Government investment supports the acquisition of new Interislander ferries

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 28, 2020

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters has welcomed KiwiRail‘s announcement that it is seeking a preferred shipyard to build two new rail-enabled ferries for the Cook Strait crossing.

“This Government is committed to restoring rail to its rightful place in New Zealand. Bigger, better ships, with new technology are yet another step on that journey,” Peters said.

These will be the first new, purpose-built ferries New Zealand has had in more than 25 years.

“Of the current ships, only the Aratere is rail-enabled, and an unwillingness from previous governments to invest properly in New Zealand‘s rail infrastructure has meant the Aratere has had a number of costly technical and mechanical issues. 

“It is vital we act now to ensure our Main Trunk Line between the North and South Islands is resilient and well-provisioned for the future,” said Peters.

Interislander ferries carry 800,000 passengers and up to $14 billion of road and rail freight each year. The two new ferries will be able to carry twice as many passengers as the current three-ship fleet, as well as three times the number of rail wagons and almost double the number of trucks and other vehicles.

“The investment in ferries will also require new infrastructure and, alongside rail upgrades in Budget 2020, will form part of a modern, integrated transport system for New Zealand. 

“This will be a huge boost to New Zealand‘s civil engineering and construction sector, with hundreds of contractors, and their material suppliers needed nationwide for track renewal, and mechanical facility upgrades,” says Peters.

The funding for the land-side new terminal infrastructure, including rail and vehicle marshalling yards, will create hundreds of local construction jobs in Picton and Wellington, along with hundreds of service supply jobs right across New Zealand, with work expected to begin next year.

The $400 million towards the ferries and KiwiRail‘s land-side infrastructure builds on a $35 million investment in last year‘s Budget for ferry design and procurement work. It is part of the government‘s overall $4.6 billion-dollar investment in rail.