Along with the two other great changes that are underway in Auckland right now; the fantastic service redesign, and at last; ticketing and fare integration, the prospect of our new Electric Trains add up to nothing short of a real revolution in the shape and performance of the entire city.
All three changes are required together because only all three add up to a transformation of Auckland from a totally auto-dependant place to it being a viable Transit City as well. Together these changes, for the first time, give Auckland a true Transit Network based on interconnecting routes across all modes and directions and with minimal inconvenience or undue cost. At the heart of this transformation is a core service of fast and frequent vehicles unobstructed by other traffic: The Rapid Transit Network or RTN.
To begin with the RTN will be made up of the Northern Busway plus the existing Rail Network. The Busway will have more and better services, and the rail network is being electrified and will be run on a seven day/ten minute pattern with brand new trains currently being built in Spain. The new speed and frequency of the system is the key; we can all forget timetables and just turn-up-and-go, bus riders arriving at new stations like Panmure will have the option of getting to more destinations more quickly by transferring to the unconstricted RTN lines. Yeeha!
To manage these trains a new Depot is being built beside the Southern Line on a disused quarry site in Wiri. Here are some photographs I took of progress there, starting with a glamour shot with plenty for engineering nerds to follow:
Looking down the first of the new sidings on the west side of North Island Main Trunk Line at dusk.
For an illustration of how much of a new age for rail is now underway in Auckland just contrast the old Wiri platforms on the right above with the infrastructure being built nearby. Beyond the old station the concrete hardstand of the inland freight port is visible. There are two tracks for diesel trains only on the eastern side and three about to get electric kit further west. Also visible is the fill still going into the old quarry site this side of the Depot building itself. I wonder if it is coming from the Waterview motorway project? Shame the CRL isn’t being dug now spill could be removed by rail and be forming the base for the depot….
The whole area between the Depot building and the existing rail line will be sidings for the Depot; where many of our new trains will overnight. Only one track is in so far.
The steel portal frame is going up real fast as are the forming of service pits.
Inside the workshop there will be various state-of-the-art amenities to keep our new trains running well. It will be run by CAF, the Spanish company building the trains.
A first for NZ; there will be a precisely spaced set of hydraulic jacks set into the floor of the central bay able to efficiently lift a full three car set at the push of a button.
The jacks are being made in Germany and these pits are being formed to very tight tolerances to fit them. There is also a wheel lathe [1mm tolerance, apparently] and a really elaborate system of earthing every bit of steel in the building to safely handle any incidents with the electric supply.
South of the Depot site one set of the access sidings can be seen going in on the right, but also the third main under the masts for the electric supply. The whole marshalling yard will be run with fully automated points, drivers will not really be driving the trains much here, as will be the case in the CRL when built. For both safety and efficiency a great deal of our new system will be automated. If the new trains didn’t have to share so much of the network with freight trains even more of it would be automated.
This all shows, I suppose, the one advantage of the long and deep period of zero investment in rail in Auckland. Out of necessity we are getting a completely new and extremely up to date system, one that will be very efficient to run and a pleasure to use.
All we will need after this is a more complete network to really get full return on this investment. Starting, of course, with the City Rail Link.