Construction has begun on major upgrades to the Auckland rail network, with improvements between Wiri and Quay Park, south of Auckland, the first works to kick off.
The work is part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme’s NZ$1.1 billion ($1.02bn) rail package, which in Auckland will include electrification of Papakura to Pukekohe, and new train stations at Drury. Once complete in 2024, the upgrades will enable greater capacity for the City Rail Link (CRL) in central Auckland and a commuter service from Hamilton to Auckland.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the work complemented each other.
“Building the third main rail line will remove a key bottleneck for freight and commuter services, as well as give more capacity for the increased services expected once the CRL is completed. The CRL along with the other upgrades will shave off up to an hour of the daily commute for thousands of people,” said Twyford.
The work will also improve the movement of freight through the urban area.
“Auckland is already the busiest rail freight corridor in New Zealand, with around six million tonnes coming to, from or across the city each year – the equivalent of 400,000 truck trips. This work will make freight services more reliable and make our roads safer by taking trucks off them and moving more freight to rail,” said Twyford.
State-owned operator KiwiRail announced that Downer NZ won the contract for the third main rail line between Wiri and Quay Park. Electrification works will be completed by eTRACS, a consortium of McConnell Dowell and John Holland. KiwiRail will lead on track and signals for both projects.
KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said that it was good to see work beginning.
“This is a major investment in Auckland’s metro network, and we’re excited to be getting these projects underway,” he said.
“In the years ahead, rail will continue to play an increasingly important role in helping reduce New Zealand’s emissions for transport. KiwiRail also wants rail to be the mode of choice for freight movers, commuters and tourism opportunities. All those are underpinned by a modern, resilient network and that’s what this work will deliver.”
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said there would be clear local benefits.
“Hundreds of local contractors will be needed for this work and there will be spin-off benefits for local businesses, from lunch bars to local hardware stores. The vast majority of the materials used will be coming from the Auckland region – that’s creating work for quarries, concrete suppliers, steel fabricators and drainage companies.”
In addition to the new works, renewal around the network is also part of the transport upgrade program. This includes replacing 60km of track, tens of thousands of sleepers, and more than a hundred thousand tonnes of trackbed.