16 August, 2021
KiwiRail and Auckland Transport are already making changes to address issues raised by a report into track damage through Rolling Contact Fatigue that led to widespread speed restrictions across the Auckland rail network.
The Auckland RCF Working Group Root Cause Assessment Report, prepared for KiwiRail and Auckland Transport, identified multiple causes, with historic underinvestment in Auckland’s rail track infrastructure identified as one of the key factors. The report also pointed to insufficient rail grinding, poor underlying track condition, the design of the EMU trains and the wheel rail interface. Auckland’s climate is also another likely contributor.
KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer Todd Moyle acknowledged the report’s findings, and said work was already well advanced to implement recommendations made in the report.
“The report highlights that to run a modern and reliable metro service, the underlying track infrastructure must have enough investment to ensure it is fit for purpose.
“Over time, funding was provided to enable electrification, the double tracking on the Western line, new stations and to buy new electric trains, which led to a huge increase in demand with hundreds of additional services and tens of thousands more passenger journeys made on Auckland’s network.
“However, the funding for renewal and maintenance of the tracks themselves was left behind, so those services were mainly running over aging track. While catch-up work was planned, the deterioration of the rails outpaced those plans until last year’s discovery of the severity of the degradation.
Once the problem was revealed, KiwiRail was able to move quickly, with the support from AT, he said.
“We know how important train service is to Auckland and our teams have worked since last August to carry out the urgent repairs, while minimising the unavoidable disruption to rail users.
“We have also worked with Auckland Transport to secure the funding needed to address the historic underinvestment which led to the poor track condition across the wider network, and work is being done to improve drainage, formation, and the rail ahead of the opening of the City Rail Link.”
Auckland Transport’s Executive GM Integrated Networks, Mark Lambert says:
“All rail networks require regular maintenance and a robust asset renewal programme. We’re pleased KiwiRail now has sufficient funding to enhance the vital maintenance work and invest significantly in Auckland’s rail network, which will improve the network resilience and prevent unplanned disruption.
“Auckland Transport will work with KiwiRail on any changes needed to maintain and improve the quality of the network – including investigating any modifications that may be needed to our train fleet.”
Todd Moyle says that 130km of rail was replaced in just seven months and KiwiRail is now working through the second phase to repair the more complex sections of track.
“We also now have regular rail grinding in Auckland to repair the early stages of the damage while we work to address the other underlying causes.
“We are also developing a multi-year asset management plan for the Auckland metro network which will include a comprehensive rail grinding programme and takes account of post CRL levels of service.
“Working groups are being set up to look more closely at optimising the wheel rail interface between the trains and the track, and to consider whether changes are needed to the EMUs.”
The track remediation work is part of a $1.5 billion programme of work to modernise and improve the Auckland metro rail network. Other projects include the ‘third main’ project to ease congestion and allow for extra services on the busiest part of the network between Westfield and Wiri, the extension of electrification to Pukekohe, and three new stations at Drury and Paerata. When complete, Auckland commuters and freight customers will enjoy a more resilient and reliable network.
“We are also working with Auckland Transport to plan appropriate access to the network for our work crews to deliver these improvements to the network and all necessary maintenance moving forwards so we do not end up in this position again,” Mr Moyle says.
“All this means some ongoing disruption is inevitable for commuters while this massive programme of work is delivered, but we are planning the work in a way that minimises overall disruption.”