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Interislander signs up for a new era of Cook Strait ferries

The Interislander's two new ferries will be a game-changer for New Zealand, KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller says.

KiwiRail and Korean shipyard Hyundai Mipo Dockyard have now signed a binding contract for the delivery of two new, state-of-the-art, Cook Strait ferries.

The first will arrive in 2025 and the second in 2026. The contract price for the two ferries is USD$369 million (NZ$551m).

Greg says he was delighted to sign the contract for two new ferries with HMD after years of research and planning, a robust and lengthy procurement process, and productive technical and commercial negotiations with the shipyard over the last four months.

"KiwiRail has been working on the ferry upgrade project for years and signing this contract with Hyundai Mipo Dockyard is a momentous day for us at KiwiRail and our shipping operation, the Interislander. These new ferries will deliver something really special for our business and for New Zealand, our passengers, freight customers and our hard-working teams.

"The new ferries will ensure a safe and resilient rail and passenger service between the North and South Islands, which is a vital part of the economy and a key part of New Zealand's supply chain, transport and tourism infrastructure," he says.

Interislander operates around 3800 ferry services a year, transporting about 850,000 passengers, 250,000 cars and billions of dollars worth of freight, and with significant growth predicted.

"With an ageing fleet of ships coming to the end of their working lives, this replacement programme had become time critical, so it's great news that we are now able to move ahead with the next stage of design and the build of the two new ferries, and required port infrastructure," Greg says.

"The new ferries will deliver a major improvement in KiwiRail's performance in all areas, including contributing to a 40 per cent reduction in Interislander's carbon emissions immediately. They are also future-proofed through smart design to deliver more carbon reduction over time," he says.

The new ferries will offer more choice of onboard services including accommodation, entertainment and food and beverages for passengers and freight drivers.

The two, rail-enabled ferries, when running at full operating capacity, will be able to carry nearly double the number of passengers, and commercial and passenger vehicles when compared with the current fleet.

The rail freight capacity will triple. The only currently rail-enabled ferry Aratere can carry a maximum of 27, sixty-foot equivalent wagons per sailing. The two new rail-enabled ships will be able to carry 40, sixty-foot equivalent wagons per vessel on up to three return sailings each per day. That is a 300 per cent increase in capacity at peak.

Also forming part of the $1.45 billion ferry upgrade project, the terminal infrastructure at Kaiwharawhara in Wellington and Waitohi Picton will be improved to meet modern standards and to accommodate the new ferries when they arrive.

"We are progressing well with the designs for the terminal redevelopments in both Waitohi Picton and at Kaiwharawhara in Wellington.

This is a nationally important project which will require the ongoing support and partnership between central and local Government, KiwiRail and port operators Port Marlborough and CentrePort for its successful delivery."

"I want to acknowledge the Government and our Ministers in supporting KiwiRail in this deal which will secure the vital State Highway One and Main Trunk Railway link between the North and South Islands for future generations," Greg says.

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