Auckland’s commuter trains will operate at slower speeds from Monday 17th August while KiwiRail carries out urgent work to replace and repair worn rail.
KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says recent testing across the Auckland metro network has indicated wear on the tracks is more widespread, with repair work required more urgently, than previously understood.
“The work we are doing was anticipated and is part of the $1billion programme of works to modernise the network and prepare it for the growth that will come with the City Rail Link.
“This includes building new tracks to ease congestion on the busiest part of the network, extending electrification from Papakura to Pukekohe and city-wide renewals to modernise the network.
“Following our testing we are accelerating our programme of replacing the most worn sections of rail and resurfacing less damaged sections.
“We are equipped and ready to resolve the issue with the necessary rail already in the country and staff available to lay it. Specialist rail grinding equipment, which will be used to remediate some of the rail, will arrive from Australia shortly.
“We estimate about 100km of track will need to be replaced and expect the work could take around 6 months.
“While we are doing this work we will lower track speeds from the current 80km/h to 40km/h across the metro network, noting that there are already wide-spread localised temporary speed restrictions.
“We understand this will be frustrating for commuters and do apologise for this disruption. However, the faster this work can be completed, the sooner the network can be back to operating safely at full speed as we continue our work to deliver a resilient and reliable rail network for Auckland.
“We are working closely with Auckland Transport to arrange optimum access to the track so we can get to work as quickly as possible while managing operation of services.
“Unfortunately, from time to time track closures will be required and these will be managed in the usual way and customers notified in advance by the operator. We will work closely with them, to minimise any disruption as much as possible.
“The Government’s current Covid-19 measures in Auckland may provide us with an opportunity to start sooner.
“We work the Auckland metro hard with more than 22 million commuter journeys, and 6 million tonnes of freight a year.
“Rail becomes worn over time as a result of usage, in the same way that road surfaces deteriorate. As with roads we use speed restrictions as a precautionary measure to ensure safe operations. Stopping trains allows our teams to work nights, weekends and public holidays to carry out the repairs.”
Mark Lambert, Executive General Manager of Integrated Networks at Auckland Transport acknowledges that these changes will be frustrating for rail customers while the works are undertaken, but necessary to upgrade the track and ultimately provide a better customer experience.
“A network wide speed limit will be in place from Monday 17 August, which will require a reduction in the number of train services during the morning and afternoon weekday busier peak travel periods, while KiwiRail carry out this necessary work. There may be changes to the number and frequency of train services at other times of the day and at the weekend.
Mr Lambert says Auckland Transport has been working with its train operator, Transdev to re-work timetables and will be able to offer services every 20 minutes across the day, other than very early morning and late evening. This is a reduction from current morning and afternoon peak services every 10 minutes Monday to Friday. “We hope to add some extra services at peak times to ensure that we can meet passenger demand, but this speed restriction will unfortunately mean longer journey times for all our customers of up to 50% for this temporary period.”
“Like KiwiRail we recognise that the resulting increase in journey times will be frustrating.
Mr Lambert acknowledged that “This is part of the critical upgrade of the rail track infrastructure in Auckland as we plan and prepare for significant increase in services when the City Rail Link is open, and dramatically reducing travel times across the region. We are working closely with KiwiRail to ensure the track infrastructure is ready for the future demands that will be placed on it that will continue the transformational journey of rail in Auckland with the opening of the City Rail Link.”