As rumoured last week, the government has indeed been exploring options to cut back Auckland’s electrification project – so that it can keep within the very tight budget set for the project. Full details of the proposed changes are included in a report here.
The report begins by saying the following:
Since the development of the Auckland Rail Development Plan, and subsequent investment decisions taken by the Crown and the region, a number of factors have contributed to the situation where available funding is insufficient to complete the project to a level expected by key stakeholders.
Factors include higher than forecast patronage forecasts, new service patterns, revised budgets, and more information about the adequacy of current network improvements.
The Working Group explored a number of options to deliver the electrification of Auckland‟s rail network within a fiscal envelope of $1.6 billion. This assumes existing funding of $1.1 billion to support network improvements remains extant and funding of $500 million for the purchase of electric rolling stock is available.
The Working Group has identified a plausible option if (i) stakeholders are willing to accept a higher degree of operational risk pre-2018, and (ii) a second tranche of Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) is procured post 2018 to replace aging diesel rolling stock, and ideally, to provide operational flexibility and address seating/standing ratios. The Working Group believes, subject to confirmation by operational modelling, this can be delivered within the $500 million funding envelope, and will provide sufficient capacity to meet the Auckland Regional Transport Authority‟s (ARTA‟s) revised future patronage growth forecasts at 10-minute peak frequencies to at least 2018 if not beyond. The cost of the option is $493 million including acceptable contingencies.
So what are the details of these “cutbacks”? Well apparently a number of options have been looked at, but only one could fit within the $500 million strict budget, and at the same time deliver on the key requirements (10 minute frequencies at peak time, and electrification of the core network plus the Manukau Branch). This option is detailed below:
The procurement of a minimum of 75 twenty-four metre EMUs in the first tranche
The operation of 14 electric locomotives (plus required spares) to haul existing SA/SD carriage sets, most likely by upgrading KiwiRail‟s existing fleet of 19 EF locomotives.
Upgrading the Onehunga line and operate a diesel shuttle from Onehunga to either Newmarket Station, or to the junction on the main trunk line near Penrose (as opposed to an electric through service to Britomart Station).
Refurbishment of the existing Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) beyond their current “end-of-life” (2013/14) to enable them to run shuttle services from the non-electrified sections into the electrified sections of the Southern, Western and Onehunga lines until 2018.
A second tranche will be required to be in service after 2018 to replace expired DMUs on the shuttle services.
This compares with the original ARTA EOI requirement for 140 twenty-metre EMUs. The Working Group was able to consider a smaller number of EMUs by increasing the length of the carriages to 24-metres2, accepting a higher number of passengers will stand, and operating the existing DMUs for longer than planned. ARTA‟s original proposal would have provided sufficient rolling stock to meet demand and cover shuttle services until at least 2023.
Hmmmmm…… is it quite a cutback isn’t it? And in the same week we see the government stumping up $100 million to investigate a road that will never stack up.