Auckland metro trains on their way

Fifteen electric trains are on the way to New Zealand from Spain, where they were built by rail manufacturer Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) for the Auckland Metro system.

The ocean transportation provider delivering the trains, Höegh Autoliners, says that it was essential for the trains to receive heat treatment before leaving the port “to ensure that stink bugs are not carried to Australia and New Zealand”.

The trains were also stored under deck, ensuring they are protected from seawater and humidity.

The company’s head of sales in Spain, Iñaki Echeverria, also said that no crane lifting in either the load or discharge port was necessary. Due to the length of the trains, this would have been a delicate procedure, but the company’s custom-built rolltrailers are specially designed to enable rail cargo simply be rolled on and off the vessel, making the operation safer and more efficient.

Auckland’s mayor Phil Goff said that the “NZ$133 million investment in new electric trains will help to meet strong growing demand for fast, efficient and reliable public transport across the region.”

The 14 remaining trains will be delivered over the course of the next six months. Auckland Transport expects the remaining trains to reach the city by July next year and will start service in September.


Auckland smooths out kinks in metro network

Auckland’s metro network is being smoothed down by a rail grinder which will, ultimately, extend the lifespan of the track.

By removing irregularities from worn and corrugated tracks, rail grinders correct the shape of the track and bring significant benefits to maintenance operations, such as reducing track and wheel maintenance and prolonging rail track life.

“Over time the top of the rail track where the train wheels run develops stress points, defects and metal build up from the steel wheels travelling on the track. It’s a problem common to every rail network around the world that has to be managed,” KiwiRail’s executive general manager for operations Siva Sivapakkiam said.

“It’s a bit like driving a car with flat tyres. You still get there, but it uses a lot of fuel, doesn’t steer well and the ride quality is poor. In the same way, if the rail isn’t the correct shape it wears out more quickly than it should.”

As it moves along the tracks the rail grinder can sometimes create sparks from the grinding which, alongside the loud noise, can draw a lot of attention.

“It’s quite a sight when you see it in operation. Most people won’t have seen this type of thing on the rail line before and experience overseas is that some people see the sparks and think something is wrong with one of our trains. Rest assured, we’re working closely with local communities and authorities to keep everyone informed of what to expect,” Sivapakkiam said.

The machine carries water, however, and sprays the track as it passes to manage any potential fire risk.

The Auckland network has 198,000 commuter services each year and 246 freight trains running per week. This level of services makes it hard to schedule maintenance, including grinding.

The rail grinding work around the Auckland metro areas is scheduled for over the summer period. It will start on the Southern and Western lines in December, then travel along the Eastern line in the new year.

Due to the busy commuter service, KiwiRail will conduct the work at night when no commuter trains are running.

KiwiRail will carry out other maintenance and upgrade works over the holiday period to improve the condition and performance of the Auckland network.

KiwiRail boosts Auckland metro backup power following outage

KiwiRail has reconfigured the backup power supply for Auckland’s metro train signalling system after an outage on Wednesday morning led to significant train delays across the network.

The signal fault prevented trains in the region from moving for about 30 minutes (except for the Onehunga line, which was suspended for over two hours), leading to delays for more than 5000 commuters. It was the second signal outage in a week in Auckland, following on from a similar incident on Friday June 14.

The latest outage received criticism from Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who said on Twitter yesterday that “a second KiwiRail signal failure on Auckland’s network is not good enough”.

Goff said that he had sought assurance from KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller that the infrastructure was fit for purpose.

KiwiRail’s initial internal investigations have found that the second outage was caused by a contractor working on a nearby property who cut power to KiwiRail’s property instead of the building site he was supposed to be working on.

An independent external review will also be conducted to cover high-risk failure points. The company has boosted back-up power to the signalling system with batteries and generators to reduce the risk of future outages.

KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the system was still being repaired after last week’s failure, which meant the usual back-up systems were not operating normally.

“We have written to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to apologise,” Moyle explained. “We take our role as manager of the network very seriously and we understand how important reliability is for commuters.”