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No decision yet on electric trains

One of Metlink’s electric trains, made by South Korean company Hyundai. However, this one requires electrified wires; battery-electric locomotives do not. PHOTO/FILE

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Greater Wellington Regional Council could be bringing electric trains to Wairarapa by 2025, a new document has made public, at a potential cost of $346 million – although a decision was yet to be made.

In their Climate Committee meeting late last month, the council was presented with a document titled, ‘Carbon Reduction Pathways and the Long Term Plan’, which demonstrated how to achieve their goal of being “carbon positive” by 2034.

It was authored by climate change adviser Jake Roos and programme lead climate change Andrea Brandon.

To be carbon positive, it would mean the regional council was withdrawing [sequestering] carbon from the atmosphere at a higher rate than it was putting it in.

“The target is that Greater Wellington is carbon positive from 2034/35 onwards,” the meeting agenda said.

To achieve this, analysis was carried out as to what could be done to change the carbon-producing parts of the regional council, such as the Wairarapa Line [Metlink’s only diesel locomotive rail service].

The authors presented three scenarios, with cost estimates, for both bus and rail, and showed how these would lessen carbon emissions.

For buses, these scenarios were labelled B0 [Bus 0], B1, and B2, with B2 being the most extreme carbon reduction, and B0 being more or less a continuation of normal procedure.

Analysis of the possible scenarios showed that, for buses, only the most ambitious scenario presented was consistent with being carbon positive by 2034.

This would mean a commitment to all buses being replaced with electric, with spare buses remaining diesel, representing an additional cost of $160m.

On the Wairarapa Line, the R0 option [Rail 0] presented to council was simply to increase the number of diesel units from 2025, as per population growth in the region – this would incur no additional cost to the council, but would also mean they would fail to meet their positive carbon target.

The R1 option would be to have dual mode diesel-electric hybrid trains from 2025, at an additional cost of $34m. The R2 option [most carbon reduction] would be to have battery-electric trains from 2025, at an additional cost of $346m.

These would be units that were charged up, like an electric car, running under their own onboard power, until their batteries required recharging.

Roos and Brandon said that “the impact of the carbon reduction pathway options will have to be considered in the context of Greater Wellington’s overall budget, the impact on rates, and affordability for the community.

“Greater certainty of the level of funding assistance available through Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and central government will be sought over the coming months.”

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