Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency provided Greater Wellington and Horizons Regional Councils a NZD 5 million (USD 3 million) to draft a detailed business case and to begin the Wellington regional train procurement.
The regional authorities will continue detailed investigations, including market assessments to better understand options, risks and costs, in a fast changing technology environment before completing the detail business case and undertaking the procurement process for new trains.
It is estimated that NZD 300 million (USD 183.5 million) is the value of the tender which envisages the acquisition of new trains bringing greater capacity and frequency to a busy inter-regional network.
The NZ Transport Agency is fully funding the project which will enable the councils to complete the entire train procurement process which will provide additional capacity within the next five years.
The authorities expect that the new trains will “provide a resilient and reliable service that not only meets the needs of customers but also aids population and economic growth over the next 10-15 years,” said Daran Ponter, the Chairman of Greater Wellington Regional Council.
As population growth in the Wellington region has accelerated much faster than forecasted over the last five years, from the initial estimation of 24,000 to 35,000, transport services must meet the demand while offering high quality transport services and better connections.
Through the Wellington regional train procurement “passengers will benefit additional capacity, increased frequency and more connections between Manawatu, Horowhenua, Wairarapa and Wellington,” Deputy Chair of Greater Wellington Adrienne Staples said. The project will also “provide economic benefits at a time when we need to look to smarter ways of working and connecting people,” Staples explained.
The passenger traffic on the regional network is recording an increase. The patronage on the 172-km Wairarapa Line has grown substantially over the last decade from 680,000 trips in 2009 to 780,000 in 2019. This translates into a 15% increase. A more significant peak period patronage increase of 24% has been experienced over the same period. Manawatū Line also experienced an annual average growth of 3.1% over the last four years, despite a decline in 2011.
“Investing in a modern rail fleet also enables us to use the trains across the whole network, bringing extra capacity to Kapiti passengers and encouraging more people to make the shift from cars to public transport,” said Kapiti Coast Councillor Penny Gaylor.
The Wellington regional railway network ensures 14 million passenger journeys per year. While the rail network is well maintained, some sections need replacement and improvement works.
The modernisation plan for Wellington includes track and overhead power system renewal, as well as installation of modern signalling system. The programme involves double tracking between Trentham and Upper Hutt, improvements to Wellington station approaches and changes at Plimmerton.
At the beginning of the year, the government has provided a NDZ 211 million (USD 129 million) funding for Wellington rail modernisation, which is part of the NZD 1.1 billion (USD 672.9 million) rail financing programme.