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Unions condemn KiwiRail's switch to diesel

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/12/2016

Unions have joined Labour and the Greens in condemning the government for KiwiRail's decision to replace electric trains with diesel locomotives on the North Island main trunk line.

The line is electrified only between Hamilton and Palmerston North, and KiwiRail says it is essentially "a railway within a railway".

Electrifying all the line would cost more than $1 billion.

KiwiRail says the electrified section is inefficient, costly and less reliable.

Sixteen trains will be replaced with eight diesel locomotives over the next two years.

The Council of Trade Unions says the decision shows the government's complete lack of concern for the environment and climate change.

"It is fixated with cost-cutting. Instead of forcing KiwiRail to revert to carbon-based fuel the government should have insisted on KiwiRail leading the way with electricity and funded it to do so," said CTU president Richard Wagstaff.

The Greens say it's "a massive step backwards" and a disastrous short-term approach.

"This is 2016, not 1916," said transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter.

"New electric trains are cleaner, quieter and have lower fuel and maintenance costs over their lifetime."

Labour says the line was electrified in 1980s and the rest of the world followed suit.

"It's absurd that the electric trains will be ditched... it simply comes down to short-term cost saving," said transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney.

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