An Auckland-headquartered business representing a South American transport specialist says it could build light rail here for under $1 billion.
Kevin Smith, managing director of The Board based on the North Shore, was commenting on Transport Minister Phil Twyford's announcement yesterday on light rail.
Twyford said the process had "ended", and the Ministry of Transport would consider the issue and come up with a proposal for the next Government to consider.
"Building a modern rapid transit system is one of the most important things that we can do for Auckland," Twyford told reporters. "That's just not New Zealand First's view of the world, it's not their priority."
But Smith still hopes for the scheme to go ahead at some point and says his company wants to bid.
"Aeromovel, headquartered in Brazil, remains keen to build an Auckland light rail system if requests for tender were let, we would have responded. We still see this as an opportunity and could provide a high-quality economical system," Smith said.
"Heavy rail and light rail are both possible as connections to the airport. To us, that represents sensible long-term thinking, like former mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson's thinking decades ago for rapid rail.
"We can confirm that we can build a Downtown Auckland-Airport line for well under $1 billion and have it running in just over two years (after consents) which is $34m per kilometre," Smith said.
The Aeromovel system was an elevated plan, about 4m above the ground on piles that suspend the track going in both directions, he said.
"There are different ways of doing an elevated system but the big advantage is it minimises the need for land procurement because each pile is less than 1m wide, so you don't have to take up Dominion Rd with an on-ground system and it's safer for traffic and pedestrians," Smith said.
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The system is run by electric motors which create air pressure in an enclosed airway in the track. That air pressure hits a plate under each carriage and pushes it along.
Aeromovel first built its system in Jakarta in 1988. That was still running and had no maintenance problems, Smith said.
The rest operate in Brazil, he said.
Last July, one of the world's biggest train-builders pitched its machines to planners working on what was then Auckland's proposed $6 billion light rail project.
Alstom's Jean-Francois Blanc hosted a breakfast briefing at Auckland's waterfront Hilton alongside company executives from Paris, Sydney and Brisbane.
"Auckland light rail has various landscape challenges," Blanc told delegates from the Ministry of Transport, Auckland Transport, the NZ Transport Agency and Fletcher Building.
"First, good commercial speed, second mixed traffic and third gradient."
Blanc was referring to the need for relatively high speeds on the proposed 25km line to the airport, for trains to share roads with other vehicles and the city's hilly terrain.
Naturally, his company had a solution — the CITADIS X05, which could reach 80km/h, operate from an electrified rail at street level or overhead power lines, and handle 8 per cent gradients, Blanc said.
The same model is now running on Sydney's new 12km CBD tram circuit.
Light rail — commonly known as trams — is one of Labour's flagship policies. It was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at her first public appearance as Leader of the Opposition in August 2017, where she called it a "game-changer" and a solution to Auckland's congestion.
Ardern promised light rail to Mt Roskill within four years, followed by an extension to the airport and a second line to Westgate in West Auckland within a decade. Labour later said it would extend the western line a further 9km to Kumeu.
While last year's 60-minute session in Auckland was an informal briefing, Alston was certainly expected to pitch formally once the window opened but it was also expected to face competition.
The French multinational operates in rail transport, signalling and trains. Products include the AGV, TGV, Eurostar and Pendolino high-speed trains used on mainline routes in Western Europe and the UK.