KiwiRail says own workshops not up to tender

Kiwirail has all but ruled out its own workshops, including Dunedin's Hillside workshops, being given the chance to "have a crack" at tendering to build $375 million worth of passenger trains for Auckland.

Chief executive Jim Quinn yesterday said the final decision would be made in the next few days, but KiwiRail was "unlikely to be a bidder".

"We haven't made our final call on this, but you can tell from the work we've done though that the logic is to not be part of this."KiwiRail is preparing to put out tenders internationally for the supply of 38 three-car, electric multiple units (EMUs) and 13 electric locomotives for Auckland urban rail development.

A Berl Economics report, paid for by the Dunedin City Council and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, suggested the work could be done by KiwiRail's workshops to the benefit of the economy generally.

Transport Minister Stephen Joyce poured cold water on the suggestion on Sunday, downplaying the capabilities of the New Zealand workshops, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran, who established a working party to look into the EMUs and locomotives being built in New Zealand, yesterday said the lack of support for the idea showed "no faith in Kiwi skills and capability".

Ms Curran said an internal KiwiRail capability report appeared to contradict Mr Quinn's view of what the workshops could do.

"KiwiRail has been aware of the mounting public support, backed by hard evidence, and you'd think they'd take it seriously.

"We have two rail workshops with considerable capacity and skill, but it seems Mr Joyce and Mr Quinn are impervious to this and intent on an overseas build."She described comments from Mr Joyce as "dismissive and derisory".

Mr Quinn said he would not initiate a tender for the work "if all the information I have suggests that we will not be competitive, because these bids are incredibly expensive to build".

"They require a lot of resource and there is no point creating an expectation that isn't real.

"The question is not: `Shall we have a crack at this because it makes us feel good to have a crack?' The question is: `Are we really going to be competitive?' and if we are not, then let's face up to that now."

Mr Quinn said the EMUs were a type of train the New Zealand workshops had neither designed nor built and it would require "a huge amount of input" for that capability.

He also believed they could not produce the trains as quickly as Auckland required them and could not build them to the standard required at a price that would be competitive with overseas manufacturers.

But he did leave the door open to the workshops contributing.

On Wednesday, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive and working party chairman John Christie will put Dunedin's case to Mr Quinn in person, at a meeting in Auckland.

Mr Christie said he would like to look at what opportunities there might be for the Hillside workshop and other Dunedin businesses.

"There are some components we believe can be done onshore," Mr Christie said.

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