ComfortDelGro joint venture lands $1.13 billion deal to operate rail services in Auckland

ComfortDelGro and joint venture partner UGL Rail Services will start operating the Auckland metro from Jan 16, 2022.
ComfortDelGro and joint venture partner UGL Rail Services will start operating the Auckland metro from Jan 16, 2022.PHOTO: COMFORTDELGRO

SINGAPORE - Singapore-listed transport giant ComfortDelGro Corp has clinched a $1.13 billion deal to operate rail services in Auckland.

This marks the group's first foray into the New Zealand land transport market, and its first move overseas as a rail operator.

In an announcement on Friday morning, ComfortDelGro - which operates buses, trains and taxis in Singapore, and taxis and buses in places such as China and Britain - said it clinched the Auckland franchise with Australian rail operator UGL Rail Services after a 12-month tender process.

The pair formed a 50:50 joint venture - Auckland One Rail (AOR) - which will start operating the Auckland metro from Jan 16 next year. The contract is for eight years, with the possibility of extensions, ComfortDelGro said.

The Auckland rail network is the largest in New Zealand, and comprises four lines with 185km of track, 42 stations and 72 electric three-car trains and eight diesel multiple-unit trains. This will grow to 44 stations and 95 trains with the opening of Auckland's new City Rail Link in 2024.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the network had an annual ridership of 21 million - or about one-tenth of the pre-pandemic annual ridership of Singapore's North East Line, which is operated by ComfortDelGro subsidiary SBS Transit.

ComfortDelGro managing director Yang Ban Seng said: "This marks a very significant milestone in our history. It not only represents our first rail operation outside of Singapore but also our maiden entry into New Zealand."

UGL managing director Doug Moss said: "We recognise the challenges and opportunities facing the network as Auckland experiences unprecedented and growing demand for transport services."

Under the contract, AOR's operations will include the provision of drivers and other train staff, development of timetables, station operations and maintenance and security.

It will maintain the rolling stock from 2025 - after the eight diesel trains are replaced when the Papakura-to-Pukekohe section of the network is electrified in 2024.

Last year, ComfortDelGro announced it was bidding for rail contracts in Paris. It is understood to be vying for similar contracts in Sydney.

Shares of ComfortDelGro rose by five cents to hit $1.65 in early morning trade on Friday, before ending the day at $1.63.