New Zealand railway company, KiwiRail, has launched a RFP for two Interislander train ferries which will increase the capacity on Cook Strait transport link, between the North and South Islands.
The new ferries will have a capacity of 1,910 passengers, up to 42 rail wagons and 652 cars.
The new ferries will be 40-metre-long and at least 5 metres wider than the current vessels, to meet the expected freight and passenger growth over the next 30 years. The two ferries will be able to carry twice as many passengers as the current three ship fleet, 300% more rail wagons and almost double the number of trucks and other vehicles.
“It is exciting to issue this RFP, to move the project forward and to find a shipyard to partner with KiwiRail to deliver the ships to our specifications, quality and timeline requirements,” Group Chief Executive Greg Miller said.
The company has engaged a leading ships’ architect, to design the ferries, and is working with a world-renowned ship broker to progress the procurement process.
The NZD 400 million (USD 260.8 million) contribution in the 2020 budget allows KiwiRail to launch the international tender to build the new ships, which are intended to arrive for service in 2024 and 2025.
The two new technologically advanced ferries will have significantly lower emissions, a greater carrying capacity, including rail wagons, and provide an enhanced visitor experience, Miller explained.
The acquisition is part of iReX project which represents a transformational investment in critical infrastructure and the replacement of the existing three ship fleet with two large, rail-capable ships.
The project also involves new infrastructure including terminals, linkspans, and marshalling yards at Picton and Wellington ports.
Currently, Interislander operates a fleet of three ferries, moving 800,000 passengers and up to NZD 14 billion (USD 9.13 billion) worth of road and rail freight between the North and South Islands each year.
When the Interislander train ferries are delivered, it will be over 25 years since New Zealand last introduced a brand-new purpose-built ferry to its fleet.