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Auckland region rail upgrade project Q&A

Auckland region rail upgrade project

Questions and answers

Why does rail need an upgrade?

The urban rail commuter network in Auckland is currently in a poor state. The fleet of 19 rolling stock (trains) are tired and in need of refurbishment or replacement; the standard of stations and access to stations are poor. The western line is a single track, limiting train services. The whole system has had very few upgrades for decades.

Rail has been identified by the councils of the Auckland region to have the potential to carry at least five times as many passengers if significantly upgraded. Rail also has the unique ability to provide fast public transport transit around the region, as it bypasses road traffic.

For these reasons, rail has been identified as the backbone of a comprehensive and integrated rapid transit system that supports the Regional Growth Strategy and the Regional Land Transport Strategy

Rail must be upgraded to ensure the continued provision of urban commuter rail services in Auckland - if it’s not, the services would shortly have to cease entirely.

Who has developed this plan?

The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) has jointly developed the Auckland Region Rail Upgrade Project plan with Auckland Regional Transport Network Ltd (ARTNL). ARTNL is a company set up and owned by local councils in Auckland to hold transport infrastructure.

ARTNL and the ARC have agreed their respective roles and responsibilities. ARTNL is the region’s vehicle for the operation and management of rail infrastructure assets and will be responsible for managing their development. The ARC is responsible for managing rolling stock procurement and refurbishment, and for determining the scope, extent and quality of the rail services to be provided.

Where does support for this project come from?

This project supports the achievement of the objectives of the Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Land Transport Strategy by providing a significant improvement in passenger transport services in key corridors.

The Auckland Regional Rail Upgrade Project has been formally approved by the ARC’s Passenger Transport Committee and by the board of Auckland Regional Transport Network Limited (ARTNL).

What’s the aim of the rail upgrade project?

The aims of the rail upgrade are to:

- Provide the basis of a comprehensive and integrated rapid transit system based on the rail corridors, in line with the Regional Growth Strategy and the Regional Land Transport Strategy

- Improve rail infrastructure and services to attract patronage and assist in meeting the passenger transport modal share targets set for the corridors by the Passenger Transport Action Plan

- Ensure the continued provision of urban commuter rail services in Auckland.

Will we get better trains?

Ten of the existing trains will be refurbished to make them more attractive to users and to ensure they can operate reliably for a further 10 years. This upgrading is planned to be completed to coincide with the opening of Britomart. A further 25 trains will be acquired to replace the balance of the existing fleet, and to allow significant improvements in service frequencies across the network. It is also expected that some interim rolling stock will be acquired to meet service needs between the opening of Britomart and the delivery of new trains.

Will we get better station facilities?

Upgrades to the rail infrastructure include:

- Access to stations including park and ride, bus transfer and cycle and walking access, will be improved at most stations.

- Station facilities, including buildings or structures, safety features and information will be upgraded across all existing stations.

- Track improvements will be built, notably double-tracking the western line between Boston Rd and Swanson and constructing a rail link from the southern line to Manukau City centre, and signalling and safety upgrades.

How much will it cost and how will it be funded?

The total estimated capital cost of the project is $388 million. An Expression of Interest for funding of the total capital cost of the project was submitted to Infrastructure Auckland by the project partners, ARC and ARTNL, on April 22, 2002. The project cannot proceed without funding support.

Why are ARC and ARTNL applying to Infrastructure Auckland for the whole amount?

Infrastructure Auckland’s purpose is to fund regional infrastructure, and currently has $410 million put aside for public transport.

The scope and cost of the entire rail upgrade project needs to be presented as a whole to Infrastructure Auckland for the agency to be able to make a decision on its commitment to funding. The ARC and ARTNL believe that the total project fits within IA’s funding brief.

What are the steps that must happen before the project work can begin?

The Crown and Tranz Rail must conclude the final details of the Crown’s purchase of the Auckland rail network. This is expected to take place by May 2002.

The Crown and ARTNL then need to agree on the region’s access arrangements to the rail network.

ARC and ARTNL need to secure funding for the project to allow it to proceed.

What is the timing of the project?

The project has been phased to begin in 2002 with full completion of infrastructure works by January 2006 and implementation of the target service level by December 2006.

Who will run rail services?

It is proposed that an operating company will be established in which the staff, systems, safety accreditation and rolling stock would sit on a permanent basis. The operation of the company will be tendered out by the ARC, initially for around five years and then potentially for a longer term. The ARC is responsible for procuring rail services and has approved the start of a process to find a new rail services operator.

When will rail commuters see improvements?

(Please note that all of these dates depend on funding being secured for the work to start.)

In June 2003, to coincide with the opening of Britomart, three other stations will have been developed - one in Manukau, one in Waitakere and one in Papakura.

More station upgrades will continue to roll out during 2003 to 2005. By January 2006, all station facilities, track improvements and station access ways will be upgraded.

By December 2006 when new trains have been delivered, 10-minute peak time frequencies will operate throughout the network.

When do members of the public get to have their say?

The public had an opportunity to input into the strategic direction for transport in the Auckland region through the development of the Regional Land Transport Strategy 1999. The RLTS is currently being revised and the public will get an opportunity to comment later in 2002.

The implementation of transport directions is expressed through each council’s Annual Plan, which all receive submissions from the public.

More detailed information containing plans for stations and other parts of projects will be communicated to rail commuters and local communities as the project gets underway. Local community input into station design will take place through local councils.

What’s the history?

In 1993 the Crown sold the rail assets (excluding the underlying land) to a private company, Tranz Rail, which continues to operate urban services today under its urban commuter name, Tranz Metro. In October 2000, Tranz Rail announced it intended to exit passenger services.

The councils of the Auckland region negotiated with Tranz Rail to purchase the Auckland rail assets, until the Crown announced in March 2001 that it would purchase them on behalf of the region.

The Crown and Tranz Rail reached an agreement in December 2001. Final details of that purchase agreement are expected to be completed in early May 2002.

What about getting light rail?

The scope of the project is to around 2006 and does not include light rail. However, it should be noted that this project does not limit the options for future development of the Region’s rail network. At a later stage, work to electrify the network and purchase light rail vehicles can build on the improvements made under this project. None of the investment proposed here will be wasted if there is a future decision to electrify the network.

Is a rail upgrade the only thing happening in public transport?

While rail is a significant and important public transport mode, many, many improvements to the Auckland region’s bus network have been steadily implemented over the past few years, with many more improvements in the planning stage. Bus patronage is growing at an annual rate of 8 percent as a result. The Regional Ferry Strategy has identified potential ferry improvements, new technology has broadened Rideline’s information services, and the ARC is working on an integrated ticketing project. Check out details on ARC’s website, www.arc.govt.nz

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