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Reliability, capacity focus for $500m rail plan

Greater Wellington Regional Council

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Minister of Finance


Joint news release


Reliability and greater capacity focus for new $500m rail plan

A $500m investment package in Wellington’s rail network over the next five years will lead to more modern, reliable and less crowded rail services.

The improvements are contained in a medium-term rail plan published today, a document intended to take a strategic view of all the improvements planned for the entire network.

It was produced following a series of meetings between Greater Wellington Regional Council, the Treasury, the Ministry of Transport, Land Transport New Zealand and ONTRACK.

The plan sets out an agreed list of projects (listed below) and current progress. It includes all the improvements to infrastructure expected to be completed before the multi-million dollar fleet of new trains are introduced in 2010. A number of the projects are subject to funding approval.

The plan will form the basis of the longer-term Regional Rail Plan which will focus on higher levels of service and capacity through greater frequency, improved journey times, service extensions and the introduction of more rolling stock.

Officials from Greater Wellington and the Government met late last month to develop the plan and discuss financial arrangements.

Greater Wellington is currently completing the operating framework and will be working closely with track owners ONTRACK on network upgrades and identifying maintenance priorities, including the power supply and signal reliability.

Both organisations are working to boost the reliability of the infrastructure ahead of the arrival of new rolling stock, which along with the proposed improvements, will allow more frequent services.

The medium-term plan follows this year’s budget announcement providing much needed additional funds to those already provided in the Wellington Transport Package. The Crown funding is supplemented by local funding giving a total of $500 million to invest in the medium term.

Greater Wellington and ONTRACK will be working together to ensure that all projects are co-ordinated and regular progress reports will go to the council and Government. A formal agreement is being prepared between the parties.

The Government once again confirmed its support for a significantly improved rail service for the region.

Finance Minister Hon Dr Michael Cullen, said: “Passenger rail services can play a vital role in mitigating the effects of climate change. The Government wants to see early improvements to reliability and capacity to retain and attract users.

“We’re doing our part by providing funding and we expect to see Greater Wellington and ONTRACK deliver real improvements on the ground in as short a timeframe as possible. These improvements are all part of the drive to improve public transport being lead by my colleague Annette King.”

Greater Wellington chairman Ian Buchanan, said: “The public has given us a clear message – improve public transport, particularly rail. It is now time to deliver – that means build it, buy it or fix it.

“However, up until now improvements have been made in something of an ad hoc way without an eye on the bigger picture. Now we have the significant investment we need we can afford to plan for the future. Our medium-term plan and the Regional Rail Plan which takes a longer view is designed to do just that – give clarity to our planning.”

“Unfortunately, the saying that there’s no gain without pain applies to the rail network. Inevitably improving the network will cause disruption to users as sections of track are closed for essential works. We will be working closely with ONTRACK and Tranz Metro to minimise the impact on the public, and will be paying special attention to keeping them well informed.”

Notes for editors

Major improvements include:-

New rolling stock and associated works - $280m

1. New Wairarapa cars – seven cars are already in service with the remaining 11 due by the end of the year.

2. Wairarapa stations platform and shelter improvements to enable the longer and higher SW cars to safely operate and provide more comfortable boarding and alighting. Two stations complete.

3. New stabling facilities at Masterton for the new SW cars. Complete.

4. A fleet of 70 new trains known as Electric Multiple Units – preferred supplier due to be announced next month with the first trains delivered in 2010.
5.
To gain the maximum benefit and efficiency from the new trains upgrading rail infrastructure across the network is critically important. Projects include:-

1. Johnsonville tunnel realignments to enlarge tunnels to allow all rolling stock, including the new trains, to use the line. Works scheduled to start summer 2007/08.

2. Signalling and overhead power upgrades. Preliminary studies already underway.

3. Additional stabling across the network to provide greater storage capacity and improved operational efficiencies. Preliminary work commenced.

4. Platform upgrades to improve boarding and alighting safely. Survey work nearing completion.

Short-term capacity enhancements - $20m

1. Six-car locomotive-hauled train to be introduced to Hutt Line. Commissioned six-car SWE locomotive hauled train to run express services on the metropolitan network. Carriages have been purchased from the UK and bogies ordered. Investigations of locomotives are underway.

2. Five English Electric Units forming two trains to be introduced to ease over-crowding. Investigations underway.

Additional region-wide network upgrades

Track up-grades - $180m

1. Double-tracking and electrification from Mackays Crossing to Waikanae to improve infrastructure reliability, provide greater corridor capacity and ensure maximum reliability benefits are achieved from the new EMUs. Preparatory work scheduled to start 2007.

2. Wellington Railway Station train entry capacity [or train queuing relief]– to improve travel times and increase train frequency on all lines. Concept designs and modelling are complete. Timing to be determined.

3. Alignment improvements between north and south junction (between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay) to improve service reliability, capacity and journey times. Preliminary designs and modelling are complete.

Station upgrades - $30m

1. New and upgraded Kapiti railway stations to provide for extension of double tracking and electrification to Waikanae, improve capacity, community amenity and accessibility. Designs will commence in 2007. Works will align with the double-tracking project.

2. Network-wide station upgrades will be undertaken following the completion of the work needed to upgrade platforms to accommodate the new EMUs.

Deferred maintenance – cost to be confirmed

3. Infrastructure renewal across the network to improve reliability and resilience and catch-up on neglected component replacement.

ENDS

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