Red Alert

National’s legacy; false economy #2

Posted by on July 22nd, 2012

Since the National Government came to power, 40 locomotives have been purchased by Kiwirail from Chinese company Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company with engines from MTU.

This follows the 500 Chinese built flat deck wagons which have all had to have brake pad replacements before being commissioned for service.

The Chinese DL locos are the first new diesel-electric locomotives to enter service on the New Zealand railway network in 30 years.

But consider this. Kiwirail measures the reliability of locomotives by measuring the mean distance between failures (in kilometres). A failure is commonly a derailment.

Loco class

FY2011/12 YTD

DC (1951)


DF (1979)


DX (1979)


DX (1972)


EF (1986 Electric)


DL (2011)


The DC class of locomotive was built by General Motors Canada and introduced to New Zealand between 1955 and 1967.

Twenty of the Chinese DL  locomotives were ordered in 2009 and delivered between 2010 and 2011, a further 20 units were ordered in 2011 for delivery in 2012.

Yet the 60 year old locos are four times more reliable than the 2 year old Chinese built locos. What does this tell us about their reliability and value for money? And Kiwirail’s decision-making., which has consistently been backed by the National Government.

*The figures above were dated April 2012. I have submitted an OIA to discover the latest MDBF for all classes of locomotives

13 Responses to “National’s legacy; false economy #2”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Well the CNR website lists this little jem about after sales service.

    Once quality problems occurred during the locomotive operation period, technical service will be provided as soon as possible. We will make reply within 48 hours after we received information from purchasers and offer repair service to maintenance section within 72 hours.

    72 hours ! (3 days ). Its grand of them to ‘reply’ within 48 hrs.

    Looks like the breakdown service is little short of appalling – and thats in China

  2. Jack Ramaka says:

    Cheap is not always best, i wonder what knowledge and experience the National Party advisors have about rail.

    Probably the same consultants that created the Leaky Building Crisis.

  3. lcmortensen says:

    The DLs will overtake the EFs in no time – in two years, the main reason for failures in the EFs will be recorded as “electrical supply problems due to National Govt asset sales”!

  4. yup, the old girl that hauls the Taieri Gorge train is still going strong.dont think the’d want one of those chinese ones!!

  5. Cameron Persson says:

    Instead of waisting time on the Dl loco’s we should be looking in to upgrading the Ef’s.At the mo we are putting new wiring and upgraded buffer’s in to a few of them but it’s everything else that goes with these things,our Dc’s,Dx and Dft loco’s also need attention.Oneday we will come to a holt and nothing will run.The more chinese shit the more people want to just give up.

  6. Martin says:

    I’m no apologist for “outsourcing”, whether it be a large corporation offloading jobs, or a country sending work overseas.

    But let’s have a little bit of engineering realism:

    Firstly, ALL new systems have teething problems, so it’s not scientific to compare the bedding-in performance of one product with the whole-of-life performance of another.

    Secondly, any really bad old locos won’t appear in the current stats because they’ll have been scrapped decades ago.

    A three-day response time is entirely appropriate when the customer is carrying “engineering spares”, which is quite a reasonable expectation given the scale of this purchase.

    And if I recall correctly, the most common causes of derailments aren’t faulty rolling stock but rather ballast wash-out, buckled tracks, malfunctioning points, fractured tracks, and improper speed control — although obviously having the rolling stock out of spec would make a derailment more likely in such circumstances.

    But the numbers do show a trend that aligns with a greater focus on cost-of-capital, and (presumably with higher finance rates) on repayment in shorter terms. Yes it’s possible to build a really great loco that hardly ever fails, but costs a lot up front which takes longer to recoup. It may well be fiscally more responsible, in the long term, to build something a lot cheaper but pay more in maintenance along the way.

    Or of course, it might not. It depends what the collateral costs are of any failures, and what’s assumed about cost-of-finance.

    Perhaps you could find those out Clare?

  7. Clare Curran says:

    “And if I recall correctly, the most common causes of derailments aren’t faulty rolling stock but rather ballast wash-out, buckled tracks, malfunctioning points, fractured tracks, and improper speed control — although obviously having the rolling stock out of spec would make a derailment more likely in such circumstances.”

    Martin, there’s a lot more to come on this. But firstly ask yourself how, given the above table is for the year 2011/12 these figures relate to all the classes of locos and the DLs clearly have the most failures.

  8. Rob S says:

    Half statistics bent to suit the rhetoric. It only gives a tiny bit of the picture. Without knowing the nature of the failure, how many individual stock items failed (is it the same one over and over or are ALL of them affected) this is pretty much meaningless.

    It is easy to say ‘my understanding is’ (as you do in the linked article about the brakes) but you may as well be saying ‘I’m talking out of my backside’.

  9. CdG says:

    While I tend to doubt the quality of newer mechanical products I don’t think these stats are usable. The older locomotives have had failures and most things that will fail actually fail most often in their first years of service. So it could be that the newer locomotives are just riding out this early failure phase like the older locomotives may have done and it will only be when we look at a similar life span that we can get a good idea of the comparable quality.

  10. Tracey says:

    trains mus be like appliances… deliberately built to break down so you have to replace them rather than repair after a few years… maybe the Chinese really ARE embracing capitalism!!!

  11. Clare Curran says:

    CdG the mean distance between failures is a key measure used in the rail industry to measure loco effectiveness.

  12. George says:

    The tradesmen who have to maintain the locos and rolling stock now have a job until some idiot reduces their pay and conditions and then more experienced tradesmen leave to Australia. I hope they get paid double time when they work long hours to save some politicians reputation.

  13. Karl Barkley says:

    I have some major concerns regarding Huge Job Losses in NZ !

    I have been doing some sums to see why Hillside couldn’t carry out the Building of these New Railway Wagons for Kiwi Rail .
    I read Kiwi Rails Web Site which tells us that the Number required is 3000 Wagons sounds like a Lot,
    but you read on further to see that Kiwi Rail wants them over 10 Years which makes it very easy for them to be Built in NZ ! 25% Dearer if made @ Hillside

    John Key was in Hollywood trying to create Jobs for New Zealanders . Where as John & his Team in “Wellywould” ? there be more Jobs & Business confidence in NZ by 2015 ? John Come Back to Hillside Workshops in Dunedin !
    Well if you read Kiwi Rail’s Web Site you will see they Need 3000 New Container Wagons & they are to be Built over 10 Years in China . Take 3000 New Wagons Divided by 10 years = 300 Wagons per year ! Then Divided 300 New Wagons by 40 Weeks = 7.5 Wagons per week . This is what Hillside Workshops could be doing Now ! Which would be keeping $37.5 Million NZD in NZ . Keeping More than 250 Kiwi Rail Workshop staff in a Job ( they should be able to do this as they are only Flat Deck Container Wagons) these would be built over 10 Years ! These Wagons will need Steel ( from Glenbrook )& other NZ Steel Suppliers , Paint from Local Manufactures , Hoses & Fittings , Bolts, Tools , Welding & Gas Cutting supplies, Grinding Disc’s , Transport firms Couriers etc (Pumping Millions Annually into Dunedin & NZ Economy ) !!!
    Then if Kiwi Rail wants them Built Sooner, then they could be Sub Contracting this work out to other NZ Engineering Firms creating More Jobs & Business confidence in NZ NOW !
    This will Pump $375 mil NZD into the NZ Economy. This is how you get the NZ Economy Pumping Spending Kiwi Dollars in Gods own Employing Kiwi’s & Training Apprentices over many Trades !

    Then I read Clare Currans article regarding the Major Faults which are appearing with the 20 New Chinese Built Locomotives which cost us $75 Million or $3.75 Mil per Loco Plus Kiwi Jobs .

    These Locomotives have only travelled an average of 95000km on Kiwi Rails Network so far !
    But have 7 Major Faults !

    #1 Control systems Failure: Software needed up grading
    #2 Bearing Failures : which have been replaced & are Failing again
    #3 Exciter Base Cracks : Which have been welded & are Cracking again
    #4 Axle Vibrations : Resulting in excessive brush wear on the Alternator end plates , Not eliminated yet
    #5 Engine- Alternator : Misalignment Problems costing $250000 per Loco to fix total $5Mil
    (this should never have been Happening as the Alternators are the Main Power source of these Locomotives) !

    No Warranty anymore from suppliers

    #6 Compressors : do these operate the Trains Total Breaks Loco & 2000 Tonne Train ( Replaced are they that poor a quality )

    #7 Cracks in Steel components : eg ; Silencers , Water pipes , Turbo Vent pipes

    ( is this steel made to AS/NZS Standards & are the welds being done to NZ’s high Standards )

    If these Locomotives are so poorly made then how good are the 500 New Wagons ? As they have come from the same Works in China !

    I think New Zealand should call a STOP to anymore of this order being finished 3000 More Wagons & another 14 Locomotives !

    If the Steel being used is not up to World Standard then Kiwi Rail Needs to send them all back to China or NZ will be repairing them all the Time, as they need to be made properly.

    The Wagons can be made here in NZ, NZ can also be building the Locomotives in NZ it would be a Big Job but NZ’s up to it .

    The Motor for the Loco’s are Made in Germany by MTU, NZ importer is Transdiesel & they advised Kiwi Rail on using them in these New DL Loco’s.
    The Alternators & Traction Motors could be Sourced from a Good Manufacture eg in Japan

    The rest of the Locomotive would be Built in NZ, keeping $75 Mil in NZ and creating 100’s of Jobs ,
    Plus there are the Wagons keeping another $300Mil in NZ Jobs !!!!

    Karl Barkley