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New lease on life for popular wagon class
The hardworking ZH wagons, hugely popular with customers, are to be given a new lease of life that will see them remain a critical part of KiwiRail's domestic rail freight business for many more years.
A prototype curtain-sided version of the box wagon has been developed and successfully trialled and work is already underway to progressively convert the 191 wagons in the fleet over the next three years, says Freight General Manager Iain Hill.
"These are our best performing domestic freight wagons because of their wide decks, but they've have always had an Achilles heel in the design of their fibre- glass doors which are easily damaged.
"That has meant a significant number of these wagons are out of service at any one time, sometimes for lengthy periods.
The curtain sides makes them more robust and user friendly - the set up is the same as used on truck so will be familiar to users - and should mean fewer out of action at any one time.
KiwiRail's Hutt Workshops team is already at work converting 40 ZHs currently out of action because of damage, with the aim of having them in use by Christmas. The wagons will be given a full mechanical overhaul at the same time, which should see them remain a valuable asset for another 10 to 15 years. They will be known as ZHC wagons.
The ZH class wagon was developed in the mid-1990s using the underframes of the obsolete ZA class box wagons. Their wide deck will take two pallets side by side, which means freight forwarders can maximise the loading of each wagon.
"That ability to take the heavy load together with our improving performance gives us a real competitive edge over road, and we are already seeing the beginnings of this in terms of growth in this area of the market."