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Ditching electric trains massive step backwards

KiwiRail’s plan to replace its electric locomotives with a dirty diesel-powered fleet is backwards and bad news for New Zealand, the Green Party said today.

The Green Party understands that KiwiRail will today announce a plan to phase out its 16 electric locomotives responsible for freight between Hamilton and Palmerston North. The electric locomotives will be replaced with Chinese-made diesel locomotives.

“We are very disappointed by KiwiRail’s decision to abandon our electric freight trains and infrastructure. Many New Zealanders will despair at this short-term approach – it’s 2016, not 1916,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

"National has promised to take climate change and transport issues seriously, but it's underfunding of rail is responsible for short-sighted decisions like this.

“National should commit to completing the electrification of the North Island Main Trunk Line. This would send a clear signal to KiwiRail that they can invest in an electric future.

“New electric trains are cleaner, quieter, and have lower fuel and maintenance costs over their lifetime. They’re also powered by local renewable energy rather than imported oil.

“Diesel trains will cost more to operate long-term, which could encourage more freight to move off rail and onto dangerous trucks on the road.

“KiwiRail's claim that it takes too long to switch between diesel and electric trains ignores the fact that electric trains are faster and can make up for this delay across the journey.

“Now is the time to invest for a cleaner, safer future.

"The Green Party will complete electrification of the rail lines between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga so electric trains can be used right across those heavily used lines," said Ms Genter.