NorthWest wrote:Operationally, this decision makes a lot of sense. Switching locomotives three times in the 425 miles between Auckland and Wellington is simply not cost nor time effective when compared to trucking. I'm not sure I buy the "EF loco problems" argument as they have been a pretty successful class as a whole, and with a standard midlife rebuild would be good for another 10-20 years. It just unfortunately makes sense that 8 diesels can replace 17 electrics with this horribly operationally inefficient system. The argument can perhaps be made that electrifying into Wellington and Auckland might make more sense, but I'm not sure that is in the budget.
You need a lot of volume to make electrification cost effective. Note that in Queensland the only electrified services are the coal lines, despite all of Brisbane-Rockhampton being electrified as there isn't enough traffic to make it cost effective. Here you can either go with diesels to try to lower transit times and costs to better compete with trucks or subsidize higher-cost electrics to try to keep prices reasonable. What it comes down to is how much are the citizens of New Zealand willing to pay to be more green?
perceptive comments, Northwest. A bit of history. When the electrification was planned, Hamilton and Palmerston North were major junctions. Virtually all trains would stop anyway, drop off or pick up wagons. They remain driver change points, and a couple of trains each way drop off/ pick up . The central section of the NIMT has the most grade, the 2 end sections are relatively flat. At the time all trains had a guards van, and were restricted by the union to a single loco of around 2400hp (dx class). At the time , the only way to get more hp in the small loading gauge was to go electric.
Things changed rapidly in NZ in the late 1980's. The govt removed the restriction on road transport over 150 km . The unions agreed to remove the guards vans , and removed the restriction on double heading the DX class locos. muxh of the intermediate disappeared with the removal of the road restriction. By the time the elctrification came , the railway threatened to not turn it on , unless the power companies gave it better rates. trains got longer and fewer, the electrics actually became a restriction on the steepest sections. The class 30 have been quite reliable , they have never recieved any major maintenance. Any that broke down were parked up , the 22 original locos dropped to 11 or 12 going now. The Chinese dl class loco was introduced, after needing asbestos removal they have proved to be reliable.
Its come down to what is the best solution right now , with little ability to plan the future due to low government support. The Ef's need overhaul/ upgrade, and the cost of that still leaves future requirements to be fulfilled. New electric locomotives would be the best solution , but apparently have a long lead time. The buying of extra diesels now is a low risk/low cost solution, they can be used elsewhere anyway, in fact I would say they would be ordered regardless.
The future definitely depends on what the public decide they want . firstly at the next election, and it will be interesting if the greens and maybe other opposition parties make this an election issue. I hope they do. The environment is a big issue in NZ, and this has the appearance of been a green solution, even if the actual difference to national emissions is probably minimal. The Greens have , and will, push for electrification to Auckland, possibly also to Wellington and Tauranga. The main opposition party needs them as a coalition partner to get a majority. Only the governing party and the far right ( less than 1% support) would be against it . I would give the electrification extension a 60 -70 % chance of been implemented in the next 3-4 years .
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