AUCKLAND Transport (AT) has announced the Auckland One Rail (AOR) joint venture as the successful bidder for an eight-year contract worth $NZ 130m ($US 90.4m) annually to operate services on the Auckland commuter network.

The consortium, a 50:50 partnership between ComfortDelGro Transit (CDGT) and UGL Rail, beat a competing bid from incumbent operator Aka Tangata, a consortium comprising Transdev NZ, John Holland NZ and CAF NZ, which has operated the network since 2004. CDG subsidiary SBS Transit operates and maintains two Singapore metro lines and a peoplemover system.

UGL Rail’s parent, UGL, is Australia’s largest supplier of outsourced rail asset management and rolling stock maintenance services, and it is also a consortium partner in Metro Trains Melbourne, Metro Trains Sydney, Canberra light rail and the operator of the Adelaide light rail system.

AT chair, Mrs Adrienne Young-Cooper, says the review of the current way of delivering rail services provided an opportunity to change the delivery model to better integrate all aspects of operation, with an eye on $NZ 7bn of investment that is being made in rail with the construction of the City Rail Link (CRL) opening in 2024, electrification of the line between Papakura and Pukekohe, and the purchase of additional electric trains over the next few years.

As a result, the new contract will see AOR having responsibility for not only train operation but also electric train maintenance from 2025, station operation and maintenance, safety, and security.

“The prime driver for moving to a more vertically integrated model is to reduce organisational interfaces and to improve customer and safety outcomes,” she says. “While cost savings were not the primary outcome sought, the pricing received through this very competitive procurement process has resulted in savings over current costs.”

Young-Cooper adds that the transaction has been structured so that the incoming operator takes over the existing Transdev Auckland operating company and all of its staff, ensuring that staff remain on their existing terms and conditions of employment. At this stage AT will continue to employ transport officers to manage fare evasion.

AOR will also establish an additional rolling stock maintenance facility for train overhauls in South Auckland with targeted employment of Māori and Pasifika into trades and engineering apprenticeships. This complements the existing facility at Wiri. Services on the network are currently operated with a fleet of AM class EMUs supplied by CAF from 2014 onwards.

The contract award is part of AT’s ongoing focus to continue the rapid growth in Aucklanders using the region’s rail services, which has grown from just over 2 million passenger boardings per annum in 2000 to more than 22 million by 2020.

“This new rail franchise contract represents a significant investment for Auckland and Aucklanders,” Young-Cooper says. “The robust procurement process ensured AT was able to secure a competitive contract, despite the effects of the global pandemic on the international rail sector.

AT also acknowledged the work done by Transdev Auckland, which has played a significant role in increasing patronage during its time as operator.