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Government must halt scrapping of electric trains

Simon Bridges needs to immediately halt plans to scrap New Zealand's electric freight trains following the release of KiwiRail reports raising major concerns about the diesel trains the State Owned Enterprise intends to buy, the Green Party said today.

Documents provided to the Green Party show that KiwiRail bosses decided to scrap New Zealand's electric trains in December last year, despite being told their diesel replacements could cost $230 million more than simply upgrading the existing electric fleet. KiwiRail were also told the diesel trains from their intended supplier had a "very high failure rate" and overall performance that was "extraordinarily poor".

Information also obtained under the Official Information Act shows that Cabinet failed to question the decision to buy diesel rather than electric, despite being warned by Treasury officials that "the actual cost of this decision is not clear".

“KiwiRail publicly claimed that scrapping our electric trains and going diesel would save money, be more reliable, and reduce climate pollution. In fact, KiwiRail bosses were told the complete opposite in one report," said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

“The Government needs to immediately halt the diesel train deal and instruct an independent party to review KiwiRail's decision-making process.

“KiwiRail needs to prove it didn’t ‘cook the books’ and reveal their final cost estimates that convinced them to go diesel.

“If KiwiRail is allowed to buy these diesel trains, New Zealand could be lumped with an increasingly unreliable, more polluting rail system that will cost more to maintain long-term.

“One document explicitly criticises KiwiRail advice for being ‘biased’ in favour of buying diesel trains and not giving ‘any significant weighting’ to reducing climate-damaging pollution.

“The documents identify multiple basic errors in KiwiRail's analysis that unfairly push up the cost of options to keep the electric trains, upgrade existing electric trains, or replace them with new ones.

“An internal KiwiRail report put the cost of refurbishing the existing electric locomotives at $404 million, the cost of new ones at $515 million, and the cost of new diesel trains at $634 million over a 30-year period.

“KiwiRail defended its decision to scrap the electric trains, saying it would cost $1 billion to fully electrify the main trunk line. However, Treasury officials told Ministers that KiwiRail provided ‘no basis’ for this estimate.

“You have to question why bosses at KiwiRail are so intent on buying diesel trains when they have been told they’re unreliable and more expensive,” said Ms Genter.