$850m needed for Interisland ferries

The Government has announced where its $1 billion of KiwiRail funding will be spent, but more is needed to replace Cook Strait ferries. 

More than 100 new trains will be purchased for KiwiRail, some replacing trains that are at least 50 years old, while the Government also signalled a significant spend could be on the way for the Cook Strait ferries. 

The Government announced details of where its $1 billion of new rail funding, allocated in the 2019 Budget, would be spent at Wellington Railway station on Tuesday Morning. 

A suite of ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Transport Minister Phil Twyford, and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones, made the announcement, and boarded a train for a photo-op. 

Alongside the new trains, KiwiRail will purchase 900 new container wagons, replacing old and outdated stock. Peters said the new container wagons would allow KiwiRail to run a more competitive freight service. The first trains will be delivered in 2022-23, and the new wagons will begin arriving from the end of 2020. 

The Government also announced details of the $35 million it had allocated to begin the process of replacing the Cook Strait ferries. Twyford said the replacements would cost “the best part of half a billion dollars” for two ferries, down from the three ferries currently operating.

KiwiRail said the new ferries could have far greater capacity for road, rail and ordinary passengers, and would be more than a third larger than the current ferries, moving from roughly 150 metres in length to more than 220 metres. 

This will require significant investment in port infrastructure in both Wellington and Picton, which KiwiRail estimates will cost roughly $350 million, but the final cost and designs were still being worked through with the port companies.

Currently, the ferries transport 800,000 passengers and 2.7 lane metres of cars and trucks alongside 450,000 lane metres of train wagons. 

Other significant spends include upgrades to maintenance facilities in the Hutt Valley, north of Wellington, and in Christchurch. 

The announcement raised the eyebrows of some early morning commuters at Wellington station as Shane Jones twice broke into song — the second time after having mounted the side of a diesel engine.

“Like all speeches given by Māoris, it should end with a song,” Jones said, before launching into a rendition of This Train is Bound for Glory.

“This train, this train, this train is bound for glor-y, this train is bound for glor-y, don’t carry no cigar smokers, whisky drinkers..” 

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