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Helen Clark

1 July, 2008

KiwiRail Launch

Speech notes for address at the launch of KiwiRail. Platform Nine, Wellington Railway Station

The colour scheme for the new KiwiRail locomotives
The colour scheme for the new KiwiRail locomotives

Today, 1 July, is a proud day for the railway system in New Zealand.

Our country’s rail and ferry services were today transferred into government ownership.

Shortly I will announce the name of the new rail company, and unveil its new logo and livery on the train beside us.

A century ago, on 7 August 1908, the first train left Wellington for Auckland via the main trunk line.

That line was built for strategic reasons, and it represented a great leap forward in passenger and freight transport.

A century later our government has bought back the rail business for strategic reasons.

In the 21st century, just as in 1908, our rail system needs major investment so that it can play a growing role in our transport system.

With growing worldwide awareness of climate change and the need for our country to be more sustainable, and with the price of a barrel of oil reaching an historic US$142, many nations are looking at rail as a central component of their economic infrastructure – and so must New Zealand.

A modern and well resourced rail system will lessen the carbon footprint of our transport network, and therefore of our whole economy.

The reasons are simple. Fuel efficiency for diesel-powered trains is four times better than using the road to carry the same load; and electric trains are ten times more fuel efficient.

One locomotive can pull the equivalent freight of 65 trucks.

The benefits of rail for moving passengers are equally compelling. A small move off road and onto rail reduces road congestion; allows business to move goods and services to the public more freely; reduces fuel consumption; and reduces the pressure to build more roads.

Our government has a vision for a transport system which is affordable, integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable.

We need all transport modes working together effectively and efficiently.

With our rail system back in public ownership we can make the strategic decisions and investments necessary for rail to play its full part in building a more sustainable New Zealand.

By 2040 total freight transport movements in this country are expected to more than double. We are looking to rail – and to coastal shipping which is also fuel efficient – to carry a lot of that extra load.

It should be acknowledged that Toll Holdings has made good progress in our rail system in recent years. But it also has become clear that our rail system cannot survive without substantial government subsidies into the future.

That, together with the need to develop a more sustainable and integrated transport system for our country, makes the case for public ownership compelling in the 21st century.

This is a strategic investment in New Zealand’s future.

A new establishment board will manage the services, pending determination of the final shape of the relationship between the new entity and OnTrack – the SOE which runs the railtrack.

The establishment board will be chaired by Rt Hon Jim Bolger. He will work with a board of experienced directors.

The logo for Kiwi Rail
The logo for Kiwi Rail

It is now my pleasure to reveal the name and the logo and livery of Zealand’s new rail company: KiwiRail!


  • Helen Clark
  • Prime Minister