will further open up reach of our rail system. To not capitalise on that investment by operating fast, modern airport trains is purely crazy, Reeves said.

Washout jeopardises Wairoa-Napier railway reopening

Plans to get logging trains moving between Wairoa and Napier by the end of the year could have been derailed by a washout during the storm in northern Hawke’s Bay.

A fortnight after the washout, ruining 45 metres of the track just north of Raupunga, KiwiRail is non-committal to a date for the reopening of the line, and is still assessing the problem.

The washout has left the railway track suspended. Photo / Duncan BrownThe washout has left the railway track suspended. Photo / Duncan Brown

“Our teams are continuing to assess the damage and any impact it may have on the planned reopening date for the line,” KiwiRail said in a short statement today.

The line has been closed for more than six years since KiwiRail decided it was uneconomical after a major washout which left about 100 metres of track suspended in the air near Mahia on the Wairoa-Gisborne sector in March 2012.

KiwiRail had put the cost of repairing that sector at over $3.5 million, and mothballed the line, which had been used only for freight trains since Cyclone Bola put an end to regular passenger services in 1988.

Haami Hilton, kaumatua, blessing a work train in anticipation of the railway line reopening. Third from left is Shane Jones, regional economic development minister. Haami Hilton, kaumatua, blessing a work train in anticipation of the railway line reopening. Third from left is Shane Jones, regional economic development minister.

Help was rejected by the government of National Party leaders John Key and Bill English, but the new Labour coalition in February announced a $5 million contribution from the Provincial Growth Fund to reopen the line for logging trains to relieve pressure on the highways amid the growth of the Wall of Timber from forestry harvesting in Northern Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne-East Coast.

The washout is north of Raupunga, on the way north towards Wairoa. Photo / Duncan BrownPhoto / Duncan Brown

During a ceremonial launch of the project in June, including the dispatch of a train from Napier with track ballast as part of the railway restoration, regional economic development minister Shane Jones sand KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy weren’t putting a precise date on the reopening, but Mr Jones said it was hoped there’d be 2-3 trains from Wairoa to the Napier Port each week within 12 months.

This picture shows the extent of the washout. Photo / Duncan BrownPhoto / Duncan Brown

It’s estimated there will be close to 6000 less logging-truck trips on the 116km stretch of State Highway 2, which has had several passing bays installed and the major work of the Mata horua Gorge realignment and bridge, but still includes winding stretches, and the notorious bend of the Devil’s Elbow between Napier and Tutira.

NZ Intermodal Transport Safety Group formed

A new body has been formed to establish and maintain best practice safety and compliance standards for all road transport operators loading, handling and delivering intermodal imported and exported freight.

The NZ Intermodal Transport Safety Group (NZITSG) is to address the significant safety and other issues associated with the interface between road transport and other modes associated with import and export freight.

The NZITSG provides the road transport industry a single and convenient portal to talk with government, officials, port management, manufacturers and other stakeholders impacting road freight operators working in the import/export arena.

“We can achieve a lot more to improve safety and compliance once all the key industry players are working collaboratively than we can doing our own separate things,” says Group Chair Murray Young.

“It also makes sense for the industry to have information disseminated down through the Group and on to the businesses affected rather than having each company trying to engage with WorkSafe NZ, ports, manufacturers and training institutions on their own.”

As a sign of the industry’s commitment to improving workplace safety 21 separate transport companies were involved at the NZITSG’s initial August meeting. At that meeting the Group’s members were elected, essentially representing the interests of the majority of road freight transporters operating in this space.

The Group’s first major project will be to improve sidelifter safety. A number of companies have shared internal policy that will be incorporated into an industry code of practice for the use of sidelifters.

The NZITSG is also engaging with Worksafe NZ, manufacturers and educational and qualification institutions such as MITO to assist with development of the code of practice.

“The use of the Sidelifter Code of Practice, while recommended, will not be mandatory although the mandatory requirements that will be referenced in it cannot be avoided,” says Young.

“It is the intention of the NZITSG to make compliance uncomplicated and make sure that needless costs or compliance burden are not unnecessarily placed on operators. This Code of Practice will be the simplest and most effective mechanism available for industry to develop for the improvement of safety and compliance. The alternative is to wait for government to intervene and take a heavy-handed regulatory approach.”

The Group’s members represent each of the main port regions throughout New Zealand and are:

• Murray Young – NZ Express Transport – Christchurch

• Ian Pauling – CODA Group – Auckland

• Calven Bonney – L.W. Bonney & Sons– Auckland

• Mike Herrick – TDL Group – Auckland

• Grant Darrah – Reliance Transport – Auckland

• Clinton Burgess – CODA Group – Tauranga

• Nigel Eden – Tomoana Warehousing – Napier

• John Anderson – LG Andersons Transport– Wellington

• Richard Smith – Hilton Haulage – Christchurch

• Mark Purdue – H.W.R Group – Dunedin

The Road Transport Forum is providing secretariat services to the NZITSG.

Wellington highways snubbed as Government announces transport spend

Fixing roading blackspots, passing lanes and dangerous corners are priorities in the Government’s newly announced $16.9b land transport investment.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said Labour would deliver a “safer and better connected system” that would reduce the number of “friends and family” killed on New Zealand roads.

“This record investment in our transport system will help grow our regions, make it easier to get around our cities, and save lives on our roads,” he said.

“It will deliver the best results for our transport dollar.”

A total of $4.3b will be spent on programmes and projects “that will save lives by preventing accidents or reducing their severity”.

Blackspots, high risk intersections, safe level crossings, passing lanes and anti-skid surfaces would be a focus.

“This will include revamping intersections to stop collisions, installing median barriers in high-risk areas, and increasing road policing,” he said.

Roads receiving safety upgrades will include Dome Valley, Drury to Paerata, Waihi to Tauranga, and the Hawke’s Bay Expressway.

The planned investments are detailed in the 2018-21 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), published today by the NZ Transport Agency.

How the money will be spent.
How the money will be spent.

Twyford said the regions would also receive a much needed boost.

“Most roading investment will go to the regions, rather than the big cities. This reverses the situation in the last three years.”

Regional roads would receive $5.8b of funding – a $600m increase.

Nearly $4b would be spent on public transport, rapid transit, and rail services to ease congestion and make the cities healthier places to live.

There would be renewal work to Wellington’s rail tracks and more options such as Auckland’s SkyPath and Seapath walk/cycleways, and a new commuter ferry service in Queenstown.

State highways receive the largest share of funding, with a total of $5.7b.

Work would include $3.5b in new state highway projects such as Puhoi to Warkworth, the Waikato Expressway, the Mt Messenger bypass, the Manawatu Gorge replacement, Wellington’s Transmission Gully, and the Christchurch Southern Motorway.

Union proclaims KiwiRail pay deal a ‘landmark’

A KiwiRail train travels along the Kaikoura coast .

Rail and Maritime Transport Union and KiwiRail General Secretary Wayne Butson says higher paid KiwiRail workers agreed to a deal that gave most benefit to lower paid workers.

Butson said a flat rate of higher pay applied across all 2319 of its members, rather than the usual percentage increase for workers.

“Personally, I’m over the moon that members have seen the value of a pay deal which evens the playing field…maybe this small chink in the capitalist armour will see a new age of fairer pay deals, less greed and a more equal society,” Butson said.

The equivalent percentage increase for the higher paid workers would be approximately 2.6 per cent over the two year contract while the lower paid workers would receive the equivalent of close to 9 per cent, he said.

“The really important thing was the way the higher paid workers brought into it because of their awareness of inequality. I don’t know if we could do it year after year but we need to look at how can lift the people at the bottom as well as the top,” Butson said.

Wages varied currently from $17.60 an hour for the lowest paid, to about $50 an hour for highest skilled with the most responsible jobs such train drivers and signal technicians.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said the deal was negotiated within a day and with “immense goodwill on both sides of the table”.

“This deal reflects our desire to play our part and improve the standard of living of all while lifting productivity.

The company and the union workers had worked together over the past three years on a programme to lift performance.

“It has seen productivity gains and health and safety improvements at the organisation, but more importantly it has signalled a new era of workplace relations.

“We have moved into a partnership model and we tackle issues together as they arise,” Reidy said.

The Coastal Pacific KiwiRail passenger service between Christchurch and Picton near Hapuku.

The Coastal Pacific KiwiRail passenger service between Christchurch and Picton near Hapuku.
Butson said the new programme had energised workers because their suggestions were taken seriously, and their confidence and job satisfaction increased.

“It is with huge relief that we reported to our members that the system they are now using regularly in their work place was the basis for a fair pay deal.”

 – Stuff

KiwiRail loss widens in 2018 on further writedowns

KiwiRail reported a net loss of $235.9 million in the year to June 30 versus a loss of $197.3m in the prior year. Photo / File
KiwiRail reported a net loss of $235.9 million in the year to June 30 versus a loss of $197.3m in the prior year. Photo / File

KiwiRail, the state-owned rail and freight operator, widened its loss in 2018 with further writedowns to its rail network, even as revenue and underlying earnings gained.

The Auckland-based state-owned enterprise reported a net loss of $235.9 million in the year to June 30 versus a loss of $197.3m in the prior year.

That reflected an impairment charge of $248.6m on KiwiRail’s rail assets, down from $295.8m.

As the rail network does not generate sufficient cash to cover the level of required investment, a large proportion of the accounting value must be written off each year, it said.

Earnings before depreciation, amortisation, interest, impairment, capital grants and fair value changes fell 7.1 per cent to $48.5m, weighed down by a $45m hit from the Kaikoura earthquake. Stripping out the quake impact, underlying earnings rose 2 per cent to $94m, while operating revenue gained 3.5 per cent to $615.8m.

“KiwiRail has really put in the hard yards to re-energise the business over the past four years and despite the challenges nature has thrown at it, it is now primed for growth and ready to deliver for New Zealand,” said acting chair Brian Corban.

“Even through this difficult period, KiwiRail has achieved productivity initiatives to the tune of $7m and invested $9m more in capital expenditure than the prior year (excluding Kaitaki ferry purchase), primarily in rolling stock replacement as we seek to renew our ageing locomotives and wagons.”

The 2018 financial year saw KiwiRail lift revenue across all divisions, with a 1.5 per cent gain in freight to $350.7m; a 5.2 per cent increase from the Interislander to $137m; a 5.8 per cent lift from infrastructure to $52.5m; and a 5.1 per cent increase from property to $45.1m.

Its scenic division, which covers tourism, boosted revenue 21.9 per cent to $27.8m in the year. Kiwirail said freight volumes in forestry rose 12 per cent in the year, and bulk freight lifted 6 per cent.

“These gains are despite the ongoing challenge of the Main North Line railway between Picton and Christchurch still closed for daytime freight services while the recovery work from the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake continues,” Corban said.

New KiwiRail chair pops up on upper North Island port study group

New KiwiRail chair pops up on upper North Island port study group. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Newly appointed KiwiRail chair Greg Miller has also been appointed to a five-member working group charged with writing a new upper North Island supply chain strategy to guide the government’s desire to integrate port, rail and road transport infrastructure planning for the country’s economic and population epicentre.

The Ministry of Transport is close to announcing the five person group, to be chaired by former Northland mayor and health board chairman Wayne Brown, which will advise on a range of major transport and infrastructure issues, including “the current and future drivers of freight and logistics demand, including the impact of technological change; a potential future location or locations for Ports of Auckland, with serious consideration to be given to Northport”; and “priorities for other transport infrastructure, across road, rail and other modes and corridors such as coastal shipping”.

A Northport redevelopment could include refurbishment and extension of rail freight services into Northland and to NorthPort, and could ultimately include moving the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Devonport base to Whangarei.

Miller’s appointment to the KiwiRail chairmanship was announced yesterday after he resigned as chief executive at Toll Holdings on Monday and was heavily backed by State-Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters against initial objections from the Treasury and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

The state-owned rail company is therefore changing both its chair and deputy, with both Trevor Janes and Paula Rebstock respectively stepping down, and its chief executive following the announcement last month by current KiwiRail CEO Peter Reidy that he was taking up a senior role at Fletcher Building. That decision is understood to have been prompted by the planned appointment of Miller, who was CEO at KiwiRail’s predecessor, TranzRail, at the time it was sold back to the government by Toll in 2008.

Also on the working group is a former TranzRail group general manager, Noel Coom, in another sign of NZ First ministers Peters and Shane Jones’ determination to inject deeper knowledge of transport and logistics into government thinking on transport and infrastructure.

Susan Krumdieck, a professor in mechanical engineering at Canterbury University with long experience consulting for local government, government departments and community groups on transport, energy and future demand projects will also join the supply chain working group, along with Sarah Sinclair, a construction and infrastructure specialist for law firm MinterEllisonRuddWatts.

Its fifth member is Shane Vuletich, who has represented the Society for the Protection of Auckland Harbours lobby group in public debate on the future of the Auckland central city port, and is managing director of the Fresh Information Company, a strategy and forecasting analysis business, with tourism, major events and infrastructure planning experience,

“A system wide review of the Upper North Island supply chain is important because about 55 percent of New Zealand’s freight originates in or is destined for, the Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions,” the MoT’s explanation of the working group says, noting its recommendations could include “investment in the regions, and that the government might need to invest”.

No timetable has yet been set for outcomes from the study, the terms of reference for which were agreed last December.