Should New Trains Be Built In NZ?


Labour is trying to pressure the Government to have Auckand’s new electric trains built in New Zealand.

In parliament this afternoon, Labour’s transport spokesman, asked this question of the minister:

Darren Hughes: What steps will the Government be taking to ensure that all or a substantial number of these units are built or assembled here in New Zealand, either at the Hillside railway workshops in Dunedin or at Woburn in the Hutt Valley?
STEVEN JOYCE: This will be a competitive tender process, and, of course, KiwiRail will have the opportunity to bid for that process. The most important thing, however, is getting the right value for money for taxpayers in developing the trains and ensuring that we can obtain the trains within the $500 million budget that has been set.

Hughes then issued a press statement saying:

The National Government’s lack of commitment to investing in rail and jobs in the Kiwi rail industry were highlighted in Parliament again today. When asked in Parliament to ensure that the Auckland electrified train units will be built in New Zealand, Transport Minister Steven Joyce would not give any guarantees,” Darren Hughes said.

“At a time of when unemployment is at a sixteen year high with 168,000 Kiwis out of work, National is refusing to take decisions that support jobs in our economy.

“The last Labour Government highlighted the ability of Woburn (Hutt Valley) and Hillside (Dunedin) to build or assemble rail units as a critical part of our economic stimulus plan if we were re-elected.“It seems National is not prepared to make a similar assurance to the local industry to support jobs and stimulate the local economies.”

Darren Hughes said that the Prime Minister’s much hyped Jobs Summit highlighted government procurement as an area that should be pursued. “But it turns out it was just a talkfest as Phil Goff said it would be and John Key promised it wouldn’t be. “John Key has shown little commitment to jobs and Steven Joyce has shown little commitment to rail.

“The decision on Auckland rail comes after 15 months delay. Labour had already started the procurement process and National’s delay has simply wasted Auckland’s time and cost taxpayers more money.

You know, I’m not sure Labour is squeaky clean on helping us get to electrification as fast as the ARC wanted to.

BTW, before Labour got on its feet, the minister was asked one of those patsy questions from his own party member.
Why do they bother?

Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has been made on the procurement of electric trains for Auckland’s commuter rail network?
STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport) : I am pleased to confirm that KiwiRail has begun the tender process to procure approximately 114 electric trains for Auckland. This is a $500 million investment, signed off by Cabinet in November, to upgrade Auckland’s commuter rail system. It will provide a modern, world-class rail system that commuters will want to use. KiwiRail has issued an industry-engagement document, and a preferred supplier will be identified by the end of the year. The first electric trains will be delivered in 2013.

Dr Jackie Blue: How does this fit into the overall upgrade of Auckland’s commuter rail network?

STEVEN JOYCE: Very well. The purchase of a new fleet of electric rolling stock is the final piece in the overall $1.6 billion project to greatly improve the capacity and reliability of Auckland’s rail network. The $600 million upgrade is progressing well. In addition, the $500 million electrification of the rail network infrastructure is also progressing well. The necessary new signalling is already being installed on parts of the network, and the first masts should begin appearing later this year.




  1. joust says:

    just like Labour made sure the new Wellington trains would be assembled in Korea.

  2. Ben says:

    KiwiRail absolutely must win this bid and needs to focus here, it should have the following advantages as well. If KiwiRail doesn’t get this deal, it may as well shut up its depots and let someone else do the job! Joint venturing with another provider may be the best way forward.

    1. Cheaper and quicker scoping and development (know what’s needed, no international lawyers or consultants required, no airfares, less risk of misunderstandings in specification etc).
    2. No foreign exchange risk or hedging cost
    3. Warranty and related issues are easier and quicker to resolve
    4. Design of rolling stock for infrastructure rather than other way around(!) Don’t laugh, look what happened with Wellingtons new trains!
    5. Stimulate economic growth within NZ of much more than $500 million due to multiplier effects
    6. Government can recover part of cost through taxation (eg labour of staff used) and reduced cost of subsidising KiwiRail (assume project makes a profit)
    7. Development of expertise, local suppliers, know how and IP within KiwiRail and use of that can be used to build future export earnings
    8. Designed and made by Kiwi’s for Kiwi’s
    9. Recycling of abandoned Wellington Units, reducing costs ;)
    10. Morale booster and source of pride for KiwiRail staff at the coalface as well as passengers using units
    11. May be better able to adapt designs for new requirements and NZ specific needs based on other rolling stock performance
    12. Socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing process
    13. Hint: Weight is the enemy - Dr Porshe!

  3. curtissd says:

    Buy NZ made and keep your country working.

  4. max says:

    I agree with a lot of the comments, but worry about whether they can deliver in time? Also, what is their quality track record and their recent experience in building these things?

    Partnering with an overseas company on an one-off contract also includes a lot of exactly the same issues you note as being removed by them being built in NZ, Ben. In fact, it would give us another major party to the deal, with all the complexities and potential problems.

    So I’m sure it may be best for NZ, but I am not sure Kiwirail getting the deal is best for Auckland rail.

    At the end of the day, I hope the deal will be made on the technical merits first - so let submit a bid, and see.

  5. Matt L says:

    Labour are being hypocrates as usual, as mentioned they didn’t to anything to ensure the Wellington units were built in NZ.

    As for the issue, I personally don’t care where they are built, I just want the best quality trains we can get. If that option to to build them here then that is fine, I imagine if they were built here it would need to be a partnership with an overseas company who has some experience in designing high quality commuter trains.

    The current doc states that there needs to be upto 38 EMUs and 13 electric loco’s to haul SA sets. I understand Hillside were looking at the option of converting some SD cars to have electric traction so perhaps they could do that for the loco option and the EMUs build overseas.

  6. Jon C says:

    @Matt L I’m strong about keeping NZ industry alive but in these unreliable rail times, you make a good point that we need them as as as possible and reliable.

  7. Simon says:

    After all the crap and the many many years Auckland has had to wait for electric trains the most important thing for me is to get a high quality EMU that Aucklanders and vistors here are going to be wowed by. My main concern with Kiwirail is that would they offer a product that is as good as companies who are well established in making EMUs, something Kiwirail haver never done, and two, could they deliver on time? I just don`t know if I`d want to trust them with doing all the EMUs.

    Maybe they could do the electric locos as suggested. It`s less stock required to be built than the EMUs and could be a good starter for Kiwirail getting more experience in electric loco construction. Maybe it`s just a pipe dream, but it`d be great if we had the capacity and knowhow to manufacture our own locos in NZ.

    Lastly, ok good to see Darren Hughes finally and belatedly starting to attack the govt over taking so long to confirm funding for the new trains but where was he when the saga was going on and we needed him to be putting public pressure on Joyce. Thank goodness Mike Lee was on the ball and held Joyce to account. Because the Labour party certainly didn`t! And yes where was their concern about NZ made when the Wellington EMU were being be tendered out?

  8. Matthew says:

    I don’t see any point in manufacturing them in NZ unless that is the cheapest/best objective option. Given we have basically no background in this, and that there are European/Asian companies with alot of experience, I would be very surprised if it is best to be done here.

  9. Karl says:

    IF we want a world class rail system in Auckland, then we certainly can not use Hillside to design and build our new EMU’s. Has anyone noticed how cheap and nasty the work has been on the rolling stock in Auckland?
    The classic example is the door systems on the SX and SD carriages. Hillside replaces the entire mechanism with a totally new in-house designed system. It is quite embarrassing how often these doors fail. And whats more, some of the access hatches have had to be used so many times that they are beginning to break down and come loose.
    If Hillside can’t get it right with a simple re-fit of carriages, what hope for building from scratch a modern EMU?
    Also, agreed, shame on Labour for their comments on keeping the work in NZ. They certainly did a good job of that when they were in power. (Rail contracts, army clothing contracts……)

  10. Jeremy Harris says:

    I happy for them to be assembled in NZ if it doesn’t mean we have to get less units…

  11. Paul says:

    A feel good idea, but what’s the reality

    Does NZ have the capability and the skills required for a project of this scale?

    And what happens to the capability when the project is completed?

  12. anthony says:

    It would be nice, but i think it would be best to have the auckland trains built overseas and maybe we should just build frieght locomotives (or something rather) here until we have a world-class understanding of how to built trains well.

  13. Ben says:

    I don’t think one or two isolated and unrelated examples of poor design from Hillside on someone else’s rolling stock should disqualify KiwiRail putting together a bid - every rolling stock, bus and car manufacturer has their own embarrassments.

    In any event, for these kinds of deals, it’s common place to joint venture, as was done with the Wellington EMUs deal by the offshore consortium. If KiwiRail lacks the design expertise, bring it in, that’s what most of the other contenders will do (or have already done). It’s surprising how little is done in house for many of these deals and how much of the surplus is captured by the guy fronting and managing the joint venture.

    Another issue is whether Multiple units are actually required given the increased seating - maybe new carriages and electric locos in a push or dual arrangement would be better here.

  14. Andrew says:

    If we want to build locally, we’d need to lift our game a bit.

    The SAs are good but not great:
    - Old technology electrical relay based door control system (ie not electronic)
    - No automated announcement system
    - Noisy couplings and running gear (even some S-ride ones still seem loud)
    - Entry-level GPS system which does not understand express/limited stop running and can’t alternate between next-stop and departure information as just about any overseas system does.

    Hillside would need to do a job as good as Alstom’s X’Trapolis or Bombardier’s Perth/Brisbane units.

  15. max says:

    As I said - they should put a bid together, and compete on the merits. If they win there, we will still have to ask whether they can produce the quality they claim and in time, but I see no reason why Andrew’s listed drawbacks would even make it past the tender stage anyway.

  16. Ath says:

    KiwiRail would be best to tender offering just electric locos and SA compatible carriages… the EMU configurations being suggested simply aren’t that efficient or flexible and as others have noted, not really one of their strengths.

    Having multiple units of different kinds is not the way to go here, with different parts and expertise required which would increase maintenance and other costs… keep it simple KiwiRail, we need interoperable and compatible equipment to ensure a reliable service can be provided not different islands of different technology that need overseas experts to be flown in every time something doesn’t work as it should.

    Another thing to note is that rail is a very old technology… Wellington is still running units based on what London underground used to use in the 1900s. Apart from a few key technologies involving power management, computer monitoring, automation and motor efficiency, not much has actually changed.

  17. sandra cuthbertson says:

    keep it in nz. madness to go off shore. WE NEED MORE JOBS NOT LESS. SANDRA CUTHBERTSON AUCKLAND


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>