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Further Purchase Of "Dog And Lemon" Locomotives A Bad Business Decision By KiwiRail

The union representing rail workers says a decision by KiwiRail to buy further “DL” locomotives is throwing good money after bad.

KiwiRail has recently ordered 10 new diesel “DL” class locomotives from CRRC Dalian in China, on top of the 63 that have already been purchased since 2009.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) General Secretary Wayne Butson says the standard view of the on the ground workforce at KiwiRail was the locomotives were very poor performers.

That’s a view backed by KiwiRail's own figures from 2020, that showed none of the engines met KiwiRail's performance target of 80,000 kilometres Mean Distance Between Failure (MDBF) over the previous year.

The MDBF measures the average distance between failures that cause a delay of 15 minutes or more.

There has been a long history of problems with previous orders of this type of locomotive, including 40 that contained asbestos despite the manufacturers being told no asbestos was to be used, requiring a multi-million dollar fix.

The locomotives were so controversial they had been nicknamed “Dog and Lemon (DL)” by staff.

Mr Butson says at full power the DL locomotives burn almost twice as much diesel as the 1970 DX class for little additional horsepower gain.

He says the RMTU recommended KiwiRail wait until their new loco specifications had been completed before purchasing new locomotives.

Mr Butson says KiwiRail needs to be turned into a ‘public benefit entity’ to ensure better long term decision making.

As a state-owned enterprise, KiwiRail has an overriding commercial focus, and this generates a short-term management approach that undermines any long term strategy for rail as essential infrastructure, he says.

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