NZ rail projects part of post-Covid-19 wishlist

New Zealand is looking for major infrastructure projects to get the country going once its lockdown phase ends.

After the NZ government announced on April 1 that it would be looking to fund infrastructure, including rail, worth over $10 million councils have now submitted proposals.

Although the projects come from a range of infrastructure sectors, both Auckland and Wellington have nominated rail projects as some of their priorities.

The City Rail Link in Auckland is one of the 73 projects the local authority has submitted to the national government. Although already mid-build, the City Rail Link has been put on hold due to the shutdown but is part of the city and the nation’s long-term vision, said Auckland councillor Chris Darby.

“Not only are these projects ‘shovel-ready’, they are also ‘future-ready’. This once in a generation investment will create jobs for Aucklanders who will build a transforming legacy for our city.”

Mayor Phil Goff said that the local authority would be looking to work with the construction industry to progress the projects.

“Prior to COVID-19, Auckland Council was on track to deliver a capital works programme exceeding $2 billion for the financial year,” said Goff.

Other rail projects to be nominated to the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group (IIRG) include the Puhinui rail and bus interchange.

Councillors from the Wellington region have also nominated upgrades to rail stations and improved long-distance rolling stock as essential for the region.

Andy Foster, Mayor of Wellington City Council, said that the package was submitted collaboratively with councils across the region.

“Wellington region already had very significant infrastructure needs before COVID-19 – coping with growth, resilience and connectivity. COVID 19’s impact on our economy and on Councils themselves makes Government’s willingness to assist even more critical than it already was.”

Announcing the IIRG, which includes KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller and NZ Transport Administration chairman Brian Roche, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said that projects will be looked at based on their impact.

“These projects will help address the country’s infrastructure deficit as well as create jobs and buoy the economy.”

Transport Minister Phil Twyford outlined what types of projects could receive funding.

“The types of projects the Government would consider funding include water, transport, clean energy and buildings. They would also have a public or regional benefit, create jobs and be able to get underway in short order.”

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.

Auckland metro rail seeking new operations contractor following network boom

As Transdev Auckland’s contract to provide metro rail services comes to an end, Auckland Transport (AT) is seeking industry participants to operate the city’s metro rail passenger network from 2021.

Mark Lambert, executive general manager of integrated networks, said AT is now undertaking a tendering process for a future rail franchise agreement, with Expressions of Interest (EOIs) now open.

 “We have the determination to reinvigorate the region’s rail services. With the City Rail Link to be completed in 2024 and the other recent rail upgrades just announced by central government, the future of Auckland rail is very bright,” he said.

AT are moving towards a more integrated operating environment for rail services, this will see the incoming rail operator having greater responsibility and control for service delivery for the next phase of rail public transport growth in Auckland.

Last year public transport patronage totalled 103.2 million passenger boardings.

“We have made great progress in reinvigorating passenger rail in Auckland with the system now carrying 22 million passengers per year, with growth of 5 per cent in the past year,” Lambert said.

An AT Metro train services spokesperson said that figure is the highest rate ever of train patronage.

The first three of Auckland’s new trains have arrived and are currently being tested and certified, allowing larger trains to run during the morning and afternoon peak times.

The remaining 12 new trains will arrive before the end of the year, bringing the fleet to a total of 72.

Peter Lensink, Transdev Auckland’s managing director, said the increasing passenger numbers are also a reflection of the work being put in by the company’s train crew, on behalf of AT.

“Aucklanders want to get to their destination safely, on time, and in the care of highly-trained and friendly staff,” Lensink said.

Mayor Phil Goff says investment in infrastructure and improvements to services are encouraging the strong growth.

“Our record investment in transport infrastructure and services has seen public transport patronage grow at more than five times the rate of population,” he said.

The current rail operating contract for Auckland metro train services has been in place since 2004.

Following the evaluation of EOI responses received, AT will shortlist participants, who will be invited to respond to the RFP process for the Auckland Rail Franchise.

The contract is expected to be awarded in February 2021.