Funding for replacement traction poles a big win for Wellington rail commuters
Nearly $100 million has been allocated to Greater Wellington Regional Council and KiwiRail to replace 1274 wooden traction poles which, without replacement, would lead to significant service disruption on Wellington’s Metro Line Network.
Today’s budget announcement of $98.4 million in funding will enable the replacement of all timber poles in the network and renewal of overhead lines at the same time, within four years.
The poles support the overhead wires which deliver power to the trains.
“This is great news for the region’s train users,” says Cllr Barbara Donaldson, chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Regional Transport Committee. “It means there will be no service disruptions as the poles deteriorate, instead there will be a proactive and comprehensive replacement programme.
“It is a big win for the region’s rail network and another step in raising the quality of our services to the public.
“Funding pole replacement is essential for safe operation on the rail network. Without it we could have faced the prospect of having to close routes within four years as they continue to deteriorate. This investment is vital for the resilience of our regional rail network and will also improve day-to-day reliability. ”
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy says the Wellington funding is a welcome acknowledgment of the importance of rail in New Zealand. “Our infrastructure teams work incredibly hard to keep the system running smoothly but today’s announcement will allow the completion of a major upgrade of the Capital’s network. There’s a lot of work ahead, but our people are excited about the challenge.”
Planning and procurement will now begin to ensure the last of the poles are replaced before they fail.
Background on timber traction pole replacement
The inspection techniques are not reliable enough to detect all poles before they fail. As the number of poles approaching failure increases, the chances of an undetected failure also increases
The risk of undetected pole failures presents a significant safety risk to rail passengers, the public and railway staff. Since 2007 there have been 13 incidents where deteriorated poles has been undetected and poles have failed in service. The worst incidents have involved trains colliding with the failed traction poles.
The rate at which poles require replacement will increase to the point that ad hoc replacement becomes unmanageable; disruptive, inefficient and expensive.
The recommended option was:
Face Renewal (all timber poles in the network replaced and overhead lines renewed at the same time) – which addresses the primary issue, which is to replace the timber traction poles within four years (by 2021) which is an acceptable timeframe. The investment cost for this option is $98.4 million.