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A fix for the Auckland rail track

A fix for the Auckland rail track

Auckland Regional Transport Network Limited (ARTNL) and the government are to assist Auckland rail commuters by arranging to have Auckland’s track “de-stressed” to stop heat buckling in high temperatures.

Trains are now having to slow considerably in hot conditions because of possible buckling in the track.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen and ARTNL’s Chair Ross Keenan, announced today that the government and ARTNL have agreed that ARTNL will organise the work and manage the process to a satisfactory completion.

Mr Keenan says the repair process will start immediately. “We recognise there is an urgent need for action to maintain passenger services over the summer with minimum disruption. We also recognise the importance of laying a good foundation for the expanded rail services that are to be offered from the middle of next year.”

Dr. Cullen welcomed ARTNL’s initiative. “It is clear that, in Auckland’s case, track de-stressing will only occur in the near future if local government takes responsibility for it”.

Dr. Cullen said “We signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year between the government and the Auckland local authorities under which the Crown undertook to pay for the acquisition of the Auckland rail corridor between Papakura and Swanson, and the Auckland region undertook to take responsibility for all ongoing costs of maintenance and improvements, except for funding provided by Transfund”. This work is outside the agreed maintenance agreement which the Crown has with Tranz Rail.

Priority will be given to fixing the track in areas most vulnerable to buckling, and all track work within the Auckland urban region is expected to be complete in eight or nine months. ARTNL will apply to Infrastructure Auckland for a capital grant to cover the cost in principle (estimated at between $1 and $2 million). The application will be considered by Infrastructure Auckland’s Board in February next year, but ARTNL will arrange interim funding.

The government and ARTNL have also reached agreement in principle on ARTNL’s role in managing the rail corridor on the government’s behalf under which ARTNL will assume a range of rights and responsibilities for managing and developing the rail corridor, stations and immediate environs. Under the arrangement the government retains ultimate control and the ability to ensure decisions are made consistent with its national rail policy.

Mr Keenan says reaching the agreement is a condition surrounding the $16.6m grant from Infrastructure Auckland. “It’s another real sign of progress and an important step towards a new look passenger rail system for Auckland”.

Tranz Rail sold Auckland’s commuter rail tracks to the government in late 2001 for $81m. ARTNL was incorporated in July last year by six of the Auckland region’s councils to own, lease, develop and manage passenger transport infrastructure within the region. The key objective of the company is to provide user friendly, quality facilities and services to Aucklanders using the region’s public transport. ARTNL’s offer to take responsibility for ensuring the track distressing work is carried out is consistent with that objective.

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