KiwiRail orders another 20 Chinese locomotives

KiwiRail executives have ordered more Chinese locomotives to pull New Zealand trains.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said the company had signed a contract for a further 20, 108-tonne DL Locomotives from CNR Corporation.

KiwiRail signed the order in June for diesel locomotives identical to the 20 ordered in 2009. Those cost $75 million and were delivered in two stages: six last year and 14 which arrived at KiwiRail's Te Rapa depot recently.

The latest locomotives delivered were being commissioned to be progressively deployed onto key freight routes around the North Island.

The Dalian class was expected to be 5 percent to 10 percent more fuel efficient than locomotives in the current fleet of 149 mainline engines dating from 1961-1988. Where one of the new engines is used to replace two of the older locomotives, the fuel savings were expected to be closer to 30 percent.

The double-cab DLs came with a German-built 2700kW engine with similar pulling power to the electric locomotives that are used on the main trunk line between Hamilton and Palmerston North.

A state owned enterprises (SOE) minister in the previous Labour government, Trevor Mallard, said when the original purchase was debated that it might be possible to buy locomotive components and assemble them in New Zealand.

But the National Party - then in opposition - criticised the plan as "an idea from the 1950s" which it claimed would waste taxpayer money.

KiwiRail recently ordered another 200 container flat deck wagons, costing $20 million, in addition to 300 that are already being delivered. It plans to replace 3000 wagons over 10 years.

Last month railworkers and business leaders called on the Government to direct KiwiRail to abandon plans to slash 70 jobs at Dunedin's Hillside and Lower Hutt's Woburn railway workshops.

They criticised KiwiRail for spending millions of dollars on Chinese-built wagons instead of having them built locally.

Mr Quinn said at the time it would cost KiwiRail 25 percent, or $7 million, more to have Hillside Workshops build the wagons from alone. For the locomotives the difference was at least 70 percent, he said.



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