Hope of work for Hillside in rail plan

Hillside workshops in South Dunedin. Photo: ODT
Hillside workshops in South Dunedin. Photo: ODT
A major rail funding package announced by the Government yesterday pledges to replace KiwiRail's aged South Island locomotive fleet and 900 flat-top container wagons, but contains no guarantee of future work for Dunedin's Hillside workshop.

The Budget announcement of a $1 billion investment in railway infrastructure had sparked hopes facilities that the sections of the South Dunedin factory mothballed in 2012 might be fired up again.

Greg Miller
Greg Miller

While yesterday's announcement promised new locomotives and rolling stock, it did not specify where they would be built or maintained.

''As part of Budget 2019, $300 million has been allocated for regional rail projects through the Provincial Growth Fund,'' KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said.

''KiwiRail is considering a range of projects, which could include upgrades to Hillside Workshops.

''No decisions on those projects have been made yet.''

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran remained optimistic for Hillside's future, and hoped the workshop would pick up work either building new wagons or doing maintenance.

''Bringing Hillside up to speed will require some investment, as the workshops have deteriorated after years of neglect and disuse under the previous National government,'' Ms Curran said.

''The closure of Hillside was one of the great tragedies of that era.

''I firmly believe it can be re-established, but it won't happen overnight.''

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Transport Minster Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones gave details in Wellington of the planned investment in rail services, which included upgrades at KiwiRail maintenance depots around the country, but without specifying which depots.

Mr Twyford hinted that an announcement still to come might offer details regarding Hillside.

''The Rail Plan, which will be released later this year, will outline the Government's strategic vision and give a 10-year programme of indicative investments and benefits,'' he said.

Mr Miller said the investment in engines and rolling stock would include buying 50 new long-haul locomotives, predominantly for use in the South Island.

''The South Island locos are up to 50 years old.

''Replacing them with new locos, means more reliability and lower maintenance costs.''

A year has been allotted for sourcing the machines and two years for commissioning, manufacturing and delivery.

''The rolling stock will be purchased from overseas, but maintenance of locomotives and wagons will continue to be undertaken in New Zealand.''

KiwiRail will also replace 900 container wagons for use on the busiest lines, including from Port Chalmers and Bluff.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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