Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service hits a bogie

KiwiRail are refurbishing the carriages to be used in the Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service.
KiwiRail are refurbishing the carriages to be used in the Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service.

The Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service has hit a snag which could delay the launch of the multimillion dollar project.

KiwiRail, which is refurbishing the carriages for the service, have run into trouble securing a guaranteed delivery time for the bogies required for the rail carriages. Bogies are the structures beneath a carriage to which axles and its wheels are attached.

The original March 2020 start date for the service could be delayed by a few months to April 2020, which was a conservative estimate at best.

The potential delay was flagged during Waikato Regional Council chief executive Vaughan Payne's submission on the councils 2019-20 draft annual plan at its May meeting.  It will be voted for adoption on June 27. 

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Regional Transport committee chairman Hugh Vercoe said the inability of KiwiRail to confirm a start time was frustrating.

"One of the frustrating things that they can't control is they have to purchase additional bogies for the carriages."

Getting these bogies meant going through an overseas multinational firm and it could not give a guaranteed time of delivery.

The component also had a high failure rate due to faulty springs, he said.

"If we push them for a faster time frame we might get ones that don't work. KiwiRail have said to their supplier, 'you have to to give us bogies that will work so when we put them on the trains we won't look stupid'."

It means there were no guarantees the service would meet its April deadline, he said.

KiwiRail outlined the problem when the Project Governance Working Group tasked with driving the project visited the Wellington workshop where the carriages are being refurbished. Vercoe and councillor Russ Rimmington sit on this group.

 Rimmington said the service had to work properly from day one, or it risked been labelled a "ghost train".

"This is a flagship for this government and it will be a flagship for this council as well."

Councillor Bob Simcock said he was astonished with the bogies' high failure rate given the popularity of rail around the world and questioned whether KiwiRail had looked to source a different supplier, which Vercoe replied that they had.

KiwiRail's order was also very small given the global scale the bogie supplier had.

"We are also very concerned like you are and for for political reasons, [transport] minister [Phil] Twyford is also concerned because there is an election coming up not this year but the following year."

The council were also advised of changes to the rail budget. The council's share of the costs for 2019-2020 has increased from $663,000 to $689,000 to fund increases in ticketing and marketing and there has been a slight $16,000 increase in costs for the following year, lifting it to $1,675,000.