Last week we broke the story that electrification is running late and that the wires won’t be installed by the time the first trains arrive as previously promised. My post raised the attention of the Herald who have since run a few articles regarding it (one of which isn’t online). As a result of the extra attention Kiwirail provided quite a bit more information about what was happening. Here is their email.
This is an international scale project with many complexities. There have been challenges getting enough access onto the rail corridor amongst the increasing number of passenger and freight services operating in Auckland to build the traction system, which has meant it has taken longer to complete this part of the project than initially envisaged – there are many more trains running now than when the project was confirmed and finish dates set. This is a tension that we always need to manage.
Having said that we are working closely with Auckland Transport and this will not affect the introduction of the new trains into service.
When the first two trains arrive in September they will be able to run immediately beneath tested and powered up wires to begin their commissioning process. You have found the map I was referring to yesterday on our website which shows where the wires are already in place.
We expect to have traction infrastructure in place across the bulk of the network by Xmas, with the rest being completed over the summer block of line in January.
During the first three months of 2014 the focus will then move to finishing works and testing – so the network will be ready for AT’s planned introduction of the new trains into service in April.
Testing and tuning of the infrastructure will need to continue through until 2015 as it will need to have full length trains running beneath it frequently – this is after all brand new infrastructure.
The project is also on course to complete within budget – $500 million.
To confirm what we have already told you, signalling and clearance work is completed, and the Onehunga branch and the NAL between Westfield and Newmarket have been tested and commissioned. Wiring is already in place around the network as per the map on our website.
The next section to be commissioned will be Westfield to Wiri, which is where the EMU maintenance depot is, which is scheduled for early September, in time for the new trains. Beyond that we’ll continue to liaise with Auckland Transport so commissioning of further of sections of OLE lines up with their commissioning schedule.
As part of this part of the project we are also systematically putting up screens on bridges and other structures to prevent accidental contact with the overhead wires, and carrying out other necessary safety measures such as earthing and bonding.
We’d appreciate some mention of the safety aspects of the project too please – these wires carry 25,000 volts, so the public need to be treat the overhead wires and the fittings that carry them as live and dangerous at all times. The system is designed so that people doing ordinary things will not be affected – only reckless or mischievous behaviour could be dangerous. KiwiRail and Auckland Transport are working on a public safety campaign with regard to this.
There are now height restrictions at level crossings in the Auckland area – these are signposted at each crossing. These restrictions don’t affect ordinary motorists or pedestrians but those in vehicles or towing loads that exceed these restrictions must choose an alternative route or will need to gain permission to use the crossing – information on how to do that is on our website.
Unfortunately it sounds like the need to get the wiring finished is likely to mean another extensive rail shut down this Christmas. This is despite Kiwirail saying in an internal staff newsletter in December that shutdown at Christmas last year would be the last big one.
Almost certainly as a result of these delays, there are now going to be impacts on some evening train services starting next week. MAXX is now advising:
Buses replace trains weeknights from Monday 27 May
Dates: From Monday 27 May until further notice.
Times: From 8pm until the start of service the next morning, Sunday to Thursday
Buses will replace trains south of Otahuhu on the Southern and Eastern lines
These closures are required to enable KiwiRail to carry out major works associated with the ongoing upgrade and electrification of Auckland’s rail network.
Click here for the rail bus timetable
Please check timetable very carefully.
For further information on Rail Bus services (including rail bus stop locations),
please click here
Buses will be marked RAIL BUS. All valid tickets and passes currently accepted on trains will be accepted on Rail Bus replacements.
Buses cannot accommodate bikes, scooters or large personal items.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused
I certainly can’t wait for this project to be finished. Having a network that isn’t shut down at nights, weekends and at Christmas along with having faster, reliable and more frequent trains is going to have massive impacts on people’s perceptions of trains as well as patronage.