Wellington

Masks allow for full capacity on New Zealand trains

Auckland and Wellington are removing caps on capacity levels designed to enable physical distancing on trains, buses, and ferries.

Wellington’s transport operator Metlink said that face coverings have been an effective way to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading and that capacity could return to normal.

“This change comes on the back of the hard work of Metlink staff and passengers who have shown fantastic support for face coverings, giving the Government confidence to relax physical distancing on public transport,” said Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher.

In Auckland, while physical distancing is still recommended, restrictions have also been lifted.

“The relaxation of physical distancing requirements on public transport is good news for Aucklanders and will allow more people to use our trains, buses and ferries to get around the city,” said Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that physical distancing on public transport was no longer required, and the wearing of face masks made the lifting of capacity limits possible.

“Mask use will continue to be compulsory, and has been key in the recommendation by the Director General that this change is safe to occur.”

To assist in the event of an outbreak, in Auckland and Wellington passengers are still encouraged to scan QR codes, and maintain hygiene practices on public transport.

“It’s important that everyone continues to wear a face covering on public transport to limit spread of COVID-19. Please also keep track of your movements with the NZ COVID Tracer app and continue good hygiene practices like handwashing and covering coughs or sneezes,” said Goff.

While COVID-19 alert levels are remaining where they are at the moment, level 2.5 in Auckland and level 2 in the rest of the country, they are expected to come down further next week.

Gallacher welcomed the efforts of staff and the community.

“Thank you for your ongoing cooperation and patience, as we work together to keep our community safe and healthy.”

New Zealand using QR codes for contact tracing on public transport

Auckland and Wellington will use QR codes on public transport to assist with contact tracing.

The implementation of the QR codes in Auckland from September 4 comes as the city moves to alert level two after a week at level three.

Masks have been made mandatory for passengers across trains, buses, and ferries, and physical distancing guidelines have been implemented.

Auckland Transport is asking passengers to use the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s NZ COVID Tracer app to scan the codes.

The transport authority had previously been using data from the city’s transit payment card, AT HOP, to track close contacts, however after positive cases travelled on buses and had outdated information on their AT HOP card the added method of tracing has been brought in.

While transport is running at normal schedules, capacity is limited to about 43 per cent due to social distancing requirements. Passengers can check the Auckland Transport app to see how many passengers are on a train before boarding.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that the local government and public should embrace the new measures.

“Health authorities now agree that it is safe to move to Alert Level 2, but we still need to ensure that we follow all of the safeguards necessary to constrain the spread of COVID-19. Following these rules will help ensure we beat COVID-19 again, just as we did last time.”

In Wellington, which is under alert level two, masks are also mandatory on public transport. Even before the rule was applied from Monday, August 31, more passengers had been wearing masks or face coverings, said Scott Gallacher, general manager of operator Metlink.

“We’ve seen thousands of people wearing masks on our buses, ferries and trains. Social media is awash with people wearing the most fantastic masks, scarves and bandanas and Wellingtonians have kicked off a national trend using the hashtag #OnBoardWithMasks to show their support,” he said.

Wellington’s trains are running at about 30 per cent of their normal capacity.

“We’ve got all the buses, ferries and trains out that we can but we’re asking for patience and understanding at this time. If people have the ability to work from home or travel outside of peak hours we welcome their help,” said Gallacher.

face masks

Face masks to be mandatory on public transport across New Zealand

Auckland Transport has welcomed the New Zealand government’s mandating of face masks on public transport.

From Monday, August 31, face coverings will be required on all public transport for regions of New Zealand in alert level 2 or higher. Currently, all of New Zealand is at alert level 2 and the Auckland region is at alert level 3 until Sunday August 30, where it will return to alert level 2.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the measures would be effective in limiting the spread of the virus.

“Wearing a face covering is an effective measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Everything we can do in the fight against this disease makes a difference, and I believe the mandatory wearing of masks on public transport is sensible given our recent experience.”

Auckland Transport has put out alerts for travellers on certain buses as passengers travelled while having COVID-19.

Auckland Transport has also taken other measures to ensure that public transport is still safe for travellers, including through cleaning, not taking cash, and keeping a two metre distance between travellers. Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said that AT HOP cards have also been used to track and contact close contacts of those who travelled with COVID-19.

“We have already stepped up the level of cleaning on all services with regular steam cleans now in place and now the Government’s decision to make face masks mandatory will only make public transport safer,” he said.

“Our customer research from the first weekend back in Alert Level 3 shows 88 per cent of people would support compulsory face masks on public transport.”

Goff said the wearing of face masks would benefit the community.

“We all have a responsibility to follow government health directives — for the good of ourselves, our families and older folk and our wider communities,” he said.

NZ rail continues during lockdown

Rail services have continued in New Zealand despite the reimposition of lockdown measures to control the spread of new cases of COVID-19.

Auckland is now in level 3 restrictions while the rest of the country is under level 2 restrictions after cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Tuesday, August 11 with no known source of transmission.

In Auckland, rail services are continuing during the lockdown to their existing timetable for those who need to access local services and businesses and travel to work and school when that cannot be done at home. Physical distancing of two metres must be maintained on public transport.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff advised commuters to follow health guidelines.

“Maintain physical distancing, wear a mask when in public and follow good hygiene practices and we will get through this together.”

Auckland Transport will be cleaning trains regularly and will be making changes to timetables as needed.

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller shared Goff’s advice to wear face masks when using public transport.

“The health and safety of our staff, and the public, is the company’s main priority as we maintain essential services, just as we did successfully earlier this year.”

KiwiRail has suspended the TranzAlpine service that was to run over the weekend of August 15-16. The Capital Connection service between Wellington and Palmerston North will run as normal.

Freight services will continue with appropriate precautions instituted.

In Wellington, which is under level 2 restrictions, public transport is also continuing as normal.

General manager of Wellington transport operator Metlink Scott Gallacher emphasised the need for passengers to take care when travelling.

“We’re asking passengers to keep a 1-metre distance on board trains, buses and ferries and keep a 2-metres distance while waiting at bus stops, train stations and ferry wharfs,” he said.

“The government has made it clear that people should wear face masks where physical distancing is difficult and we encourage passengers to follow this advice on public transport. These measures will help keep passengers safe across the whole network.”

Metlink will accept cash payment, however Auckland Transport is only accepting payments via the AT HOP card.

Puhinui

Contract awarded for Puhinui station interchange main works

A joint venture has been selected to complete the NZ$46.6 million ($43.4m) Puhinui station interchange.

McConnell Dowell and Built Environs will construct the bus and rail interchange.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that the project, estimated for completion in 2021 is responding to the needs of the surrounding area.

“The Puhinui Station Interchange will guarantee reliable and convenient connections for bus and train commuters and help ease congestion,” he said.

“The project will also provide jobs and stimulate the economy to bring forward recovery from the recession caused by COVID-19.”

Early works including foundations, columns, and lift shafts have already been completed, and the next steps involve the installation of the concourse bridge deck, stairs, and the steel superstructure.

New Zealand Transport Minister Phil Twyford said that the interchange will enable better access to Auckland airport.

“When the upgrades to SH20B/Puhinui Road and the Interchange are complete, any Aucklander with access to the rail network will have a fast and convenient 10-minute bus connection to the airport.”

Aotea station ground breaking

A major step in the construction of Aotea station, underneath central Auckland, has taken place.

Twyford joined Goff turned on a 90-tonne ground cutting machine, known as a hydrophraise that will make way for the station’s walls.

The 15 metre deep station, part of the City Rail link project will change the way people get into Auckland, said Goff.A

“When it opens, CRL will double the number of people able to travel into and through the city centre, carrying up to 54,000 people an hour during peak times. The project will create a better Auckland, reducing traffic congestion and transforming our city centre into a vibrant place to spend time in.”

Twyford said that a milestone such as this was even more significant as construction had been impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown.

“Initiatives like extending working hours has allowed the project to quickly ramp up construction momentum after the Covid-19 lockdown and allows us to celebrate today’s milestone for a project that will deliver so much now and in the future.”

With the hydrofraise now turned on, excavation work to allow for diaphragm walls to be constructed can soon begin.

Once complete, Aotea is expected to be the busiest station in New Zealand, with trains arriving up to every 10 minutes. The station will be the connection point between tunnels to Britomart and Karangahape station, which will then link to Mt Eden and the wider rail network.

“CRL is a huge project helping to provide much needed stimulus to the economy and guaranteed jobs,” said Twyford.

Future of Auckland light rail back to drawing board

The New Zealand government has ended the current Auckland Light Rail process, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced on June 24.

The process had seen two separate proposals delivered to the government, one from state-owned builder Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and one from NZ Infra, a joint venture between the New Zealand Super Fund and Canadian pension fund investment CDPQ Infra.

The project’s future will be decided by the government after New Zealand goes to the polls in September.

“The Ministry of Transport and the Treasury will report back after the general election on the best option for this project to be delivered by the public sector. The Ministry of Transport and the Treasury will also engage with NZ Infra and Waka Kotahi about how work done on this project can support the next phase,” said Twyford.

“Auckland Light Rail will be New Zealand’s most complex infrastructure project in decades and it’s vital we get it right for future generations.”

The proposed light rail, which would have connected Auckland’s CBD with the airport, had been a source of contention between the two minor parties in the New Zealand coalition government. While the Greens had supported Labour’s plan for the project, Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters was concerned the cost of the project would blow out and wanted to focus on heavy rail instead.

Twyford thanked the bidders for their work and proposals.

“Either would have created hundreds of jobs and resulted in an Auckland metro that offered Aucklanders a 30 minute trip from the CBD to the Airport.”

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he was disappointed with the outcome.

“It is frustrating that after three years, disagreement within the coalition has held this process up. It’s now less than 90 days until the general election and we expect the incoming government to act quickly and decisively to outline its proposal to get light rail built.”

Scissor crossing and new trains in preparation for City Rail Link

A new scissor crossing has been installed at Mt Eden, in Auckland, to allow trains continue running while work on the City Rail Link continues.

The crossing was installed in an around-the-clock operation over the New Zealand Queen’s Birthday long weekend to minimise disruption to commuters, said KiwiRail COO Todd Moyle.

“To complete this job we needed over 80 hours of train-free track access to install the new track system.”

The scissor crossing was built offsite and then installed over the weekend.

“It took seven days to build and had to be craned into position. Sitting on 6m long concrete sleepers that span two tracks the new track was installed in 11 different sections – the heaviest being over 25 tonnes or the equivalent of two single decker buses,” said Moyle.

With the crossing now in place, the City Rail Link builder, Link Alliance, can progress work at Mt Eden where the new tunnel will connect with the existing rail network and the Western Link. The work is crucial for the success of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure project, said Dale Burtenshaw, deputy project director for Link Alliance.

“It means that a single line can run through Mt Eden while we undertake construction in the rail corridor for the new rail trenches and redeveloped station. We’ll be able to complete our construction safely while train users continue their journeys past Mt Eden.”

Moyle described how the new crossing would work.

“It is part of preparing Auckland’s network for the City Rail Link opening in 2024. By removing a pinch point and creating more flexible track use, the scissor crossover will allow trains to switch tracks when travelling in either direction and is critical to improving reliability as train frequency increases.”

New trains for Auckland
Auckland Transport has welcomed the arrival of the first of 15 new trains.

Built by CAF, the new trains are largely similar to those already in operation, with changes to door operation to reduce station wait times and new internal detailing.

Following the COVID-19 lockdown, Auckland is seeing a return to public transport with patronage back up to 50 per cent of normal levels, and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the new trains will respond to increased demand.

“It’s great to see the new trains in service, they will help with increasing demand as we return to business as usual across the city.

Chief executive of Auckland Transport Shane Ellison said that the trains will add capacity alongside the City Rail Link project.

“We know that patronage on the rail network keeps growing, thanks to the success of the original fleet. These trains will help with added capacity as the network grows until the City Rail Link is completed.”

New Zealand limits capacity as public transport returns to schedule

Public transport is returning to normal in New Zealand, however capacity will be limited on services.

To maintain physical distancing when the country enters level 2 restrictions, rail operators are reducing and enforcing capacity limits.

Standing will not be allowed on Auckland and Wellington trains, with Auckland running at about 43 per cent of normal passenger capacity while operating normal schedules, while in Wellington trains will be carrying 30 per cent of their regular load.

Passengers are being advised that they may not be able to catch their regular service.

“Physical distancing and no standing means our fleets will still be operating below their maximum seated load and we thank passengers for their patience and understanding if they are unable to catch their first choice bus, train or ferry,” said Scott Gallacher, general manager of Metlink, Wellington’s public transport operator.

In Auckland, the AT Mobile app will inform passengers how many people are on a train, to know if there is space to board. People who must travel are also being encouraged to take public transport outside of peak hours, when possible, and employers are being asked to stagger their return to work plans.

Extra cleaning and hygiene practices are continuing across public transport as well as public communication practices to inform travellers of the new requirements.

“Please remember to keep up with physical distancing and the heightened hygiene focus which we have learned over recent months,” said Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

“And we need, all of us, to avoid any behaviour which might increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19. The last thing we want is to have to return to Level 3 or Level 4 lockdown.”

NZ City Rail Link ready to re-start construction

The New Zealand government has approved Auckland’s $4.45 billion City Rail Link (CRL) to resume construction after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Sean Sweeney, CEO of New Zealand’s biggest infrastructure project said his team is champing at the bit for a rapid re-start.

“We’re already inspecting all CRL sites and making them ready for a safe return to work next week,” he said.

Work will resume on Tuesday, April 28 at all CRL sites including the C1 contract at Britomart and LowerQueen Street, C2 in Albert Street, C3 at Aotea in central Auckland, Karangahape Road and at MtEden, and C8 on the southern rail line at Ōtāhuhu.

“Because of our size we’re aware of the big role we have in quickly getting the economy moving again, supporting the contracting and infrastructure industries and seeing our workers safely back on the job,” Sweeney said.

He said the paramount priority will be keeping workers and the wider community safe.

“We had some pretty strict safety measures in place before the lockdown, but next Tuesday’s return to work will be different,” he said.

Sweeny said there will be additional constraints including restricted access to sites, physical distancing, protective clothing and sanitising and cleaning regimes.

“They will all contribute to a successful re-start in the new COVID-19 work environment, and, just as importantly, they will help ensure our workers get home to family and friends virus-free when they finish their shifts,” he said.

Sweeney said it is too early to measure if COVID-19 has impacted on project costs or construction timetables.

“It may be months before we know that once the economy has settled down a bit and we have a clearer picture on the availability of workers, and what sort of shape some of our suppliers both here and overseas are in,” he said.

“I know we have a small team of workers waiting in France because there are no flights here at the moment – that’s not a lockdown issue that‘s a wider international COVID-19 issue.

“A big plus for the project was ability of City Rail Link Ltd (CRL Ltd) and our Link Alliance contractors to be able to keep working on construction and design programmes during the lockdown – time wasn’t wasted and that’s been a big boost for our re-start.”

The project team is investigating opportunities to accelerate some work, including more shifts of work and the use of extra plant and machinery.

“Those ‘shovel ready’ ideas are still in the planning stages but our contractors will be working hard – and safely – to get CRL delivered as quickly as possible for Auckland,” Sweeney said.

Phil Goff, Auckland Mayor, has welcomed the government’s announcement to resume construction and CRL’s re-start news.

“As one of Auckland – and New Zealand’s – biggest and most important infrastructure projects, the City Rail Link will play an important role in the post-COVID-19 economic stimulus,”Goff said.

“It’s critical that CRL construction resumes quickly to help kick start the economy, get construction and infrastructure industry employees back into work and limit as much as is possible the lockdown’s impact on construction timeframes.”

In the meantime, City Rail Link is in the search for an inspiring woman’s name for the project’s Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM).

The TBM is due to arrive from China later this year in sections and reassembled at the Link Alliance construction site in Mt Eden.

The Link Alliance will start tunnelling with the newly named TBM early next year, excavating 1.6 kilometres from Mt Eden to the Aotea Station in central Auckland to connect with the tunnels already constructed from the Britomart Station.

“Tunnelling tradition dictates a TBM cannot start work until it has been given a female name, a sign of good luck and safety for the project ahead. Our search seeks to recognise the many amazing women New Zealand has produced,” Sweeney said.

Shortlisted names include Antarctic scientist Dr Margaret Hayward, transgender politician Georgina Beyer, and Maori welfare and lands champion Dame Whina Cooper.