While we will have to wait until the end of September to find out which company has won the tender to build Auckland’s electric trains, it is my understanding that an announcement will be made at Auckland Transport later today on a few of the details about those trains. AKT has a bit more detail. Today’s announcement may shed some light on a couple of key matters:
- Who will end up owning the EMUs – KiwiRail or Auckland Council (through Auckland Transport)?
- How many EMUs will be ordered – the previously announced total of 35-38 three car trains, or a larger number?
Discussion over the past few months has indicated positive movements on both these two issues. Wellington’s rail rolling stock is to be owned by the regional council, rather than by central government – so it would be surprising to see anything but the same arrangement in Auckland. This makes some sense, as Auckland ratepayers (with a contribution from NZTA) will be the ones paying for the electric trains – as the government’s contribution is just a “loan” to KiwiRail, rather than an actual grant of the $500 million (remember that when the “we’re spending $1.6 billion on rail” line gets trotted out for the 1000th time).
On the second issue, the number of EMUs that get ordered, the original idea was to have a mix of EMUs operating on the western and eastern lines, with electric locomotives hauling our current SA Train carriages on the southern line. But that idea was before the City Rail Link came along as such a high priority project, and it’s my understanding that the SA Train Carriages have compatibility issues with the rail link’s tunnel: both in terms of their fire rating and also in terms of its steepness being too great for any train that is locomotive hauled. That issue is likely to have incentivised plans for a greater number of EMUs, while the high exchange rate may also have freed up a bit of money to purchase a greater number of trains than had previously been considered.
It will be interesting to find out what the details are.