Ferry saga 'demands inquiry'

Last updated 05:00 18/07/2014
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NZ First leader Winston Peters wants a full ministerial inquiry into KiwiRail's "mishandling" of the Aratere saga, after revelations the company plans to fit two new propellers to the ferry next year.

Peters said he was staggered such a scenario could even be contemplated, given that Aratere had had two prolonged visits to Singapore dockyards over the past three years, both of which included propeller fittings.

The 2011 extension of the Aratere cost taxpayers about $50 million, and this year's refurbishment had resulted in additional across-the-board costs to KiwiRail of about $30m. "After all that money, they still have not fixed this lemon," Peters said yesterday.

The proposed ministerial inquiry should also look at the "inertia" of Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, who had allowed KiwiRail to keep throwing money at the ship, he said.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said yesterday the ship was not travelling fast enough to complete its scheduled timetable of three daily round-trip sailings.

The propellers now on the ship are the ones it had before it was extended. But because they were designed for a shorter ship, they make it travel more slowly.

So the company may change propellers - at a foreign shipyard - for the third time in four years.

Reidy also confirmed the rail ferry's daily sailing schedule would now see it leave Wellington for Picton on weekdays at 2pm and 11.20pm, and Picton for Wellington at 6.40pm and 4am.

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- The Dominion Post

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