Monday, 20 March 2017

My thoughts on: EF class withdrawl

Photo: Cody Coper (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

This is a tricky one for me. On one hand I can see why they did it and it makes sense. But on the other it is a backwards step.

I qoute from Lloyd Burr: "The state-owned rail company has chosen Chinese-built diesel engines to replace its antiquated EF locomotives which have run between Hamilton and Palmerston North since 1988."

30 year old locomotives should not be in the state that they are in. Hell, even the EM/ET class "Ganz Mavag" EMU's which entered service between 1982-83 are still in reasonable condition.
Although with that said, the EM class and EF Class are very different animals.

The reason behind the reduced lifespan of these locomotives surely would have to have been the privatisation that happened with the sale of New Zealand Rail in the 90's. Tranz Rail has put off maintenance of the entire network and the quality of the locomotives, rolling stock, stations and track had degraded to such a low level that even today Kiwirail is still spending lots in order to bring the network back into shape.

It's never a good sign that Tranz Rail was nominated and took out not one, not two, but THREE Roger Awards For The Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in New Zealand.

I quote from the Roger awards of 2000 and 2002 (F.Y.I. Tranz Rail was nominated and took out the awards in 1997, 2000 and 2002)



"Tranz Rail is currently engaged in a plan to reduce its services and workforce through asset stripping, and confining its operations to creaming off the few freight, intercity and ferry lines that can make large profits."

"Tranz Rail’s claim that “safety of staff, customers and the public is the Company’s top priority” is further compromised by its minimal expenditure on track maintenance, signaling and safety barriers at crossings."


"Tranz Rail's lack of concern for the environment when profit and competition is involved was another factor in its selection, exemplified by the attempt to obtain speed limit exemptions for fast ferries with little concern for the im pacts on the environment."

"The company is now seeking to invest in only those activities that will generate “quick paybacks” (Annual Report 2000). The most important of these ‘non-core’ businesses is “passenger rail markets, which will be put on the market for sale”."

"The record in 2002 is no improvement on past behaviour. Disregard of the health and safety of passengers and the few workers who have not been downsized out of the company is an ongoing scandal. Another 350 jobs were cut in 2002, with contracting out of track maintenance together with past welding mistakes resulting in the heat-related chaos on the Wellington commuter system early in 2003. Heat buckled lines and derailments the previous summer caused the Land Transport Safety Authority to commission the Halliburton KBR report which found that passenger lives had been endangered by these decisions. LTSA ordered Tranz Rail to rehire 92 sacked staff and slow passenger trains to 40 kmh.:"

This decision comes to very little suprise to me due to the lack of care they have received over the years.

Now the eco-friendly side of me kicks in:

Diesel is not the future; we all know this. Sure, modern diesel-electric trains are more efficient than ever before but it's still dying.

Electric trains are quiet, fast and environmentally friendly (provided the electricity used is not generated by non-renewable methods.

The 30 year old EF Class locomotives are still more powerful than the 2010 DL Class. The EF's max power output is 3000 kW's, or 4000hp. The DL class; which are the the most powerful diesel-electric locomotives in New Zealand pump out only 2700kW or 3600hp.

I quote from the EF Class wikipedia page:

"The 2,050-kilowatt (2,750 hp) DX class diesel-electric locomotives, then the mainstay of the NIMT and only recently introduced themselves, could handle 720-tonne freight trains on the section, but could only average 27 kilometres per hour (17 mph) when climbing the 1 in 52 gradient of the Raurimu Spiral. A more powerful locomotive however, in this case an electric locomotive, could haul a 900-tonne freight train up the same section of track at a speed of 45 kilometres per hour."

Sure the DL class could make it up the Raurimu spiral, but the EF class would be more efficient at doing so.



With the eco-friendly side of me finished, I quote from stuff's "Kiwirail to dump electric trains and replace with diesel on North Island main trunk line" article:

"Reidy said KiwiRail was essentially running "a railway within a railway" by having the electric section.

"Imagine having to change planes at Hamilton and again at Palmerston North, just to fly from Auckland to Wellington. That's not efficient, it's more costly and ultimately delivers a less reliable service.

"The doubling up of service facilities, inventory, training and maintenance required with two separate systems on the line adds to the inefficiencies and unreliability," he said.

The trains were breaking down on average every 30,000 kilometres, he said. It was well below the target of every 50,000km."




Changing trains  at Hamilton and Palmy I will get to later, but if the trains are actually failing every 30,000 km's, then that is shockingly bad. If your car broke down every 30,000kms you wouldn't be too happy. And KR have teams of engineers looking after their locomotives and rolling stock!

Back to changing locomotives. Currently it's Diesel from Wellington to Palmerston Nth, Electric from Palmerston Nth to Hamilton, then Diesel from Hamilton to Auckland.

After doing some research, I have found out that both the electrified section of the NIMT and the Auckland Section both run on 25kv AC. Wellington's network uses 1600v DC for their surburban trains (the voltage was upped from 1500v DC to allow the FP/FP Class "Matangi" EMU's to run longer units). The un-electrified sections of track are between Papakura and Hamilton, and between Waikanae and Palmerston North.

Canadian company Bombardier produces the "Traxx" line of locomotives. One of which is the Traxx MS Electric locomotive. This locomotive can run on both the 25kv AC used on the NIMT and Auckland section and the 1500VDC used in Wellington. These locomotives are more powerful than even the EF Class, coming in at 5600kw (around 7000hp according to google).

All that is left to do is fill in the gaps between Hamilton to Papakura and Palmerston Nth to Waikanae
.
But KiwiRail says that it would cost too much to do that and it would cost even more to "upgrade" (I would rather use the word "future-proof") the current setup.

In my opinion, KiwiRail should electrify the entire NIMT, but right now they are stuck on a hole:
Low Money > Can't fix/improve anything > Low usage of rail > Low Money etc etc.

Hopefully one day we can see the electrification of the entire NIMT. But I think that day may be quite far away though, as the Govt doesn't seem interested in rail at all.

[Update]: The new government has been rather quiet since they have came in to power in regards to KiwiRail's 'dirty diesel' decision, but hey, they haven't been in that long have they...

Just watch this space...