KiwiRail unveils new vision for Dunedin's Hillside workshop

A new vision for Dunedin's Hillside railway workshop has been unveiled by KiwiRail.

It's bringing back the local assembly of its freight wagons, thanks to an $85 million Budget injection aimed at getting the Government's rail ambitions on track.

In the past, Hillside workshop has had a bumpy ride after being largely shut down in 2012 after KiwiRail switched to cheaper Chinese wagons.

But the Government now wants to bring the jobs back to South Dunedin.

"By assembling here, that gives us assurances around quality. That gives us a training pipeline so that we have those who are here assembling also part of the maintenance network," Prime Minister Jacinda Arden told Newshub. 

KiwiRail Group Executive Greg Miller told Newshub that 1500 new freight wagons will be assembled at the workshops for the domestic market.

"All over the country. So we have about 4500 wagons now.. 2500 of those need to be replaced," he said. 

A brand new facility will be built alongside a redeveloped mechanical workshop.

"This is about our transition to a low carbon economy. And rail is right at the centre of that," Finance Minister Grant Roberston said. 

The project will create 250 construction jobs, with KiwiRail taking on 45 new permanent staff to produce the wagons.

Former MP Clare Curran fought hard to save the workshops and is delighted.

"When Hillside was closed in 2012, it was like the heart of Dunedin's manufacturing was cut out. And I knew how important it was."

Veteran Gary Dalziel, 41, was one of just seven that survived when the plant was all but shut down.

"But to have that turn around to back when I first started where we're manufacturing the wagons again is absolutely fantastic," the KiwiRail mechanical engineer said. 

Colleague Chris Harkness was also impressed: "It's just great to know that we have a future. And we can keep moving forward."

The first wagons are due to roll off the assembly line in two years.