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KiwiRail went diesel for clients: Bridges

NZN 7/06/2017

KiwiRail picked diesel engines over electric for a number of reasons, including keeping customers in the face of temporary line closures for electrification, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

KiwiRail announced in December it would replace 16 electric trains that operated between Hamilton and Palmerston North with diesel ones.

Speaking to Parliament's transport and industrial relations select committee, Mr Bridges was asked why the state-owned rail operator chose diesel despite not getting rigorous costings of the options.

He told MPs he supported the board's decision, which was based on wide analysis of social, economic and environmental factors.

Those reasons included the disruption to KiwiRail's network and potential loss of customers when electrifying the lines and the fact the diesel engines still have a smaller carbon footprint than freight travelling by road.

"This was a decision for KiwiRail, but I do support it on balance," Mr Bridges said.

"It simply makes sense when you look at the economic, social and environmental factors."

The North Island main trunk line runs from Auckland to Wellington but is electrified only between Hamilton and Palmerston North.

The Green Party questioned the decision last month, saying it had documents showing the diesel option could actually cost more than upgrading electric trains.

Mr Bridges announced the better part of $1 billion of funding for rail infrastructure in this year's budget, including the government's first tranche of its commitment for Auckland's City Rail Link.

Earlier this week Mr Bridges rejected allegations by NZ First leader Winston Peters that his office inappropriately tried to stop KiwiRail from releasing information under an Official Information Act, reportedly about a failed $50 million business case for a third Auckland railway line.

Mr Bridges said it was normal for state-owned enterprises to consult ministers on the release of information and that he had just "offered a view" on the proposed release.

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