KiwiRail, Stadler Rail Valencia Sign Contract for 57 New Locomotives for New Zealand’s South Island

Dunedin, New Zealand
KiwiRail in Dunedin, New Zealand in November 2019. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

KiwiRail and Stadler Rail Valencia have signed a binding contract for 57 new, state-of-the-art locomotives.

The new low-emissions locomotives, made in Spain, will provide more reliable services on the South Island for current customers, KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller said in an announcement. They will also help KiwiRail attract new customers, Miller added.

The locomotives will begin arriving and entering service in New Zealand between early 2024 and 2026. The contract price for the new fleet is NZ$403 million (€228 million).

“For rail to play its proper role in New Zealand’s freight system, we need our services to be on time, every time,” Miller said. “Right now, our 65-strong South Island locomotive fleet has an average age of 47 years. Our machines have been used for 17 years, on average, beyond their economic life. The fact that some of our machines are closer to 60 than to 50 – means reliability is a real issue.”

Some of the railroad’s locomotives have had three complete rebuilds over their lives, at significant expense. And, Miller noted, the railroad is still using 1970s technology in those rebuilds.

“The dual-cab locomotives Stadler Rail are building for us are state of the art,” Miller said. “Not only will they meet the European Union world-leading emissions standards and see significant reduction in our fleet’s exhaust emissions, they will be fuel efficient and equipped with a range of onboard technologies to optimise energy use, including a system that can switch off the engine when the locomotive is idling.

“Each new locomotive will also be significantly more powerful and efficient than our current machines,” Miller added. “This means there will be less need to use multiple locomotives to pull heavy trains – reducing fuel use and potentially reducing fleet CO2 emissions by 20 – 25 percent. It also means KiwiRail is future-proofed for the freight growth expected in the decades ahead by having locomotives that can pull larger trains.”

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