Future looking bright for Hillside

The Hillside railway workshops may reprise their role as the beating heart of industrial South Dunedin, thanks to a massive cash injection for rail announced in the Budget.

KiwiRail is set to receive more than $1billion, including $375million for new wagons and locomotives, $331million for tracks and other supporting infrastructure and $35million to start replacing ferries.

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A further $300million will be provided from the Provincial Growth Fund for regional rail initiatives.

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran and Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson all agreed the announcement was likely to be good news for the workshops in Hillside Rd.

Main operations at the site ceased in 2012 when KiwiRail sold part of the business to Australian firm Bradken and closed the rest.

Ninety jobs were lost.

Mr Miller said the company was looking hard at Hillside, although he said it was too early to get down to the nuts and bolts of what would happen.

The fact the site had a heavy lift facility worked in its favour, as the only other one in the South Island was in Christchurch, he said.

"Another workshop in the South Island, to me that's really important, for the resilience component of having two heavy lifts in one island.''

Mr Miller also hinted there could be a significant number of new roles opening at Hillside, including for apprentices.

"There's still a really skilled workforce down there that could be involved in fabrication of commuter vehicles and tourism vehicles.

"We've got 40 new roles coming into our Hutt workshops. Fifteen are apprentices.

"When you look at what we could do at Hillside, if we don't grow the future workers of tomorrow, we've kind of missed the opportunity,'' Mr Miller said.

Ms Curran said the news was an indication rail was not a sunset industry.

"This Government is building it up again, getting freight off the road and on to rail, and passenger services as well.

"Obviously this requires a lot more rolling stock.

I am very hopeful Hillside will see a very big boost. I can't say any more than that at the moment.''

Most confident was Mr Butson.

"In my mind, there's no doubt Hillside will increase.

"We know, for example, there's carriage stock which will need refurbishing. We also know there's a lot more log wagons that are required.

"A lot of the existing fleet will need to be modified to turn into log wagons, and that's the sort of work that could easily be put into Hillside, which would enable [the Hutt Railway Workshops] to continue focusing on its bread and butter, which is locomotive refurbishment.''

 

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