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Rail boost in Auckland transport plan

26 Apr 2018

NEW ZEALAND: Further investment in suburban and light rail is to be funded under the NZ$28bn Auckland Transport Alignment Programme unveiled by Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Mayor Phil Goff on April 26.

Described as the country's largest ever civil construction programme, ATAP 2018 is intended to ‘create a 21st century transport network for the city’. The government is to contribute NS$18bn while NS$10bn will be raised locally including NZ$4·4bn from a regional fuel tax.

Within the package, NZ$8·4bn has been allocated for ‘rapid transit’, including suburban rail enhancements, a proposed light rail network and the Panmure – Botany Eastern busway. The government has already committed NZ$1·4bn towards the City Rail Link now under construction. Other rail enhancements include extension of the 25 kV 50 Hz suburban electrification south from Papakura to Pukekohe, replacing the current DMU shuttle; Auckland Transport has already ordered an extra 15 EMUs from CAF which had made provision for onboard energy storage in case the wiring did not go ahead. The part-built third main track to be completed from south of Otahuhu to Wiri Junction will help to segregate KiwiRail freight trains to and from Westfield yard from more intensive suburban services, while further level crossings are to be grade-separated.

Welcoming the announcement, KiwiRail CEO Peter Riedy said the national operator was ‘working closely with the government, MOT and Waikato Regional Council’ to look at the viability of running longer-distance commuter services between Auckland and Hamilton.

In addition to the money allocated under ATAP, Goff said the city was looking ‘to find innovative ways to fund further development, such as PPPs, special purpose vehicles or infrastructure bonds’. In particular, the NZ$1·8bn allocated for light rail is envisaged as seed money to leverage contributions from other sources, with a further announcement expected shortly. Twyford said the first priority would be to develop a route from the city to Māngere, near Auckland’s international airport, with the northwestern corridor as a second line.