Auckland Transport have announced that they’ve postponed their tender for running train services in Auckland. Back in April they said they shortlisted Kiwirail, Serco and Transdev to run services from the middle of next year. I had assumed they must have been getting close to picking a winner.
Here’s what they’ve said as to why it is now being postponed
The procurement of a new contract for Auckland’s commuter rail operations is being placed on hold.
In April, Auckland Transport short-listed three companies, Transdev Auckland, KiwiRail and Serco NZ, to tender to operate rail passenger services from July 2016.
General Manager AT Metro Mark Lambert says the decision to postpone the release of the request for tender is being made due to a number of contributing factors.
“Since the decision to tender for a new contract, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) between Auckland Council and the Government has commenced that will consider strategic transport opportunities, which is likely to include rail services and infrastructure. The significant City Rail Link (CRL) infrastructure project will also commence enabling works in the next few months bringing the delivery of this project closer. With these key strategic considerations in mind it would be prudent to wait for any outputs that may impact the scope of future rail service delivery before we go to tender”.
Another key factor relates to the recent transition to full electric train operations (other than between Papakura and Pukekohe) from 20 July and achieving a stable period of high rail punctuality and reliability performance prior to release of the request for tender.
Thinking about these and starting with the last one, as we know train performance has improved considerably since moving to a fully electric fleet so obviously AT don’t feel there as urgent a need to replace Transdev. Given their contract was due to expire in June next year I assume they’ve now extended that again – after they had a three year extension in 2013 to keep some stability while rolling out the electric trains.
The more interesting factor is the comment about ATAP likely looking at strategic opportunities including rail services and infrastructure. I haven’t heard anything to back this up but my guess to the thinking is that they will tie the running of trains into a PPP along with the construction of the CRL (and perhaps other infrastructure). In other words a company or consortium of companies would build and operate CRL plus all the trains through it. That would see the cost of the project shift from CAPEX to OPEX so rail services cost more but include the cost of building new infrastructure. Given this is the approach being taken for some of the big RoNS projects it’s a setup that might also be more appealing for the government.
My understanding is that the CRL is explicitly outside the terms of reference for ATAP, given this does it perhaps suggest we’ll hear more about the project soon?