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Watch: KiwiRail fronts select committee amidst rail rage and ferry fury

Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Thu, 15 Feb 2024, 1:33PM

Watch: KiwiRail fronts select committee amidst rail rage and ferry fury

Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Thu, 15 Feb 2024, 1:33PM

KiwiRail bosses are appearing before the Transport and Infrastructure Committee this morning where they are expected to face pressing questions about recent chaos on Auckland’s commuter train network and the future of Interislander’s Cook Strait ferries.

Trains across Auckland were cancelled this week due to the “heat” - causing significant disruption to rush-hour commuters and prompting Auckland Transport (AT) to lash out at KiwiRail.

AT’s director of public transport, Stacey van der Putten, said it was “enormously disappointing” the transport body had to cancel services because of speed restrictions put in place by KiwiRail on the network due to “hot tracks”.

“These speed restrictions would be unlikely to be needed today if the Auckland rail network was not vulnerable because of numerous known faults,” she said.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has already called AT, KiwiRail and Auckland One Rail into his office for a “bloody good bollocking” over the disruption.

Earlier this year in Wellington, all services in and out of the city were suspended and three trains, containing 129 passengers and six crew, were stuck between stations due to multiple power outages.

Commuters were disrupted further when KiwiRail had to undertake urgent inspections of the rail lines.

Meanwhile, KiwiRail announced yesterday it has officially started discussions to terminate a contract with a South Korean shipyard to build two new mega ferries for Cook Strait.

In December last year, the Government declined KiwiRail’s request for an extra $1.47 billion for the Inter-island Resilience Connection (iReX) after the project’s total cost escalated to almost $3b.

There are currently three ships in the Interislander fleet all of which are increasingly unreliable as they near the end of their working lives.

The Government has announced it will appoint a ministerial advisory group to provide independent advice and assurance to ministers on future options for the vital transport connection.

However, the future of the ferry service remains unclear.

Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee chairman Andy Foster said the committee generally chose to hear from larger organisations within its delegations and which had the most significant issues to consider.

“I don’t think anyone would be surprised that KiwiRail would be one of those organisations.”

KiwiRail is scheduled to face up to three hours of questioning for its annual review.

Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist.

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