Wagons with rubber wheels possible on KiwiRail ferries
BUSINESSDESK: KiwiRail is considering using rail wagons with rubber wheels to move freight on and off its Cook Strait ferries so the state-owned company does not have to buy expensive ferries with rail decks in the future.
The ferry service is unusual in that rail wagons can be driven on the vessels and Mainfreight managing director Don Braid this week called for a continuation of rail-capable ferries for the movement of freight.
The leased Kaitaki ferry is not rail-capable but the Aratere and Arahura are.
"The problem is that rail-decked ships are becoming very rare and really expensive. You either have to refit ships or build them," KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn told BusinessDesk.
"An alternative is to bring the train into port and quickly move the load onto rubber-wheeled wagons and pull them onto the ship," he says. "It is a trailer effectively. There would probably be a chain on them."
He says the company has not made a call on the use of rubber-wheeled wagons, which would allow it to use standard roll-on roll-off ferries. New rail-based ships cost about $200 million and 10-year-old standard ferries cost a fraction of that.
The company will have to make a call on the future of the Kaitaki soon and decisions on the Arahura would also have to be made.
The "stretching" of the Aratere had run over budget and the project took time to settle once the ship got back, Mr Quinn told the annual meeting in Wellington.
"It is again the workhorse of our fleet and a vital part of ensuring the capacity for growth that the market needs and out improvement in on time performance."