Auckland rail commuters face overcrowded carriages and confusing timetables as Auckland Transport prepares to launch a new rail timetable on March 12th.
Uptake on train travel has proven popular as the city grapples with chronic traffic congestion, but the new electric train fleet is fast reaching capacity and patronage continues to soar well ahead of forecast, with 18 million journeys made in the 12 month period to December 2016.
Auckland Transport and their rail operator Transdev are now struggling to cope with this unprecedented demand, and with no additional new electric trains ordered and no progress on electrification of the line to Pukekohe while waiting for government funding, a capacity squeeze faces rail commuters.
“This inaction is resulting in desperate measures of cutting out stops on some services such as the Onehunga Line and the ridiculous situation of only having some trains stop at the new Parnell station due to open on March 12, in order to free up more trains for other services. This will result in confusion and frustration to users” says Public Transport Users Association Co-ordinator Jon Reeves.
“They are constrained with a limited fleet of electric trains and even if new trains were to be ordered tomorrow, it would likely be three to four years before they could be delivered and available -time which Auckland does not have” he says.
Train staff have also contacted the PTUA with concerns about train service reliability after March 12 with precariously tight timetables and operating plans proposed which will have no allowance for any delays, meaning potential widespread disruption should any train be late for whatever reason. The staff say this has come about because of the shortage of trains and staff Reeves said.
The PTUA is calling on Auckland Transport and Transdev to reintroduce some of the recently fully refurbished diesel locomotive hauled train fleet owned by Auckland Transport currently in storage at Taumarunui, to introduce a new service between Pukekohe and Huapai through Newmarket.
The new service would provide an extension of rail services to Kumeu/Huapai, something which local residents and those from surrounding districts have long been calling for to their rapidly growing region which is suffering from chronic congestion on State Highway 16 heading into the city. It would also only require one “slot” on the Western and Southern line in each direction per hour to enable an hourly frequency from Huapai.
Existing rail commuters also currently have to endure the inconvenience of changing trains at Newmarket when travelling from south to west, and at Papakura when travelling to and from Pukekohe.
“A new direct train service between Pukekohe and Huapai using the diesel carriage trains which are quiet and comfortable, would address the current capacity problems as well as providing an attractive seamless journey option from one end of of Auckland to the other without having to change trains” says PTUA Chair and Waimauku resident Christine Rose. “People want public transport to be simple and easy to use, and this service would provide this” she says.
Ratepayers and the Government invested $195 million refurbishing the carriages in New Zealand, some of the fleet only saw service for three years before being laid up in Taumarunui. “AT have attempted to sell the entire fleet of carriages for just $5 million in a failed sale last year, it would be better use of ratepayers money to use these carriages in Auckland now, and the plan could be quickly put into place” Reeves said.
Over 100 carriages currently stored in Taumarunui were fully refurbished at Hillside Workshops from the ground up between 2003 and 2011 and all withdrawn from service in 2014.
They are fully compliant with the Auckland rail network
Passenger Platforms already exist at Huapai (constructed in 2009) and available for immediate use.
Auckland ratepayers and NZTA funded the $195 million refurbishment programme and the carriages have a further 20 year life expectancy.
New electric trains, if ordered immediately, would not arrive in full until 2021 (the year the City Rail Link opens).
Christine Rose – Chair 021 850 356
Jon Reeves – Coordinator 021 529 404