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Kiwis from China

8/24/2017 | Words: Katrin Auernhammer | Pictures: Steven McElney


In 2010, KiwiRail proposed a 10-year plan designed to get the organization back on track as a profitable, sustainable and modern company. The plan involved introducing new locomotives and KiwiRail duly became the first company from a western country to place an order with the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation in China.

Freight trains weighing well over a thousand tons and extending for hundreds of meters are a common spectacle as they wind their way through New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery, passing magical beaches, spectacular views and luxuriant greenery.And at the head of each train, in the company’s characteristic yellow livery, is a locomotive belonging to the country’s national operator KiwiRail. For New Zealand, exports are a vital source of income and KiwiRail carries 25 per cent of them. Dairy, meat, timber, coal, steel, destined for markets throughout the world are all carried by KiwiRail who also connect the ports moving imported goods as well. The North Island of New Zealand has the majority of the population and the DL class locomotives manufactured by China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation play a key role moving domestic cargo as well as the import and export volumes. In 2016, around 100 million tons of freight were moved.


Delivering 2,700 kW, the MTU Type 20V 4000 R43 engines make these units the most powerful diesel locomotives in New Zealand.

Today, the new locomotives from Dalian in China operate throughout North Island. Powered by MTU engines from Germany, these Asiatic workhorses haul freight trains weighing thousand of ons to the major port facilities at Auckland and Tauranga near Mount Maunganui. So far, 48 of these DL-Class locomotives have gone into service and KiwiRail has placed orders for another 15 units with China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), the world’s biggest manufacturerof rolling stock. With their MTU
Series 4000 engines, each capable of delivering 2,700 kW (3,600 PS), they are the most powerful diesel locomotives operating in New Zealand.

KiwiRail’s new freight trains carry up to around 2,000 tons, replacing as many as 70 road haulage trucks.

With freight transport accounting for 56% of the company’s business activity, the Chinese freight locomotives are a significant factor in KiwiRail’s success. And with that in mind, dependable performance from the MTU Type 20V 4000 R43 diesel engines is vital. As well as meeting EU Stage IIIA emissions regulations, these highly reliable units achieve outstanding levels of power density.

Every CRRC locomotive bears the abbreviation ‘DL’. The D stands for the city of origin (Dalian), the L stands for locomotive.

KiwiRail began its rail modernization project in 2010 with twenty locomotives. Named for their city of origin in China (Dalian), DL-Class units have the task of taking freight transport to new levels of achievement. They are the first newbuild locomotives to be purchased by New Zealand since 1979 and were the first Chinese locomotives ever to be exported to a western country. KiwiRail gave the very first of these locomotives the number 9008. The number 9 stands for longevity and the 8 stands for success.
Between the inception of the project and June 2017, KiwiRail has placed orders with CRRC in Dalian for a total of 63 locomotives powered by MTU engines in order to expand the rail network serviced by DL-Class vehicles that now reliably haul loads covering everything from timber to milk and other foodstuffs.

Being sustainable and successful with freight transport is not a contradiction for KiwiRail: The KiwiRail DL locomotives are fuelefficient and meet stringent EU-standards for emissions.

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