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The process for the purchase of Auckland’s electric train fleet has begun, the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) announced today.
ARTA will on Tuesday make an international call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the supply and maintenance of a fleet of Electric Multiple Units (EMUs).
On Friday the Auckland Regional Council, in what it called an “historic” meeting attended by the full board of ARTA, resolved to approve ARTA taking a major step forward towards the purchase of a new fleet of 140 electric train cars for Auckland.
Electrification is part of a wider programme of public transport infrastructure improvements to take place over the next five years, including the achievement of 10-minute train frequencies in peak hours, new stations, opening the Onehunga branch and Manukau spur lines, strengthened bus and ferry networks, integrated ticketing and real time passenger information.
As a result of those improvements, rail patronage is expected to more than double to 17 million passengers per annum by 2016, contributing to an overall doubling of public transport use across rail, bus and ferries.
ARC chairman Mike Lee said the ARC was proud to have taken the decision to proceed with electrification after decades of delay.
Electrification of the Auckland rail network was first planned in the 1940s. Auckland came closest to achieving electrification in the mid 1970s with ‘Robbie’s Rapid Rail’.
“Electrification will build on the remarkable momentum achieved in Auckland rail over the past five years in which patronage has grown from just over 2 million to over 7 million passenger trips per year. We are set to overtake Wellington’s rail patronage of about 11.5 million passenger trips in the next two to three years,” Mr Lee said.
“Electric trains are not only faster and cleaner, they are quiet and cheaper to run. They will also help create a transport system that better contributes to the sustainable and economic development of our city-region, and better supports anticipated population growth.”
ARTA chairman Mark Ford said, “Auckland has great potential to move more people and freight on its under-utilised rail corridors. The efficiency of an electrified system will enable us to maximise the infrastructure that is in place.
“In respect of the project offering economic potential to New Zealand, the EOI and tender process are open to both local and international suppliers. ARTA fully supports offering full, fair and reasonable opportunity to competitive local industry. Offshore interested parties will be encouraged to ally themselves with New Zealand subcontractors or suppliers for the purpose of responding to the EOI.
“This historic project is a partnership between ARTA and KiwiRail (NZRC).” said Mr Ford, “and we will be working closely with our partners to ensure success.” (KiwiRail will be responsible for the electrical wiring and other civil engineering work.)
“The phenomenal renaissance of Auckland’s rail growth - sparked by bringing trains back into the CBD with the construction of Britomart station, a $600 million track and signaling upgrade, and progressive station and service improvements - is a clear signal that Aucklanders have an appetite for rail travel. Electrification is the logical next step in the development of the rail network,” said Mr Ford.
The region’s public transport capital programme is made possible by a regional fuel levy, which starts at two cents per litre next July (progressively rising to 9.5 cents in 2010).
The ARC’s 10-year financial plan provides for an electrification investment of $496 million, including electric trains, and stabling and maintenance facilities.