PLANS FOR the renewal and expansion of Tranz Metro suburban rail services in the New Zealand capital reached a key milestone on November 13, when Greater Wellington Regional Council confirmed an order for new EMUs.

GWRC has signed a contract with Rotem of South Korea and Mitsui of Japan covering the supply of 35 two-car EMUs, with options for a further 13, within an overall budget of NZ$210m. Following an initial call for expressions of interest in 2006, Rotem, Bombardier and CAF were shortlisted to submit final bids in January. Rotem and Mitsui were named as preferred bidders in July. GWRC is being advised on the procurement by Halcrow, operating concessionaire Toll NZ and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Delivery of the new units will permit the withdrawal of English Electric Class DM EMUs that are now close to 70 years old. GWRC is also planning to refurbish its 44 Class EM two-car sets supplied by Ganz Mavag in 1980-81.

Land Transport New Zealand will fund 90% of the cost as part of a NZ$500m package of enhancements that includes further double-tracking and extension of the 1·5 kV DC electrified services northwards from Paraparaumu to Waikanae.

To provide additional capacity, the stored Toshiba-built Class Ea locos from the de-electrified Otira – Arthur’s Pass line in South Island are being overhauled to haul refurbished ex-British Rail coaches on outer-suburban services.