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Selling our old trains

One on-going question that has been bubbling away quietly in the background is what will happen to our train fleet once electrification is completed and we have all of our new electric trains. We know that we are not going to need them to run services past Swanson as Auckland Transport are going to close Waitakere. We also know that AT want to extend electrification to Pukekohe although they don’t know how they are going to pay for it.

An article this morning in the Dominion Post gives us one option to help answer both questions. Wellington brought a fleet of 48 two car trains a few years ago to replace its aged of English Electric trains as well as some of the newer – but still old –  Ganz Mavags (Ganz). The worst of the Ganz have already been removed from service and the intention was to refurbish the rest and keep using them for another few decades with them even going to the extent of refurbishing one set as a test.  But the Greater Wellington Regional Council then got an offer from the manufacturers to keep the production line going that has turned out to be too good to ignore.

New trains have been confirmed for Wellington, while the old ones are to be shipped off to South Africa, in a deal that has been described as a “win-win” for commuters and ratepayers.

Greater Wellington Regional Council says it has come to terms on deals to buy another 35 two-car Matangi trains and sell 42 of its ageing Ganz Mavag fleet.

It plans to sign both contracts next week.

Angus Gabara, the council’s rail operations manager, said the deal with Matangi manufacturers Hyundai-Rotem was “in the region” of $160 million, with the NZ Transport Agency paying half.

The deal included $10m worth of upgrades for the 48 Matangi trains already in operation, which will see them fitted out with automatic couplers and LED lights with 30 times the life.

The new couplers will speed up the linking process and remove the need for KiwiRail staff to do the potentially dangerous job, while the new lights will reduce the minor network delays that can happen when bulbs are blown.

“There’s been some advances in technology since we bought our first Matangi, and we’re taking the opportunity to make the entire fleet more operational efficient, safe and flexible.”

More Matangi on the way

Like Auckland, it seems that Wellington will be able to get the benefits out of having unified fleet, especially when you consider that the high cost to properly refurbish the existing trains would only have extended their life by 15 years whereas the new trains are likely to last for 35

Mr Gabara said the deal made good economic sense, as the alternative of a refurbishing the Ganz Mavag fleet would only give them about 15 years, whereas the new trains had a life expectancy of about 35 years.

The budget for refurbishment was $90 million but would have likely crept a lot higher, he said. “The cost benefits of this deal are clear-cut.”

But the most interesting part is what will happen to the trains that will no longer be needed.

Meanwhile, Mr Gabara said the council had also managed to offload all of its Ganz Mavag fleets, bar one, which it intends to keep for “historical purposes”.

Fifteen Ganz Mavags have already been withdrawn from service and another 28 will become surplus to requirements when the new Matangi replace them.

Mr Gabara was keeping quiet on the sale price until the deal was finalised. But he said the buyer was from South Africa and intended to keep the trains running there.

While we don’t know just how much the old Ganz fleet will be worth the outcome is certainly an indicator as to what might happen in Auckland. Auckland Transport is not going to want to hold onto them once they have finished with them so selling them is the most likely option. The proceeds of a sale could be very usefully put towards paying for a decent chunk of electrification to Pukekohe. It is also worth noting that I think I remember hearing that a paper would be going to the AT board soon on just this issue although I imagine it won’t be made public for some time.

29 comments to Selling our old trains

  • Maybe Greater Wellington will now regret letting an excavator rip apart some of the Ganz Units!
    I doubt they would of got much more than $1 million for the Ganz sets anyway.
    Of course would love too see Aucklands old trains kept to start cheap trials of rail services in Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin; and they can buy nice new DMU’s after a few years if they are successful.

  • Big ups to NZTA for kicking in $80M for trains!

  • Jon Reeves

    Very pleased NZTA could do that for Wellington. Why does Auckland only get a loan for our EMU´s – which ratepayers will have to pay back with interest costs?

    Does the National Party lead Government dislike Auckland, or what?

    • Stu Donovan

      valid question – can someone here clarify whether Wellington’s new trains are being funded on the same basis as Auckland?

      • Yes I was waiting for someone to raise that as I was thinking about it this evening after I put the post up. Aucklands loan is also an interest only loan meaning at the end of the term (35 years for the train portion, 50 years for the depot) we will still have the principal amount to pay (although inflation will have killed it somewhat). Guess we will have to wait for the details to be announced next week.

  • Sailor Boy

    Definitely like the idea of using them for trials in Hamilton and Chch.

    • I really don’t think Chch heavy rail is a goer unless they build a spur allowing for a Central City station.

      • Sailor Boy

        The rail line is within 1.1km of the cathedral. Having lived in Chch, it really is not that far from the railway to the CBD.

        • tuktuk

          Christchurch could have quite a useful DMU operation following the general growth paths North and South-west. It could also have a real CBD and urban village living dotted along the rail tracks, all linked up with a commuter service – a horizontal elevator serving the “township” beads on a string.
          But none of this will happen until the governing party is prepared to look at a long term plan for Christchurch that is anything other than sprawl only. With a token CBD, decentralised commercial and retail activities, no controls on residential growth patterns – Christchruch on current trends can only be served by roads. Electric cars anyone?

          • Time for commuter rail in Christchurch, Dunedin, and Hamilton!

          • tomtom

            The way forward for Christchurch is decent BRT. The radial routes with 15 minutes all day services are fantastic, and with expanding bus lanes/queue jumps more and more people are using the system. Hopefully they will get onto building the new centre city bus interchange – the last one was fantastic.

          • tomtom

            Louis M – you must be mad/know zilch about Dunedin.

            You could only use the local rail system (that is single tracked everywhere) to serve Mosgiel and Port Chalmers. And there’s only ten thousand people in one and 3000 in the other. In between there’s either tunnels (to Mosgiel) or very little population (to Port).

            You’re better off restructuring the dumb ass bus system here. For example you have two bus routes that go up High Street at the same damn time every 15 minutes instead of doing it so that a bus comes every 7 minutes to uni, which would be particularly useful since many uni students live in that the two or three blocks around High St (which is about 20 minutes walk from campus)

          • not sure what tunnels have to do with it. The tunnels originally had 2 tracks, but were reduced to one. In Dunedin you would be talking about an irregular service to Mosgiel, but mostly peak hour. The train is very quick, even with current state of track journey to Mosgiel only 15 minutes. I think this would attract people out of their cars.

          • Sailor Boy

            You could very easily do a half hourly service stopping Mosgeil, Dowtown, and possibly 1 other stop midway. Don’t see the issue here?

          • tomtom

            Because you can’t drop anyone off in between the rail yards in the city and Mosgiel so there’s no point. The drive takes 10 minutes and parking is not an issue here.

            And why on earth would you run an expensive half hourly train to a one stop town of ten thousand! The express bus is every hour and there’s only like 20 damn people on it. At least the express bus goes to the residential parts of Mosgiel whereas the train station is in the middle of the industrial area.

            And further, no one wants your fucking shitty trains. Christ sake, you don’t want them. If you want to advocate better transit in Dunedin, the bus routes is what you’d be looking at since the majority are pretty crap in terms of frequency and different end points in routing.

  • SF Lauren

    I must say, those new trains look pretty cool. I quite like the boxy front.

    • Yeah they are but Auckland’s are going to be better!

      • SF Lauren

        I’m undecided at this stage. The Wellington ones are unique whereas the Auckland ones are box standard bubble wagons.

        • Much better lines by not having to have the escape door at the front, in my view. And I hope we have a better commissioning process than they had in WGTN too…

          • SF Lauren

            Although I can appreciate both designs, I actually quite like the lines imposed by the door. Most modern trains don’t have these which leaves most of them looking similar. This gives the Wellington trains an appearance of purpose and a more utilitarian feel which I sort of like.

  • Jeff H

    Hamilton Christchurch and Dunedin too. Would be good to see Mosgiel – Dunedin subbies return after +30 years.

    • Matthew Flower

      Especially given their popularity when they have those suburban train days in Dunedin with Taeri Gorge trains – it could certainly be a viable operation!

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