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Auckland Transport Dumps Train Operator Transdev

Singapore-Australia joint venture, Auckland One Rail, will take over Auckland’s passenger rail network after 18 years of operation by Transdev.

Auckland Transport has given a contract for the delivery of rail services in Auckland to Auckland One Rail (AOR), a joint venture between Singapore-based public transport operator ComfortDelGro and Australian rail operations and maintenance provider UGL. The new franchise commences on 16 January 2022, worth about $130 million per year for an initial term of eight years.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson says workers will be watching the approach of the new operators closely. He says a good working relationship had been established with current operator Transdev and there was concern about the future.

“More uncertainty at a time when we already face disruption from maintenance issues and COVID is not a good situation.”

Buston adds AOR made no effort to meet with the Union during the tender process.

But Auckland Transport Chair, Adrienne Young-Cooper says the transaction has been structured so that the incoming operator takes over the existing Transdev Auckland operating company and all of its staff, ensuring that the Transdev Auckland staff remain on their existing terms and conditions of employment.

As the new franchisee, AOR becomes responsible for the delivery of passenger train operations to Auckland customers across the rail system. This includes the provision of drivers and other train staff, development of timetables, station operations, security and safety. Managing and maintaining trains and other facilities is also a key component of the contract.

The franchise includes introducing new services for Aucklanders through the City Rail Link (CRL) which is planned for completion in 2024. Enhanced service levels and efficiencies through this new city centre section of line will transform the city’s rail experience and patronage levels.

She says the review of the current way of delivering rail services provided an opportunity to change the delivery model to better integrate all aspects of operations, with an eye on $7 billion of investment that is being made in rail with the construction of the City Rail Link opening in 2024, electrification of the rail line between Papakura and Pukekohe, and the purchase of additional electric trains over the next few years.

As a result, the new contract will see AOR having responsibility for not only train operations but also electric train maintenance, station operations and maintenance, safety, and security.

“The prime driver for moving to a more vertically integrated model is to reduce organisational interfaces and to improve customer and safety outcomes,” says Young-Cooper.

“While cost savings were not the primary outcome sought, the pricing received through this very competitive procurement process has resulted in savings over current costs.”

The unsuccessful tenderer was Aka Tangata Ltd, a consortium comprising current operator Transdev NZ Ltd, John Holland NZ Ltd and CAF NZ Ltd.

Auckland Transport says it acknowledges the work of Transdev who has been the operator of rail services in Auckland since 2004.

“Over that time patronage has grown significantly and as the operator they have played a key role in establishing rail as an important way of travelling around the region.”

Annual patronage under Transdev’s operation has increased from about 3 million in 2004 to over 22 million by 2020. Transdev also supported the electrification of Auckland’s rail network during this time, which was completed in 2015. This included overseeing the introduction of 57 electric multiple unit (EMU) trains and transition from the previous diesel multiple unit (DMU) fleet.

Transdev also operates and maintains Wellington’s passenger rail service.

Auckland One Rail

Auckland Transport says AOR brings the expertise of two world class transport organisations – Singapore-based public transport operator ComfortDelGro and Australian rail operations and maintenance provider UGL.

UGL is Australia’s largest supplier of outsourced rail asset management and rolling stock maintenance services, with a fleet of more than 2,000 rail vehicles across its Australian rolling stock maintenance contracts. UGL is also consortium partner in Metro Trains Melbourne, Metro Trains Sydney, Canberra light rail and the operator of the Adelaide light rail system.

“We recognise the challenges and opportunities facing the rail network as Auckland experiences unprecedented and growing demand for transport services,” says UGL Managing Director Doug Moss.

“We look forward to working together with Auckland Transport and bringing our international rail expertise to shape and improve the operations of the network.”

ComfortDelGro’s is one of the world’s largest multi-modal passenger transport providers, with a footprint in seven countries, more than 24,000 employees and annual turnover in 2020 of NZ$3.4 billion. CDG, through its subsidiary SBS Transit, is the operator and maintainer of two Singapore mass rapid transit lines and a light rail system.

“We are excited to leverage our experience of operating and maintaining Singapore’s world-class MRT system and are looking forward to delivering connected, safe and reliable customer journeys for Auckland’s traveling public,” Managing Director Yang Ban Seng says.

However this will be ComfortDelGro’s first rail operation outside of Singapore as well as its maiden entry into New Zealand.

It is also much smaller than Transdev, which has operations in 17 countries, with 83,000 employees and an annual turnover of over NZ$11.4 billion.

Auckland Transport claims the new contract award is part of their ongoing focus to continue the rapid growth in Aucklanders using the region’s rail services, which increased by 700% during Transdev’s time as operator.

“Ensuring we have a world class and experienced rail franchise operator is an important part of providing an outstanding rail service,” says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

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