Auckland Transport have announced the short list of companies to run Auckland’s trains from July next year onwards and none particularly fill me with confidence.
Auckland Transport has short-listed three companies that will be invited to tender to operate passenger rail services from 1 July 2016.
They are Serco NZ, Transdev Auckland and KiwiRail.
Mark Lambert, general manager AT Metro, says tender documents will be issued to the short-listed companies soon and the new rail contract will take effect from next year, when the existing contract expires.
Mr Lambert says there was a high level of interest internationally when Auckland Transport sought Expressions of Interest and the three shortlisted companies were selected after careful evaluation.
He says that the new contract will be performance-based and reflect the huge changes in the Auckland passenger rail system since the current contract was put in place in 2003.
Auckland’s Metro rail service has been electrified and modern electric trains will soon be operating on all lines, stations have been upgraded, new stations built and the Western Line double-tracked. The number of services has significantly increased from 40,000 to 140,000 per annum since 2003. Passenger boardings have passed a record 13 million a year and are climbing at record rates, with growth of 33% in March 2015 compared to the same month last year. Annual growth for the March year was 21%.
- Serco NZ is the New Zealand arm of the British Serco PLC, an international service company working in a variety of sectors including transport, health and corrections. Internationally, Serco’s rail operations include the MerseyRail and Northern Rail operations in the UK and the Dubai Metro in the United Arab Emirates. Serco delivers services to central and local governments in New Zealand and Australia with over 9,000 staff across the region and 600 based in Auckland.
- Transdev Auckland is part of the Transdev Group, one of the world’s largest private passenger transport companies. The Group, whose head office is based in France, operate light and heavy rail services in Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. Transdev has been operating the Auckland Metro rail services since 2003.
- New Zealand Government-owned KiwiRail owns and manages the national railway network. It operates freight and passenger rail services throughout New Zealand, including the Tranz Metro commuter rail operation in Wellington, which provides 2,200 services each week.
With Transdev and its predecessors we’ve have more than a decade of poor performance – not all of which has been their fault. Perhaps most annoying to regular customers has been the frequent poor communication when things go wrong.
Serco also operates the Mt Eden prison and if they were to win the contract I’d certainly hope they ran the rail network better they were the prison a few years ago where the failed to meet half of their performance targets.
Lastly Kiwirail who own the tracks and currently run the trains in Wellington. In reality they are a freight company and to date have shown little regard for PT or its users in Auckland.
What’s also noticeable about this announcement is that the three companies shortlisted are the same as those shortlisted for the Wellington contract with one exception. In Wellington Kiwirail have bid in joint venture with Keolis Downer.
All the companies shortlisted will almost certainly be hoping to win both the Auckland and Wellington contracts which would allow them to leverage some economies of scale across both operations. That has the potential to be good if it means services can be delivered cheaper but might have negative consequences if it limits how easy it is for other companies to compete for future tenders.