A concept design for a sleek new Interislander ferry has been released by KiwiRail today.
The new generation of Cook Strait ferries is aimed at increasing capacity on the transport link as well as increasing its resilience.
A shipyard is now being sought to build two new Interislander ships.
“The new ships will strengthen and enhance the vital transport link between the North and South Islands and represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the Cook Strait crossing,” Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says.
There are currently three Interislander ferries in operation, servicing around 800,000 passengers a year.
KiwiRail says the $400 million contribution in Budget 2020 has enabled them to go out to international tender to build the new ships, which are intended to arrive for service in 2024 and 2025.
When the ferries are delivered, it will be over 25 years since New Zealand last introduced a brand-new purpose-built ferry to its fleet.
The $400 million towards the ferries and KiwiRail’s infrastructure at the ports in Wellington and Picton builds upon a $35 million-dollar investment in last year’s Budget for ferry design and procurement work.
"The two new ferries will be technologically advanced, have significantly lower emissions, a greater carrying capacity – including rail wagons - and provide an enhanced visitor experience," Mr Miller says.
“Only overseas shipyards have the ability to build ferries of the size and standard needed for the Cook Strait.
"However, the project also involves new infrastructure including terminals, linkspans, and marshalling yards which will create numerous Kiwi jobs in Picton and Wellington. Community engagement has already begun in Picton for the proposed new terminal there."