Business as usual at Hillside

It is business as usual at KiwiRail's Hillside Engineering Workshops in South Dunedin, as the facility remains on the market.

KiwiRail initially planned to announce a sale decision at the end of August, but consultation with potential buyers is taking longer than expected.

The delay had not affected work at Hillside, KiwiRail communications manager Kimberley Brady said.

Workers were continuing to build state-of-the-art carriages for the TranzAlpine scenic route.

Hillside could not tender for new contracts while its future remained uncertain, but Ms Brady said there had been no new contracts to tender for.

She could not say when KiwiRail would finish its due diligence and consultation with prospective buyers.

An internal document, leaked to the media, stated Hillside would probably close if not sold.

Workers there were not subject to nationwide cuts in KiwiRail's infrastructure and engineering division, which was responsible for maintenance, renewal and upgrade of the rail network, including track, bridges, tunnels, viaducts, overhead wires, signals and level crossings.

Division general manager Rick van Barneveld confirmed this week 11 jobs would be lost in Otago.

KiwiRail had accepted seven voluntary redundancies from Dunedin staff and planned to reduce its city-based workforce by eight in total. Three positions were being cut in Oamaru.

Jobs disestablished in Otago included track, structures and signals maintenance and renewal roles.

To save money, KiwiRail was reducing its renewal schedule throughout the country, which meant fewer staff were needed in the next few years.

Work in that time would be mainly maintenance-focused.

Investment figures for Otago were not available but Mr van Barneveld said $73 million would be spent on the network from Ashburton south during the next three years.

It was about a third less than initially forecast for capital investment in the area.

"After this period, the renewals work for new capital projects will revert to previous levels of planned activity," he said.

Job losses in Otago would not move work outside the region, Mr van Barneveld said.

"We are simply slowing the amount of work planned for the network over the next three years, so we'll need less staff to do this."

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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