Review of KiwiRail equipment failure welcomed by Greater Wellington

  • Published Date 01 Sep 2023
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A rapid review following the failure of KiwiRail equipment that almost brought Wellington passenger services to a standstill in May has been called eye-opening by Greater Wellington.

The independent review was prompted by the failure of KiwiRail’s EM80 track inspection unit - the only equipment in the North Island capable of certifying rail track safety.

Greater Wellington Chair Daran Ponter says the review into KiwiRail’s management of Auckland and Wellington rail networks is, “an eye-opening account of poor decision-making”.

“We support the findings and would gladly join the proposed passenger rail governance group to help deliver the overdue recommendations within the review,” Cr Ponter says.

The review recommends measures to strengthen the governance, safety and funding of passenger rail services.

It also calls for KiwiRail to improve its management of vital equipment, its communication with public transport authorities, and its focus on metropolitan rail and passengers as opposed to freight.

Thomas Nash, Chair of Greater Wellington’s Transport Committee, says the equipment failure and review are timely reminders of the resilience that needs to be built into Wellington’s rail network, along with the significant upgrades needed to increase capacity and frequency of passenger rail services.

“Current funding is not enough to deal with the range of resilience issues that KiwiRail needs to address in our region. These include fragilities like slope instability and assets at the end of their life.

We’ve asked KiwiRail to identify all potential critical points of failure on our rail network, and we believe an injection of cash will be necessary to manage these risks. This is especially important given our ambition to triple passenger rail capacity in our region over the next 30 years,” Cr Nash says.

The review also highlighted a culture of ‘decision-making being pushed up the chain of command’ at KiwiRail, ‘rather than problems being solved at the level they are created and observed’.

Metlink Group Manager Samantha Gain says as well as improving KiwiRail’s internal processes, the review will enhance its relationships with Metlink and rail operator Transdev.

“Important lessons have been learned from this episode. KiwiRail will be at pains to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again and that good communication and understanding of the impact on passengers is at the forefront of future decisions,” Ms Gain says.

“We continue to work closely and collaboratively with KiwiRail on a range of upgrades to the Wellington rail network through our Future Rail work programme. Passengers will benefit from the increased reliability and comfort that comes from station and platform upgrades and double tracking.”

The rapid review of ‘KiwiRail’s Handling of Recent Disruptions to Passenger Services’ can be found here.

For more information on planned upgrades to the Wellington rail network visit Future Rail.

Updated September 4, 2023 at 9:55 AM

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