The four projects shaping Australia and New Zealand

Four “nation shaping” projects are contributing to Australia and New Zealand’s substantial infrastructure pipeline. Their project directors gave overall updates on these major transport projects at AusRAIL PLUS 2019.

CROSS RIVER RAIL

While Queensland has enjoyed significant population growth in recent years, nearly 90 per cent of that growth has occurred within South East Queensland (SEQ). This region is expected to further increase its population by around 1.5 million over the next twenty years.

Cross River Rail will address a major bottleneck within this region. As such, it is Queensland’s highest priority infrastructure investment and the government has allocated $5.4 billion towards the project.

Currently, there is only one inner-city crossing over the Brisbane river and just four inner-city stations. Cross River Rail will unlock the bottleneck by providing a second river crossing, therefore doubling the capacity of the network and allowing more trains to run more often, as well as integrating with roads and bus services to enable a turn-up- and-go public transport system across the whole of SEQ.

The project incorporates a 10km rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, which includes 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and the CBD, with four new underground stations. A new European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling system is also being delivered to improve safety and assist in managing capacity constraints in the network. Numerous station upgrades between the Gold Coast and Brisbane and three new stations at the Gold Coast end the network are also planned.

Cross River Rail Authority’s program director David Lynch says early works have now been officially completed, though these are relatively small in the overall scheme and context of the project.

“Our procurement processes are essentially complete as of the end of October, and construction is now underway across all three packages, with four to five years of construction and commissioning ahead,” Lynch said.

“All major work sites have now been handed over to the contractors.”

The mammoth project will be delivered under three major infrastructure
packages of work: the Tunnel, Stations and Development (TSD) public-private partnership (PPP); the Rail, Integration and Systems (RIS) alliance; and the European Train Control System (ETCS).

The TSD PPP will deliver the underground section of the project, including the tunnel from Dutton Park to Normanby and the construction of four new underground stations. It includes the associated mechanical, electrical and safety systems, such as vertical transportation for passengers at underground stations, above and underground track work, tunnel portals and dive structures, traction power systems and rail operation and control infrastructure. The package also includes a property development opportunity above Albert Street station.

It will be delivered by the PULSE consortium.

The RIS “UNITY Alliance” will deliver the design, supply and installation of the supporting rail system, including rail civil and electrical works, rail operation systems and controls, as well as rail signalling and communications work. The alliance will also deliver accessibility upgrades to six suburban stations. The alliance will be responsible for the integration of Cross River Rail into Queensland Rail’s train network.

The ETCS signalling system will be introduced to enable increased capacity
on the network. It will be rolled out over several stages starting with a pilot program on the Shorncliffe Line in 2022 with early works commencing in late 2019. As part of these early works, trains and tracks will be fitted out with ETCS equipment which sends continuous data about the position, direction and speed of trains and enables the system to calculate a safe maximum running speed for each train. The ETCS will be delivered by Hitachi Rail STS.

Cross River Rail is being delivered with the help of Project DNA, the CRRA’s Project Digital Network Approach.

“It is a complete digital twin of the Cross River Rail project. Now, we are currently working in the space of 3D and 4D, but developing additional dimensions as we move forward.”

Lynch explains how the digital twin was developed, “where previously we built separate systems and models, here we’re using a common data environment.”

“Essentially, it is one model with multiple applications to be used by multiple
teams, so whether in the space of project delivery, program controls, communications and engagement or future precinct and planning and delivery, we’re using the one integrated model.”

The model is built in three layers according to Lynch, the first being the Building Information Modeling (BIM) at the core of the model.

“The second layer gives us geographic information system (GIS) mapping, which enables us to move from the 2D into the 3D environment, while the third layer uses the unreal gaming engine to provide an interactive and virtual reality experience.”

The collaborative approach enabled by Project DNA helps in the design, construction, management and operation of the assets built, says Lynch. It will also improve the on- time and on-budget delivery of the project.

The first stage of demolition for the Cross River Rail has commenced and Cross River Rail is now well into the delivery phase. An 85-metre tower crane will be used to bring down three buildings at the Brisbane Transit Centre site. Each building will be demolished level by level, which will take up to a year.

METRONET

A historic lack of investment into public transport resulted in the significant sprawl of Western Australia’s capital city, particularly north-south along the coast. This is why the Metronet initiative, the single largest investment in Perth’s public transport, is about unlocking the latent capacity within the existing network, according to executive director of Infrastructure, Planning and Land Services Owen Thomas.

Thomas says that, ultimately, the initiative will close to triple the capacity of the existing network through targeted investments, including a high capacity signalling system and more trains.

Metronet is the state government’s long- term plan, equally focused on transport infrastructure as on land use outcomes, which will see new communities created as a result of investment. The underpinning target is a 45 per cent increase in dwellings near high frequency transport infrastructure by 2031. As part of delivering against that, the state’s Department of Communities, which largely delivers social housing, is targeting their investment program around specific Metronet sites as part of a social and affordable housing package.

Fundamentally, the initiative involves the creation of 72km of new railway, up to 18 new stations, the removal of eight level crossings, the replacement of the ageing A series rail car fleet and acquisition of an expanded fleet of 246 new C-series railcars, and the optimisation of nearly 5000 hectares of land.

According to Thomas, the most significant and challenging aspect of the project is the implementation of the communications- based train control (CBTC) across the network.

The final business case for the system is currently under consideration. According to Thomas, once it is rolled out, the signalling system will enable more frequent services, every 4 minutes in peak.

Through early works, Thomas says that his transport infrastructure team, working in conjunction with the station precincts development team, have found that it will take $20-$25 million for other enabling infrastructure, such as utilities, to be delivered at the stations.

“We’ll likely see the rail infrastructure delivered within four to five years from the project commencement, but regarding the longer-term outcomes, we will not see many of the station precinct developments on site until up to 15 to 30 years away. So, one of the key challenges is how to incrementally stage those outcomes so that you get the long-term benefits you want but don’t have a sterile station environment from day one.”

In late December, “NEWest Alliance” was awarded a major Metronet contract
for $1.25bn, to deliver the Yanchep Rail Extension and the Thornlie-Cockburn Link. The consortium comprises CPB Contractors and Downer, who will start construction work in mid-2020.

The project will add 17.5 kilometres of rail to connect the Armadale and Mandurah lines through existing stations at Thornlie and Cockburn Central. The new link will include two new stations at Ranford Road and Nicholson Road.

The Thornlie-Cockburn Link will be the first east-west connection between rail lines on the Perth network. It will involve replacing a pedestrian level crossing with a footbridge, duplicating the Canning River Rail Bridge, and modifying the Ranford Road Bridge.

The Yanchep Rail Extension will deliver the last proposed section of the Joondalup Line, from Butler to Yanchep, along a 14.5km route. It will public transport journey times by at least 30 minutes to and from the city.

It’s estimated that by 2031, the Thornlie- Cockburn Link and Yanchep Rail Extensions will serve a population catchment of 400,000 people.

Downer EDI was named as the preferred proponent to build the major rail components at one of Metronet’s level crossing removal projects, at Denny Avenue.

This level crossing removal will be delivered through two design and construction contracts and will include raising more than 800 metres of track and associated infrastructure to enable a new road underpass.

Early works on the project began in 2019 with geotechnical testing, demolition of buildings and removal of a number of Railway Avenue trees. Utility relocation will start in early 2020.

Also in late December, Jacobs was named the preferred proponent to create the business case for the removal of the other six level crossings on the Armadale Line. Preliminary planning identified the potential for more crossings to be included in the project scope.

“[2020] is shaping up to be a defining year for Metronet construction. Perth will have six Metronet projects under construction at once, creating thousands of local jobs and opportunities for local business,” said premier Mark McGowan.

The other major Metronet contract, to deliver the main works for the Morley- Ellenbrook Line, will not be announced until late 2020.

The Morley-Ellenbrook Line will connect the north-eastern suburbs to the broader rail network and is the signature Metronet project. It will include 21km of rail, new stations, two underpasses to allow the rail line to enter and exit the Tonkin Highway median, associated infrastructure to connect to the existing line, road and bridge reconfiguration works and integration across other projects.

Due to the complexity of the Morley- Ellenbrook Line project, the works are divided into four packages, including the Bayswater Station Upgrade (to be awarded in early 2020), the Tonkin Gap project (civil and structural works to allow access in and out of the Tonkin Highway, to be awarded in mid-2020), the forward works and the main works.

The forward works will be delivered under a series of standalone contracts, managed by the PTA and will include geotechnical field investigations, survey works, and the relocation and protection of the in-ground and overhead services of both the PTA and third-party assets.

Main works will be delivered through a competitive alliance contract. It will include the design, construction and commissioning of rail track, systems and five stations. This will include bulk earthworks and retaining, structures, grade separations, roads and drainage.

CITY RAIL LINK

From transferring 14, 000-tonne historic buildings to new foundations to avoiding volcanic lava flows, the Auckland City Rail Link (CRL) project has been one of the more challenging transport infrastructure projects in the Australian/New Zealand pipeline.

Similar to other jurisdictions however, Auckland has had a significant population increase. Since 2010, Auckland’s population has risen by 50 per cent.

“We were at a stage where the road network was unable to cope,” City Rail Link’s CEO, Dr. Sean Sweeney, said.

When a new station was built in 2003, it took until 2014 for the line to be electrified and new rollingstock provided. This resulted in the doubling of patronage numbers.

“That passenger growth has continued ever since and City Rail Link has an ever-increasing need for public transport.”

Construction towards the $4.4bn project officially commenced in 2018 with preliminary works ongoing since 2016. Its scope consists of the construction of twin 3.5 km long double-track rail tunnels underneath Auckland’s city centre, between Britomart Transport Centre and Mount Eden Railway Station.

Two new underground stations will be constructed at Aotea and Karangahape. Britomart will be converted from a terminus station into a through station and Mount Eden Station will be completely rebuilt with four platforms to serve as an interchange between the new CRL line and the existing Western Line. Wider network improvements are also part of the project.

It is slated for completion by 2024.

“Similar to Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve got some form of a loop. The Western line and the Southern line converge at one railway station with the Eastern line, so all of Auckland’s rail traffic goes into the Britomart station and then basically stops there so that the trains get backed up, full or not,” Sweeney said.

“Essentially, what City Rail Link is seeking to do is make Britomart a through station and extend the line back up to the rail network so you can run trains in both directions. Then, by enabling longer, nine car trains, with longer platforms, we can triple the capacity of the rail network.”

This means increasing capacity from 14,000 pph to 54,000 pph into the CBD, allowing for a train every ten minutes in peak.

“By our calculations that’s the equivalent of 16 lanes of traffic into the city centre in peak,” Sweeney said.

This will double the number of people within 30 minutes of NZ’s biggest employment hub, bringing with it significant commercial and residential opportunities around stations.

Though early works commenced in 2016, Sweeney explains that about 10 years ago a forward-thinking Auckland mayor decided to start the project without funding from central government.

“This project had quite an unusual start. The mayor realised that to make Britomart a through station someone had to start building tunnels underneath the city, so Auckland council went out and started construction without central government support which was a very brave thing to do.

“They managed it with a whole range of contracts and multiple contracting types, which made it a little bit confusing but it was what they had to do to get going, and it’s gotten off with different forms of construction, bored tunnels, cut and cover tunnels, etc. There’s a really complex grade separation into existing railway lines.”

One of the challenges for the project is that Auckland is built on volcanoes “some of which erupted as recently as 800 years ago, which is very recent geologically”.

“So, to try and avoid some of the recent lava flows we built an incredibly complex geological model. We used the information that was available to us to plot the safest route. We used this model to locate the top striations, so to avoid some of the most recent lava flows. That was a very complex investigation and we have made that model available to the bidders.”

Another challenge is the current size of the infrastructure pipeline across a number of sectors in Australia and New Zealand.

Over an eighteen-month period, Sweeney tracked the pipeline from $80bn in September 2017 to more than double that in August 2018, and then $220bn in February 2019.

“I’ve never encountered this extent of growth and the way that this complicates what we have to do and the effect it has on our market is a real stretch. Certainly, historically New Zealand has built very little in 20 years and so, even getting major international contractors to take us seriously and come and bid for us was a big piece of work.”

However, early works are now “pretty much completed” according to Sweeney.

Moving forward, the agency has wrapped up the outstanding works – including the remaining tunnels, stations and rail systems infrastructure, as well as the related wider network and tracks – into one contract, Contract 3, to be delivered by a “Grand Alliance”.

The alliance consists of: Downer, AECOM, Tonkin + Taylor, WSP Opus, Soletanche Bachy, and Vinci Construction.

In October 2019, the demolition of thirty empty buildings demolished near the Mt Eden railway station began. This will ensure space for the construction of the southern portal for the City Rail Link’s twin tunnels. The cleared site will be used as a staging area for a Tunnel Boring Machine and other machinery.

The first phase of this demolition is due to be completed in March 2020 , and is being managed by the alliance.

MELBOURNE METRO

During January, works towards Melbourne’s metro tunnel ramped up with crews working throughout the month to excavate the final section of the tunnel’s entrance and make room for the new track which will connect existing lines to the tunnel.

The crews will complete major concreting works at the tunnel entrance, pouring the final sections of the tunnel roof slab and installing the tunnel support structures.

“It’s now two years since we signed the contract and we’re well up and running at seven construction sites along the alignment,” Tunnel and Stations package director at Rail Projects Victoria, Linda Cantan, said.

As package director Cantan has overseen the procurement and contract negotiation for the $6bn package to build five new underground stations as well as the tunnel itself. She is responsible for managing the contract throughout construction.

A number of companies are building the tunnel, and construction is split across several work packages.

Early works to relocate services and prepare the construction sites were delivered by John Holland KBR. New tunnels and stations are being built through a Public Private Partnership, named the Cross Yarra Partnership consortium which includes: Lendlease Engineering, John Holland, Bouygues Construction and Capella Capital. Yarra Trams will deliver tram infrastructure works.

Rail systems including signalling and systems integration work will be provided
by CPB Contractors and Bombardier Transportation, while a consortium comprising John Holland, CPB Contractors and AECOM will deliver rail infrastructure works including the tunnel portals and realignment of existing rail lines.

The project is projected to be complete by 2025.

“We’re creating is a dedicated rail line between Sunbury and Dandenong. People ask why a dedicated rail line, by taking capacity out of the city loop we free up extensive capacity through the rest of the rail network.”

The Melbourne Metro Rail Project includes twin nine-kilometre rail tunnels between South Kensington and South Yarra and five new underground stations.

The project will take three of the busiest train lines (Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury lines) through a new tunnel under the city and thus free up space in the city loop to run more trains in and out of the suburbs.

“We have 4 tunnel boring machines doing our tunnelling, which were launched from our two logistics sites at North Melbourne and Anzac Station. Meg and Joan are travelling out to the west at the moment.

“Joan has travelled 470 metres out of north Melbourne, and we’ve had to negotiate the city link viaduct under the Mooney Creek. Meg has gone about 137 metres. We’re also travelling along all of the rail network, so extensive work is needed to make sure we’re doing that in a safe way. To date progress has been very good and in fact the grand settlement has been better than predicted.

“On the eastern side of the alignment, we have Millie and Alice who will launch early next year. They’ve been delivered to Domain, beside Anzac station, and will launch in the first half of 2020. They will be heading out to the eastern portal, then be retrieved and brought back to be relaunched and head towards the city.”

“We’re in quite a narrow corridor and have retaining walls to build to ensure that there’s no settlement of the existing tracks, but we’re working in a very tight environment to create those exits and entrances to the tunnel structures. The PPP is constructing a shaft in that area for the TBM retrieval early in 2020.”

“We’re developing these stations for ten car, high capacity metro trains, which will be procured under a separate PPP. As such our construction boxes are about 250 metres long and the width, depending on the station, about 25 to 30 metres,” Cantan explains.

The Eastern tunnel entrance stops beyond South Yarra station as there is not enough room in the corridor.

“What we’re trying to do here is to put another two train lines in a very congested corridor, where we have multiple train lines coming in from the South East.

“This is another area where we have our Rail Infrastructure Alliance working alongside the PPP. The PPP can build their shaft, that will be used for the extraction of the TBM, right next to where the Rail Infrastructure Alliance are doing the cut and cover structure.”

“We’re now underground in a lot of locations so I keep saying to people: be patient with us because we don’t open till 2025, but we’re now underground, tunnelling, excavating and starting the build out of our stations,” Cantan concludes.

KiwiRail chief executive calls on NZ government to boost the “rundown” network

Greg Miller, KiwiRail Group chief executive said there is far greater demand for rail services than the group is able to supply.

In his address to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee on the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill on February 20, Miller explained why 92 per cent of freight in New Zealand does not travel by rail.

“The reason is simple. Our rail lines and our freight systems are so run down that it has taken a huge level of commitment from both the Government and from our team to start moving the company into a position where it can return to profit,” he said to the committee.

The NZ Ministry of Transport stated that the objective of the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill is to implement a new planning and funding framework for the heavy rail track network owned by KiwiRail. 

Miller said the draft New Zealand Rail Plan plays an important role in KiwiRail’s turnaround plan.

“The draft NZ Rail Plan lays out a pathway for sustainable planning and funding that will allow rail to play the important role it should in the country’s transport system,” Miller said.

Miller said the group has failed to meet demand into growth due to historic short term decisions that have seen cost cutting resulting in lack of drivers, locomotives, wagons and fully usable track.

“We have had no capacity for market reclamation,” he said.

Miller said to the committee that KiwiRail’s strategy to return to profitability and deliver a good return to our shareholders is threefold. We aim to run more services, get the equipment we need to be able to grow capacity, and put in place the technology that will enable us to track freight, profit, and loss centres.

Miller also addressed road sector concerns, telling the committee the draft New Zealand Rail Plan is a way to return rail to complement road. 

“Freight moved by rail results in 66 per cent lower carbon emissions than freight moved by road. Rail freight is not just efficient long distance. Every one of our customers has a lens on the environmental impact and incorporates these benefits into every rail decision made,” he said.

“With increasing freight volumes, growing road congestion and maintenance costs and the need to meet emission reduction targets, rail is a critical part of our transport system.”

This follows Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Transport Committee agreement to reduce transport-generated regional carbon emissions and invest more funding for regional rail on February 20.

Roger Blakeley, transport committee chair said the committee agreed to strategic priorities for the 2019-22 triennium.

One of the key performance measures for these targets is the contribution to a 30 per cent reduction in regional transport-generated carbon emissions by 2030.

“Contributing to the regional target of a 40 per cent increase in regional mode share from public transport and active modes, [rail] will be the major contributor to a reduction in carbon emissions,” Blakeley said.

On Tuesday KiwiRail welcomed the NZ government decision to use the Provincial Growth Fund to invest $9.6 million in the Kawerau Container Terminal (KCT).

Miller said KiwiRail’s role will be to build the new rail siding and to run week-day train services beginning in 2021 between Kawerau and Port of Tauranga.

“The siding opens the way for containerised exports to travel directly to Port Tauranga from Kawerau,” he said.

 “Export containers from Norske Skog, Sequal Lumber, and Waiu Dairy will underpin the new train service as well as creating capacity for other exporters in the region.

“This is part of road and rail working together in a much more integrated way, improving efficiency and saving costs.”

The project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

Signalling system repaired following electrical fire

The Auckland Metro network has resumed normal operations following an electrical fire last Monday morning.

Todd Moyle, KiwiRail Group chief operating officer, said repairs have been made to the Auckland signalling system.

Just after 5am last Monday morning, an electrical fire in a signal cabinet damaged passenger train signalling to the south of Newmarket.

KiwiRail staff and contractors worked to replace the electronic equipment damaged in the signal box fire throughout the week.

“The repair was a lengthy process that involved cleaning the smoke-affected site, replacing the damaged components and a comprehensive commissioning process that involved extensive testing to ensure safety,” Moyle said.

“KiwiRail staff and contractors worked around the clock to fix the damage.”

The final work and testing was completed overnight on Wednesday and operations were returned to normal in time for the morning peak last Thursday.

KiwiRail worked with Auckland Transport to minimise the consequences of the fire as much as possible.

Stations between Newmarket and Penrose (Penrose, Ellerslie, Greenlane, Remuera) were affected as trains could not run on that track when the incident first occurred.

During the repairs, TransDev re-routed Southern Line trains via Otahuhu along the Eastern Line to access Britomart.

“We apologise again for the disruption this incident has caused Auckland commuters,” said Moyle.

First sod turned on Mt Eden site for Auckland CRL

A supplier has been chosen for the tunnel boring machine for New Zealand’s City Rail Link project, as a ground-breaking ceremony begins construction at the southern tunnel portal.

Herrenknecht will supply and build the $13.5 million tunnel boring machine, which will be shipped from its manufacturing site in China later in 2020 to be reassembled at the Mt Eden portal. Tunnelling will begin in February 2021.

The portal at Mt Eden will allow tunnelling to continue to central Auckland, and will open up land in the immediate vicinity for development, said NZ Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

“Not only will CRL boost Auckland’s transport system, it will stimulate urban regeneration with jobs and affordable housing around Mt Eden station and elsewhere along the city’s rail corridors – a completed CRL will double the number of the number of people within 30 minutes of central Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest employment hub,” he said.

According to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff the transport project will increase the use of rail in New Zealand’s largest city.

“The CRL will be a gamechanger for Auckland, allowing 54,000 people an hour to travel into the city at peak times. It adds capacity equivalent to three Harbour Bridges or 16 extra traffic lanes into the city at peak. The TBM will be the star of the show, providing the mechanical muscle required to get the job done as quickly as possible,” he said.

City Rail Link chief executive Sean Sweeney said that the breaking of ground in Mt Eden comes 12 months on from the collapse of rail track, signalling, overhead lines, control system rooms, communications and building works provider RCR Tomlison went into administration. RCR Tomlison’s NZ subsidiary was in partnership with WSP Opus at the time.

“Far from a setback, that collapse was the catalyst for big and rapid change inside the project and we are now celebrating the benefit of those changes – a CRL team that includes the best expertise from New Zealand and overseas that’s ready to deliver the next big step of an outstanding project for Aucklanders.”

As part of the works, the public will be able to name the tunnel boring machine, with the condition that the name be one of a prominent NZ woman.

Electrical fire on Auckland metro network

An electrical fire in a signal cabinet has damaged signalling to the south of Newmarket on the Auckland metro network at just after 5am on Monday morning.

The fire was sparked in a passenger train signalling cabinet.

Todd Moyle, KiwiRail Group chief operating officer, said the fire has been extinguished as of 8am Monday morning.

“KiwiRail staff are on site and will restore the system as quickly as possible,” Moyle said.

“We are working with TransDev to reroute Southern Line trains along the Eastern Line from Otahuhu. At this point, the heaviest impact is limited to trains running between Penrose and Newmarket. Western Line trains continue to operate.

“We apologise for the inconvenience to Auckland commuters but safety must be paramount. The cause will be investigated.”

The heaviest impact during the peak hour commute was stations between Newmarket and Penrose (Penrose, Ellerslie, Greenlane, Remuera) as trains couldn’t run on that section on the track.

TransDev re-routed Southern Line trains via Otahuhu along the Eastern Line to access Britomart and all Western Line trains continue to run following the incident.

Auckland Transport stated in an updated social media post that southern line services will continue via the eastern line and western line services are stopping at Newmarket as of 11.10am Monday morning.

NZ City Rail Link commences next stage of construction

Building works have started on the Aotea underground station in central Auckland part of New Zealand’s City Rail Link (CRL).

Dale Burtenshaw, deputy project director for the Link Alliance consortium which is building the stations and tunnels for the CRL project, said construction of the Aotea station under the intersection is “massive in scale”.

Construction of the station, platform and tunnels continues will continue below ground until 2021.

Wellesley Street West intersection with Albert Street and Mayoral Drive will close to road traffic from Sunday, 1 March 2020 and is set to reopen in a year.

This follows the removal of the information hub building in the middle of Beresford Square last month to construct the station under nearby Karangahape Road.

The CRL is set to be a 3.45km twin-tunnel underground rail link up to 42 metres below the Auckland city centre.

The depth of the two new underground stations will be 11m at Aotea and 33m at Karangahape Road.

The CRL will extend the existing rail line underground through Britomart, to Albert, Vincent, and Pitt Streets, and then cross beneath Karangahape Road and the Central Motorway Junction to Symonds Street before rising to join the western line at Eden Terrace where the Mount Eden Station is located.

The project was launched in 2017 and is estimated to cost $4.419 billion by the 2024 completion date.

Hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in New Zealand’s KiwiRail network

The New Zealand Government has announced a further $109.7 million rail investment in Northland rail freight on the KiwiRail network.

This follows the injection of  $211 million to upgrade Wellington networks and services for Auckland rail.

Greg Miller, KiwiRail Group chief executive, said the Northland investment will enable hi-cube container freight to be transported by rail in the region for the first time ever.

$69.7m will be spent on lowering tracks in the 13 tunnels between Swanson and Whangarei; reopening the currently mothballed rail line north of Whangarei, between Kauri and Otiria; and building a container terminal at the Otiria rail yard, in Moerewa.

“Currently 18m tonnes of cargo is moved in and out of the region every year. Of that, around 30,000 containers leave Northland by road. Most aren’t able to fit through the tunnels, but this investment will change that – opening up a whole new market to rail,” Miller said.

“The tunnel work will have a huge impact on how freight is moved in and out of Northland.

“I’m really impressed by the ingenuity of KiwiRail’s engineering staff to be able to lower the tracks in the tunnels – which is a lot less expensive than boring bigger tunnels.”

This is the second Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investment in Northland rail, following the $94.8m provided to make significant improvements to the Northland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, announced last year.

An additional $40m will be used by KiwiRail to purchase land along the designated rail route between Oakleigh and Northport/Marsden Point.

Miller said works in Auckland have already commenced, and will be completed in about four years.

“The third main adds an extra rail line between Westfield and Wiri in South Auckland, a section of line that is congested with freight trains going to and from Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga, and increasingly frequent metro commuter services. For CRL to deliver the level of commuter service Auckland needs, the 3rd main is crucial,” he said.

David Gordon, KiwiRail chief operating officer – capital projects and asset development, said work on the Wairarapa Line will start later this year, following the government’s $96m investment announced in 2018.

“$70m will be spent on improving the signalling system and track approach to Wellington Station, particularly the area north of the stadium where the Johnsonville, Hutt Valley, and Kapiti Lines all come together,” Gordan said.

A $15m investment in carriages for the Capital Connection service will allow KiwiRail to fully refurbish ex-Auckland Transport carriages including new interiors, seats, and toilets.

NZ announces new $1.1 billion rail investments

The New Zealand Government has announced a programme of new transport investments in six main growth areas across the country.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said $6.8 billion is being invested across road, rail, and public transport infrastructure across New Zealand.

$1.1 billion is part of targeted rail investments aiming to get trucks off the road in the six main growth areas of Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury, and Queenstown.

The rail package will include completing the third main rail line will remove a key bottleneck for freight and passenger services, as well as provide additional capacity for the increased services once the City Rail Link is completed.

Two new railway stations in Drury Central and Drury West will be funded, as well as electrifying the railway track between Papakura to Pukekohe to speed up commutes to the CBD.

Twyford said additional Wellington rail upgrades, including in the Wairarapa, will make the lines north of the city more reliable to meet a growing demand for rail services.

“Our decision to fund these projects by taking advantage of historically low long-term interest rates means this programme will free up funding in the National Land Transport Fund and Auckland transport budgets.”

Twyford said this programme brings forward and funds significant projects, allowing them to be built sooner.

“Many of these projects have been talked about for a long time, but we are the first Government to fund them, we have also made important changes,”

The investment announcement follows recent plans to revitalise KiwiRail’s Hillside workshops with demolition of disused and dilapidated buildings on the site currently underway.

Last year the Government announced a $19.97 million investment through the Provincial Growth Fund that has allowed KiwiRail to begin redeveloping the Dunedin site.

Stephanie Campbell KiwiRail group general manager property said Hillside will become a vital part of KiwiRail’s South Island freight and tourism operations.

“Demolishing some of the existing buildings is the first step in doing this, and contractors have begun work on the site, taking down two vacant workshops. 

“The next step is to upgrade the main rail workshops on the site, including overhauling the aging heavy-lift crane and traverser.

 “The planned improvements for the site will allow us to maintain more locomotives and wagons, as well as undertaking new types of work, such as heavy maintenance and upgrades.”

NZ Nationals criticise Auckland light rail timeline

The New Zealand National Party have thrown cold water on promises by the NZ Transport Minister that a light rail line from Auckland’s CBD to the airport will be finished by 2030.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford commented on NZ radio that there will “absolutely” be a light rail line connecting Auckland CBD’s to the airport.

The National Party’s transport spokesperson, Chris Bishop, doubted that such a timeframe could be achieved.

“Auckland’s light rail has been a fail from the beginning. Labour promised during the election campaign to have it finished between the CBD and Mt Roskill by 2021, only to quickly abandon that target when it became clear Phil Twyford could not deliver on it.”

Bishop criticised the structure of the proposed delivery of the line.

“His bizarre decision to entertain a bidding war between his own Transport Agency and NZ Infra has set the project back years, and set progress on Auckland’s transport woes back even further because critical roading projects have been put on ice in the interim.”

Currently, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, a project led by the NZ Transport Agency along with Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and HLC, is committed to providing light rail between Auckland’s city centre, Māngere – the suburb where Auckland Airport is located – and Auckland’s north west, by 2028. A business case submitted by the NZ Transport Agency is now being evaluated against a proposal by NZ Infra, a joint venture of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Canadian institutions investors.

At the time of its announcement, Twyford said that the proposal from NZ Infra was a first for NZ.

“There are significant differences in how the two options would be financed and delivered. The NZTA is exploring a range of procurement, financing and delivery models, including alliances and public-private partnerships, and will continue to develop these.”

Bishop critiqued the time it has taken to put a proposal together.

“After more than two years in Government, there is no exact route, no delivery model, no design work done, no costings, no consents, no designations, no business case – nothing.”

New Zealand’s passenger network back in service

A work blitz which kept some of New Zealand’s major transport networks closed over the summer break is now over and passenger services have returned.

A 10-day shutdown, ending on the 5th of January, enabled a crew of more than 200 to perform maintenance work across 15 different sites in Wellington.

Foundations were installed for 80 new masts for overhead power lines, some of which are more than 80 years old and needed to be replaced.

“Under normal circumstances this work would take 20 weeks to complete, without the network being closed to trains,” a KiwiRail spokesperson said.

The crew, comprising KiwiRail staff and contractors, also began work on a new pedestrian underpass at Trentham Station.As part of the work, rail tracks were temporarily removed, signal and power systems disconnected, and major earthworks completed before the tracks and power were reinstated so trains could travel through the section of line.

“We successfully fitted months of essential maintenance activities into just 10 days. Our staff and contractors operating at these sites completed a huge amount of work and deserve a well-earned break after working through the holiday period,” KiwiRail’s chief operating officer of Capital Projects, David Gordon, said.

The work was a resounding success, according to Gordon.

“We completed rigorous inspections of the track and overhead equipment and ran test trains through critical sites to ensure the network was safe for trains to be back up and running.”

Meanwhile, in Auckland, for City Rail Link tunnel works to commence the track around Mt Eden Station had to be re-aligned. This will also allow for the future redevelopment of the station.

Work is still ongoing in Ōtāhuhu as KiwiRail continues to work on the rail infrastructure so that Ōtāhuhu Station can facilitate more frequent train services once the City Rail Link opens in 2024.

Auckland Transport says it is operating a special timetable to accommodate this work.