Union slams Transport Minister over diesel locos
Transport Minister Simon Bridges has deflected accusations he's showing hypocrisy in backing electric cars but not trains.
Bridges last week said he had bought two electric cars, one for himself and one for his wife.
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) which represents rail workers, contrasted that decision with what it called Bridge's support for KiwiRail's plan to replace electric trains with diesel locomotives on the North Island main trunk line.
RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson said the situation was ironic. "While Bridges is ditching his diesel vehicle for an electric one, he's overseeing KiwiRail's move from electric locomotives to diesel ones," said
"This looks, sounds and smells like hypocrisy," Butson said.
"If Bridges is sold on the benefit of electric vehicles why isn't he sold on the benefits of electric locomotives?"
Bridges said on Wednesday it wasn't his decision to make on choosing diesel over electric locomotives for KiwiRail.
"The decision to move to an all-diesel fleet on the North Island Main Trunk line was an operational one by KiwiRail," he said.
"KiwiRail made this decision because it believes the shift to a single fleet is the best way to improve reliability and efficiency for its customers and to boost the benefits of rail for New Zealand," Bridges said.
The SOE's business case for performance improvement on the line, which recommended the diesel option, assessed both electric and diesel fleets over their operational life. The electric option was 20 to 30 per cent more expensive than the diesel option overall.
The cost of electrifying the whole line so that KiwiRail could use an all-electric fleet from Wellington to Auckland is estimated at more than $1 billion for the infrastructure alone, he said.
In May 2015 Bridges along with then-Prime Minister John Key announced a range of incentives intended to have 64,000 electric vehicles in use in New Zealand by 2021.
"If we start to replace New Zealand's [road] fleet with electric vehicles, we can begin to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions," Bridges said at the policy's Auckland launch.
But like EVs, electric trains "in the long run" are cheaper and better for the environment, Butson said,
"RMTU modelling shows that KiwiRail's electric fleet saves 8 million litres in fuel each year and the price of upkeep is half what the new Chinese-made diesel locomotives would 'guzzle' in fuel."