Auckland rail upgrade takes another step forward

7 August 2020

Having an additional main rail line in Auckland will greatly improve the resilience, capacity and efficiency of the metro network for commuters and freight trains, KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says.

“We’re very pleased to announce today that after a thorough tender process, Downer NZ has been awarded the contract for the Third Main project, in Auckland, with KiwiRail leading on track and signals work.

“The Third Main is a significant component of our $1 billion Auckland Metro Rail programme – other projects include extending electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe, building new stations along that route, and network-wide renewals that will cut delays and improve services.

“Electrification of the line between Papakura and Pukekohe will be delivered by eTRACS – a consortium of McConnell Dowell and John Holland, with KiwiRail again leading on track and signals. 

“The Third Main and electrification project are funded by the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, and will together directly support more than 400 Kiwi jobs, including about 140 from KiwiRail. Additionally, the projects will support Kiwi businesses by predominantly using materials and components supplied by the domestic market.”

“The work will prepare the metro rail network for the expected start of the City Rail Link in 2024, and to cope with demand for more freight and commuter services in New Zealand’s biggest city.

“We’re already seeing around 22 million commuter trips annually in Auckland and that’s expected to grow,” Mr Miller says.

“On the freight side, the 100km of rail track through Auckland carries a third of all freight in New Zealand. An estimated 6 million tonnes moves on the Auckland network each year and while that avoids more than 400,000 truck trips – with a resulting reduction in road congestion and carbon emissions - it puts a great deal of pressure on the rail network. Having a Third Main will significantly improve capacity and resilience.

“We’re pleased that the timing of these projects means that not only will new infrastructure prepare the network for growth, but the hundreds of additional jobs will also be an important boost to New Zealand’s post-Covid recovery,” Mr Miller says.

As with the Papakura to Pukekohe electrification contract, KiwiRail received no wholly-New Zealand-owned bids in its competitive tender for the Wiri to Quay Park contract. Audit New Zealand was the probity advisor in the tender process.

“The tender evaluation team was unanimous in recommending negotiations for a final contract continue with Downer. In both non-price and commercial attributes, Downer was ahead.

“Having started as a New Zealand company, Downer is well established and well known here. KiwiRail has successfully worked with them on other projects and the company is also involved in City Rail Link.

“This is a major investment in Auckland’s metro network, and we’re excited to be getting these projects underway.

“A further key component of the programme are  city-wide renewals to the track infrastructure so that it has the resilience and capacity to handle the growth that will come post-CRL.  As part of that work we will be replacing 60km of rail, 75,000 sleepers and 125,000m3 of ballast.

“Our teams have already begun this task working nights, weekends and public holidays, and over the past 12 months have replaced 16 kilometres of rail across the network.

“Given the condition of the rail asset, we will be accelerating this activity over the coming months. Inevitably all this will mean disruption and some inconvenience across the network, both for commuters and for people who live and  work near the rail corridor.

“We will endeavor to advise people in advance of when and where the work will take place and will do our best to reduce any impact on commuters and residents.

“We appreciate the public’s forbearance as we create an Auckland urban rail network that’s not only fit for purpose but is ready for growth.

“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.”

 Main components of the Auckland Metro Rail Programme are:

  • The Third Main (rail line between Wiri and Quay Park) - $315 million (funded by NZUP)
  • Extending overhead electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe  - $371m (NZUP)
  • Building two new train stations, park and ride and bus connections in Drury - $247m (NZUP) (Contract yet to be awarded)
  • Wider Auckland network renewals, including replacing 60 kilometres of worn tracks, tens of thousands of sleepers, and over a hundred thousand tonnes of ballast - $183m (NZTA – Transitional Rail)