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.”
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.