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Record Coal Tonnage For Tranz Rail

2 May, 2002

Tranz Rail's April coal tonnage through the Southern Alps from the West Coast to the Port of Lyttleton was a new monthly record for the company.

Tranz Rail transported nearly 170,000 tonnes of coal through the difficult Alps terrain in April compared with over 150,000 tonnes in March. Total coal volumes in April were up almost 10% and service reliability exceeded 95% as 177 trains passed through the Alps.

Tranz Rail's Group General Manager Rail Services, Noel Coom said the record month in April represented a strong bounce back by Tranz Rail's staff responsible for the service following on from a difficult few months.

"We had some temporary service problems exacerbated by the fact we lost 28 trains from January to March to poor weather and the use of four locomotive engines from our South Island fleet following wash-outs that also occurred earlier in the year," said Mr Coom.

"The very difficult terrain - that includes some of the steepest rail gradients in the country - requires powerful locomotives. Two of those locos were damaged in a major washout in the Buller Gorge in January and we lost another two engines in the Rangitata River flood. The two West Coast locos are only now back in use and that created temporary additional pressures on our service as coal volumes picked up in the past couple of months.

"However with the assistance of new partner Alstom, who run our locomotive servicing, we now have the loco fleet back to full strength. In addition Transfield have worked very well to largely complete a $500,000 track improvements programme further enhancing network reliability and assisting Tranz Rail's ability to meet the schedule."

Mr Coom said that more improvements were scheduled on the line, including a $2.5 million programme to extend passing loops to cater for larger capacity trains and further heat de-stressing work on the track. An additional eight loco engineers, some with previous experience but others who required a full 11-month training programme, had been recruited for the route and they would also continue to improve Tranz Rail's service.

"Annualising last months tonnage would see us exceed 2 million tonnes of coal carried across the Alps in a year for the first time, a level of service consistent with meeting the growth expectations of our customers on the line.

"Given the further improvements being made to the line, the success of last month and our ongoing work, I am confident we will continue to match and exceed this level of service for customers."


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