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.

Project Update: 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 at AusRAIL PLUS 2019.

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 $4.4 billion 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 sixteen 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 ten 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 $80 billion in September 2017 to more than double that in August 2018, and then $220 billion 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 (highlighted in yellow) – 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.

NZ National party proposes more transport authorities

New Zealand’s opposition party, National, is proposing a shake-up of transport governance, by establishing regional transport authorities for both Wellington and Canterbury as well as the accelerated rollout of integrated ticketing.

“It is unacceptable that people have been using bank cards and phones to pay for London’s Tube since 2004 but train users in Wellington still pay with coins and cardboard tickets,” the party’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said.

“National is proposing to accelerate the rollout of integrated ticketing nationwide.”

The proposal was made in the party’s Transport and Infrastructure discussion document, released on Monday.

“National is proposing new regional transport authorities in Wellington and Canterbury that will have sole-charge over public transport, as well as cycling, parking and roading.”

“We believe public transport governance is too fragmented in this country, with opaque accountability and no clear delineation of which agency is responsible for each part of the network. This is diluting the quality of service for commuters.”

“I think everyone would agree the current transport model is not perfect, it’s far from perfect, and we’ve seen that with the rollout of the bus changes over the course of the last year.”

“The bus fiasco in Wellington has indicated that the shared responsibility and the divided responsibility and accountability lines has not really worked.The city council blaming the regional council, the regional council blaming the city council and when that kind of expired they all put up their hands and blamed the New Zealand Transport Agency, and that’s just not tenable.”

The party says, if elected, they will introduce a revenue-neutral congestion charge in major cities to help manage the flow of traffic.

“By charging for travelling at certain times and/or on certain routes it encourages commuters to find alternatives, such as travelling earlier or later, taking a different route or getting out of the car and taking public transport,” the document says.