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Passengers, economy and environment set to benefit from Auckland’s new electric rail additions

In a procurement process that’s been nearly three years in the making, Auckland is finally getting its electric trains. The trains mean a better deal for the environment, passengers, and even the economy, with Transport Minister Steven Joyce saying the deal will result in more jobs and a “significant skill transfer”. 

Auckland Transport has announced it has signed a contract with Spanish manufacturer, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles SA (CAF) to purchase 57 three-car electric trains. 

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the trains are the next step in “giving Auckland a 21st century rail network”. 

“Without electric trains, the extension of that network is not possible. Without electric trains, vital projects like the City Rail Link are not possible. 

“It also means that the train network can cope with the extra demand we are already seeing. This is a great deal from every angle.” 

It’s good news on the environmental front, with the electric additions set to replace the diesel units and diesel locomotive hauled trains currently in use. 

Equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, the train designs will be based on rolling stock supplied for the Heathrow Express in England. 

Auckland Transport chairman Mark Ford said the deal has resulted in 19 extra trains being purchased than originally planned. 

“It has involved a true collaboration between all of the key stakeholders to reach a common infrastructure goal, a modern fleet of trains for Auckland,” he said. 

Joyce said the investment is part of a wider upgrade of the city’s rail network. 

“The government has also invested $1.1 billion in the redevelopment and electrification of Auckland’s metro rail network to bring it up to a functional and reliable standard. This will ensure the entire system works well. We need investment in tracks as well as trains.” 

The deal presents another bonus for New Zealand — more jobs. Joyce said the contract will create new jobs and will also enable a “significant skill transfer to local staff” in the domain of maintenance services.    

In November 2009 the government announced it would provide a $500m loan to buy 38 new trains and build the new maintenance depot. Close $400m of the loan will be used to purchase the trains, while the remainder will be used to build the new maintenance depot being built in Wiri. 

The trains will be owned by Auckland Transport and you can expect to see them come into service by the end of 2013. But while Auckland transport owns the trains, CAF has signed a contract to maintain the trains through to 2026. 

The procurement was managed on behalf of the government by KiwiRail working closely with the previous Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) and then transferred to Auckland Transport in preparation for the manufacturing and ownership phases.