Inaugural ambassador leads Rail Safety Week activities

Rail Safety Week will this year involve the work of a National Rail Safety Ambassador.

In a first for the yearly awareness-raising week which in 2020 runs from August 10 to 16, Paralympian Vanessa Low will be the face of rail safety around Australia.

In her role as the National Rail Safety Ambassador Low, who was injured in a rail incident, will lead rail safety programs and is highlighting the rail safety pledge that TrackSAFE is encouraging rail staff and organisations as well as members of the general public to take. In 2019, Low was the ACT Rail Safety Week ambassador.

Heather Neil, executive director of TrackSAFE said that being rail safe is not only individually significant.

“Being rail SAFE means Staying off the tracks, Avoiding distractions, Following safety instructions and Encouraging others to be SAFE,” Neil said.

“If each one of us is RailSAFE we will also ensure train drivers and rail staff don’t have to face traumatic events involving fatalities, injuries and near misses.”

Now in its 15th year, Rail Safety Week is being marked by events around Australia and in New Zealand. Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the ARA, said that there was an added dimension this year.

“Rail safety is no longer just about staying off the tracks and keeping free of distractions – it is also about wearing masks in states where it is recommended and supporting the rail workers that support us by keeping COVIDsafe,” she said.

Sue McCarrey, ONRSR chief executive and national rail safety regulator, said that as routines may have changed, which necessitated a greater focus on being railSAFE.

“Rail Safety Week falls at a really important time, we have some people returning to work or starting to travel a bit more, and others who will be getting out of routine as their time in lockdown continues. What we are hoping to do is to just remind people of their safety responsibilities,” she said.

“If you work in the rail industry, are interacting with a rail network when traveling or just using a crossing when you are out and about exercising remember the processes, procedures or those daily habits that have kept you safe.”

NZ Transport Minister Phil Twyford said that his government has been installing additional safety infrastructure.

“Since the start of 2018, in Auckland 23 high-risk pedestrian crossings have had barrier gates installed, with 15 more planned. Wellington is seeing upgrades to 12 pedestrian crossings, with improvements planned for at least 27 road crossings in the Wairarapa,” said Twyford.

“On top of that, KiwiRail and Waka Kotahi have also completed upgrades to 17 level crossings around the country, with another 20 to be completed before the middle of next year. They are also looking ahead to what could be in the next phase of upgrades.”

ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said that individuals needed to be alert when around the rail corridor.

“Remember, stay behind the yellow line at our light rail stops, wait for the green light and look both ways before you cross tracks or the road, and limit your distractions from devices such as mobile phones when near the light rail tracks.”

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that trespassing was a particular issue.

“It’s really concerning to see people getting hurt and risking their lives to chase social media likes. We’ve seen 2,689 incidents of trespassing in the last 12 months, many of them reckless acts for selfie stunts.”

As part of Rail Safety Week activities, Wilkie will be leading a discussion with safety leaders from organisations including Sydney Trains and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) on Wednesday, August 12.

Low said that she hoped working as an ambassador throughout this week would lead into ongoing programs.

“While Rail Safety Week is celebrated in August each year, rail safety is a year-round, unquestioned commitment.”

Work begins on $1.1bn Auckland rail upgrade

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.

public transport

Construction underway across Auckland public transport network

The New Zealand government is investing in building and renewing public transport infrastructure in Auckland to boost the local economy and improve rail services.

The Puhinui Interchange is one of four projects that will receive funding as part of the national government’s transport infrastructure package. Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the upgrades would ensure the projects are finalised on time.

“By investing in the under construction Puhinui Interchange and Stage One of the Ferry Basin Redevelopment project, we are protecting jobs and making sure these important projects can continue. Both are expected to be completed next year.”

Other projects include upgrades to improve bus services and active transport links said Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

“By investing in public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure, not only are we helping people leave the car at home, we are reducing emissions and tackling climate change,” said Genter.

In addition to working on the Puhinui Interchange, Auckland Transport is also upgrading Papakura Station to rectify water leaking into the lift shafts which caused the lifts to often be out of service.

Works at the southern Auckland station will include new roofs and canopies, and a small concrete wall at ground level. Construction is expected to begin before the end of July and completed by mid-October.

At the Karangahape station site in central Auckland, construction has begun on the City Rail Link station, the deepest in New Zealand.

The first of 28 panels for the diaphragm walls are being constructed, which are the first permanent sections of the station.

Once finalised, the station will be 30 metres deep, the deepest of the underground stations built as part of the City Rail Link project.

Once the walls are complete, a roof and supporting columns will be built, and then the station’s platforms and concourse will be built.

Dale Burtenshaw, deputy project director for the Link Alliance, said that the construction process has been designed to minimise disruption.

“Working top-down like this will reduce the impact of construction at street level in a busy part of the city like K Road,” he said. “At the same time, using a hydrofraise allows us to operate close to other buildings without disturbing those buildings. We’ve also fitted mufflers to the machine to reduce noise levels for our neighbours.”

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.”

Budget allocates $1.2bn for rail in NZ

NZ$1.2 billion ($1.11bn) has been earmarked for rail in New Zealand’s 2020 budget.

The NZ Coalition government has targeted investment in track and locomotives, as well as a replacement for the Interislander ferries as key initiatives in the first post-coronavirus (COVID-19) budget.

State owned enterprises minister Winston Peters said that rail was critical for the country to emerge after the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.

“Rail is a critical part of our integrated transport network. Not only is investment essential to address decades of under-investment, but further investment in rail will play an essential role in our economic recovery post-lockdown,” he said.

Peters’s responsibilities cover state-owned rail operator KiwiRail, which owns most of the rail track in New Zealand while also providing freight services and the Interislander ferry, which is rail-enabled. The budget approved $400 million for new Interislander ferries and port-side infrastructure. This will enable KiwiRail to tender for international builders to design and construct two new rail-enabled ferries for delivery in 2024-2025 said KiwiRail chief executive, Greg Miller.

“Our Cook Strait ferries are an extension of State Highway 1, moving 800,000 passengers and up to $14 billion worth of road and rail freight between the North and South Islands each year,” he said.

“They are a must have for NZ Inc. The two new rail-enabled ferries will be more advanced, have significantly lower emissions and last for the next 30 years.”

In addition, $246m was allocated for investment in rail track and $421m for new locomotives, which will help shift freight onto rail, said Miller.

“The Government’s investment allows us to continue with our locomotive replacement programme and raise the standard of our rail lines, bridges and tunnels across the country. This will enable KiwiRail to offer better and more reliable train services for our customers and move more of New Zealand’s growing freight task onto rail,” he said.

Funding will be targeted at areas with significant freight demand, such as the Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga triangle, the North Island Main Trunk Line, the Midland Line from Rolleston to Stillwater, and the Main South Line from Lyttleton to Rolleston. The funding also includes upgrades to Wellington Railway Station, damaged in the Kaikoura earthquake, and resilience work on the National Train Control Centre.

“This funding recognises that rail has a greater role to play in New Zealand’s transport sector, and that it can make a valuable contribution towards lowering our transport emissions, reducing road congestion and saving in road maintenance costs – which benefits our nation as a whole.”

Rollingstock upgrades are expected to include 10 new main line locomotives in the North Island, the first tranche of replacement locomotives for the South Island, 10 electric/battery powered shunting vehicles, the first order of 20 short haul locomotives. The first locomotives are expected to arrive in NZ from late 2022. KiwiRail freight locomotives will also be upgraded for electronic train control to operate on the Auckland network.

An ongoing extension of previous funding
The $1.2bn comes in addition to the $1b allocated in the 2019 budget and will continue to modernise the NZ rail network.

“KiwiRail is a major contributor to New Zealand’s infrastructure projects, and currently employs almost 4,000 people,” said Peters.

“The investment in rail infrastructure, is not only helping to secure the thousands of existing jobs at KiwiRail but will be a huge boost to New Zealand’s civil engineering and construction sector, with hundreds of contractors, and their material suppliers, needed nationwide for track renewal, mechanical facility upgrades and ferry terminal projects.”

In addition to the direct funding, legislative changes will allow for network investment to occur through the National Land Transport Fund. An extra $148m has been earmarked for investment through this fund once the legislation is passed.

NZ has been part of the Australasian rail renaissance, with the Transport Minister Phil Twyford releasing the NZ Rail Plan in December 2019 that outlined the priorities for investment in the rail network.

“The Coalition Government has a bold vision for a 21st century rail network as outlined in the draft New Zealand Rail Plan. We need a resilient and reliable rail system to support freight and get our cities moving,” said Twyford.

“Budget 2020 builds on the substantial investments we’ve already made in rail through past Budgets, the Provincial Growth Fund, and the New Zealand Upgrade Programme which will help future proof the economy and reduce emissions.”

Light rail misses out
In the budget announcements there has been no mention of the Auckland Light Rail. The project was included in the coalition agreement signed between Labour and the Greens however with an election in September 2020, it seems unlikely that funding will be allocated in this term of government.

Twyford confirmed to NZ media that the light rail project is on pause while the government responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two bids have been received for the project, one from private sector backed NZ Infra, and one from the government transport authority NZ Transport Agency.

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.”

Payments fast-tracked for NZ transport contractors

The New Zealand Government is paying transport contractors in advance to enable suppliers to retain their workforces.

Phil Twyford, NZ Transport Minister announced on Wednesday April 1 that the decision to bring payments forward will provide financial relief for the transport sector throughout the four-week lockdown period.

He said the Advanced Entitlement Payment (AEP) will ensure the sector can quickly re-start work and be in a strong position to respond to any future Government infrastructure packages in the post-lockdown economy.

“Making sure we can build more critical infrastructure as soon as possible will help stimulate the economy and help New Zealand make up its infrastructure deficit,” Twyford said.

The NZ Transport Agency is also continuing planning and design work so that more projects are ready to move to construction as soon as works can resume.

The NZ Transport Agency is now offering a support package for non-essential services, with advance payments being made available to contractors who currently have projects in construction. 

The AEP will be available to contractors who currently have National Land Transport Programme funded projects in construction with the NZ Transport Agency.  

Earlier this month the NZ government announced it will invest a record $54 billion (AUD$53.5) in land transport.

Twyford said this transport investment will make a real difference to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

The draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) 2021 will guide the Transport Agency to invest more than $4.5 billion a year raised through the National Land Transport Fund and allocate required funding towards rail and public transport.

The Ministry of Transport is inviting stakeholders and the wider public to give feedback on the draft GPS until 5pm, Monday, 27 April 2020.

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.

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.”