26 Jan

Prime Minister Can Solve Auckland’s Traffic Woes

Peak hour north western motorway 2015

The Public Transport Users Association is looking forward to the Prime Minister John Key’s expected announcement tomorrow that the Government will bring funding for the City Rail Link project forward by two years.   This move will allow full construction of the CRL to get underway in 2018, instead of the 2020 date the Government has previously advocated for.

Coordinator of the Public Transport Users Association, Jon Reeves, has welcomed the move. “Bringing construction of the City Rail Link forward will provide an important step change in public transport usage across Auckland. It will allow seamless travel throughout the Auckland rail network and reduce travel times to West Auckland by around 15 minutes. It will also allow for the recently marginalised Northern Explorer service to again depart from Britomart, and enable commuter rail services from Hamilton to arrive in the centre of the Auckland CBD”, Reeves said.

However, the PTUA is aware that the Prime Minister may also choose to promote the completion of the East-West connection between Penrose and Onehunga, at an anticipated cost of over $2 billion. The PTUA would view this call as the government bowing to the demands of the powerful trucking lobby. “An East-West truckway is not what Aucklanders want” Reeves says.  “What Aucklanders have been crying out for decades is a fast rail service to Auckland International Airport. Building the Airport Rail line will move thousands of vehicles out of Onehunga and the surrounding areas by freeing up space for the trucking industry. Building an unnecessary East West truckway first, instead of an airport rail line, is taking a short-sighted approach and lacks common sense.”

Other important public transport projects the PTUA would like to see brought forward are:

  • Extend electrification of the rail line to Pukekohe and Pokeno
  • Extend electrification of the rail line extend from Swanson to Huapai to provide reliable and efficient public transport options for this rapidly expanding residential area
  • Extension of the highly successful Northern Busway to Silverdale
  • Construction of the Nor West Busway to Westgate
  • Funding to build a busway from Panmure to East Auckland
  • NZTA funding of public buses from Warkworth to Silverdale
  • Funding of specialist Police unit dedicated to public transport

Fast-tracking these important public transport projects will deliver far better solutions to Auckland’s transport issues than throwing more money at plans for yet more unsustainable motorway expansion. For 65 years Auckland has been building motorways as the city has sprawled, and today the roads are more gridlocked than ever.  Recent and future housing development in areas unsupported by good public transport infrastructure is only adding to the problem. Sustainable solutions that work to move people out of cars and onto reliable, frequent and efficient public transport are the only way forward.

The PTUA hopes to see some of this thinking reflected in the Prime Ministers announcement tomorrow.


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16 Dec

Passengers Dealt Double Blow For Christmas


An unexpected gift is being delivered to Auckland public transport users just in time for the holiday season. Auckland Transport will increase the cost of purchasing new HOP cards from $5 to $10 from Friday, 17 December. As yet, no justification for the increase has been provided to passengers.

The Public Transport Users Association opposes increasing the cost of the HOP card, particularly at a time when AT should be encouraging people to choose public transport over cars. PTUA spokesperson Jon Reeves says that “while AT have been doing some great things for PT users, this completely unjustified increase is more proof that one arm of AT doesn’t know what the other is doing – and public transport users in Auckland deserve better”. This decision has been questioned by public transport lobbyists across the board because it makes no sense.

The increase follows last week’s announcement that Kiwirails’ Northern Explorer train service between Auckland and Wellington will relocate from its current home at the Britomart Transport Centre to the extremely inconvenient Strand platform at the former Auckland Railway Station, over 1.2 km from its present location in Downtown. CLICK HERE for the recent NZ Herald article.

Kiwirail say a free shuttle service will operate between the Strand and Britomart, however the PTUA are concerned this service will only be temporary. Comment from large tourist operators in Auckland suggest they are unhappy about the impact these changes will have on their customers, and have stated they will keep the PTUA informed of any issues that arise following the changeover. CLICK HERE to read more.

The PTUA has received emails from Paul Reidy, Kiwirail CEO, and Gavin Rutherford, Head of Kiwirail Scenic, but it is clear they seem to be surprisingly unaware of the damage the relocation will do to the appeal of the service. Arriving in the centre of downtown Auckland is a significantly more attractive conclusion to a 10.5 hour long train journey, however “being dumped in the middle of nowhere, with no public transport links, after that long journey, is not the smartest solution they could have come up with” Reeves says.
“I have challenged Gavin Rutherford to join me on the 23 minute walk with two suitcases from Britomart to the Strand, to see if he still truly believes it is a convenient distance for passengers to negotiate. He has failed to reply to that request.” Jon Reeves said.

The PTUA suspects Auckland Transport is behind the Kiwirail decision to relocate the service, and have asked for confirmation from AT that it has not asked Kiwirail to leave Britomart. No reply has yet been received from AT management. PTUA concludes that AT do not support long distance rail, and that the organisation has become disconnected from what best serves the public in this case.
This Christmas, the anti-public transport options being offered by AT and Kiwirail leave much to be answered for.


More from the NZ Herald

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04 Dec

Train Plan Set to Fail

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) is concerned about rumours from our members about plans to relocate the Northern Explorer Auckland to Wellington train service from its current base at the Britomart Transport Centre, to the extremely inconvenient Strand platform behind the former Auckland Railway Station, located over a kilometre away between Downtown and Parnell.

“We have contacted Kiwirail on a number of occasions this week for a confirmation of this plan but have not yet received a response,” said Jon Reeves, Coordinator of the PTUA. “It appears Kiwirail have started building an office at the Strand platform in the past week. The PTUA does not support the move of the Northern Explorer service to the Strand site, where public transport connections to the rest of the city are limited.” Reeves added.

The PTUA are concerned the relocation of the Northern Explorer to the Strand will impact on demand and provide cause for the service,  the last long distance passenger rail option in the North Island, to be terminated. The PTUA are considering the possibility that Kiwirail and Auckland Transport are planning to run the service down, in order to free-up the rail network channel currently occupied by the Northern Explorer service.

Ultimately, Auckland needs the construction of the City Rail Link brought forward with confirmed investment by the Government and construction of the third railway line from Westfield to Papakura. Delaying full construction of the CRL 2020 is simply not an option, or in the best interests of Auckland. Without these critical rail infrastructure components, much needed fast inter-regional commuter rail services to cities such as Hamilton and Tauranga will never eventuate.

As an alternative, the PTUA suggest that if Auckland Transport need the morning slot in the Britomart Transport Centre for commuter trains, then adjusting the Northern Explorer timetable for a 9:15am departure would be a better alternative. A later departure time would enable the service to remain in its current location at Britomart.  Passengers, particularly tourists, will not be affected by this change in schedule, if anything it would be potentially more attractive than the current 7:45am departure time. On the flip side, passengers arriving into Auckland from Wellington in the evening will be faced with limited transfer options outside of taking taxi’s to Britomart to connect to the public  transport network.

“This is not a good look for tourists and their first impression of Auckland”, Reeves says. “We know that in Auckland city, if you place trains out near the old station – which closed in 2003 – train patronage will be hampered. The rumoured plan to move the Northern Explorer trains to the Strand platform is certainly a very unwise move and needs to be stopped in its tracks immediately.“

The Public Transport Users Association encourages tourism operators to contact Kiwirail with feedback about this plan. We would also welcome Kiwirail’s response to PTUA concerns.


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16 Oct

Pukekohe Rail Users Survey

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20 Jul

Pukekohe Electrification Needed

Image courtesy of M Kilgour

Today hails a massive step forward for Auckland rail passengers with electric trains rolled out on all lines. However, Franklin passengers have yet to share the joy of full electrification as it stops short in Papakura.

The Public Transport Users Association would like the Government to come to the party and put up its share of funding to have electrification extended to Pukekohe, or even Tuakau/Pokeno.

PTUA-Jon-Reeves-PukekoheJon Reeves, PTUA Coordinator, says “the only reason why Pukekohe passengers have to change trains at Papakura is because the Government has not funded the logical extension of electric rail services to Franklin. Compared to building the Takanini motorway interchange around $200 million, the estimated $110 million to extend electrification 18 kms from Papakura to Pukekohe is extremely affordable for the Government and will benefit the huge growth in population and passengers.”

The PTUA would like to see the new Hunua MP, Andrew Bayly, actively lobby the Government for immediate funding approval. Auckland Transport has already undertaken in-depth studies and the Benefit to Cost Ratio stacks up. Passengers are now encouraged to actively start contacting their local MP to let him know that Franklin deserves electrified rail services now. “The time for fobbing off Pukekohe rail passengers with excuses is now over. Action and leadership from the local MP is now needed seen and heard” Reeves said.

new-auckland-transport-at-electric-train-no-good-for-pukekoheThe PTUA is also concerned that the diesel rail shuttles operating to Papakura require extremely high quality performance on the part of Auckland Transport (AT). With Pukekohe passengers now having to change trains at Papakura the onus is now very much on AT to deliver perfect train time keeping. AT need to ensure all rail shuttles connect seamlessly into the network. “The last thing we want to see is Pukekohe passengers arriving at Papakura just as the electric train to Britomart departs or vice-versa” Mr Reeves said.

The PTUA will be at Pukekohe station surveying passengers at various dates and times over the next few months to collect feedback about the rail shuttle experiences. Passengers are also encouraged to fill out our online General Passenger Survey. This can be found at www.PTUA.org.nz

Today hails a massive step forward for Auckland rail passengers with electric trains rolled out on all lines. However, Franklin passengers have yet to share the joy of full electrification as it stops short in Papakura.

The Public Transport Users Association would like the Government to come to the party and put up its share of funding to have electrification extended to Pukekohe, or even Tuakau/Pokeno.

Jon Reeves, PTUA Coordinator, says “the only reason why Pukekohe passengers have to change trains at Papakura is because the Government has not funded the logical extension of electric rail services to Franklin. Compared to building the Takanini motorway interchange around $200 million, the estimated $110 million to extend electrification 18 kms from Papakura to Pukekohe is extremely affordable for the Government and will benefit the huge growth in population and passengers.”
The PTUA will be at Pukekohe station surveying passengers at various dates and times over the next few months to collect feedback about the rail shuttle experiences. Passengers are also encouraged to fill out our online General Passenger Survey. This can be found by clicking HERE.


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16 Jul

Western Passengers Face Rail Cuts

waitakere-ripped-offWestern Passengers Face Rail Cuts. Commuters, communities and ratepayers are angry at Auckland Transport’s axing of all Waitakere trains from tomorrow.

After 133 years service the last commuter train will roll out of Waitakere station all because of an outdated, over-inflated report commissioned and signed off by the Board of Auckland Transport in early 2013.

The Public Transport Users Association has highlighted to the Board the many errors which worked against retaining Waitakere Station and extending commuter services to the growing North West Auckland communities of Huapai and Kumeu.

Auckland Transport’s Board decision rejecting rail services to the North West had nothing to do with benefiting passengers, nor the communities in the Nor West. In fact it will potentially turn many rail passengers off public transport all together. Since that report we’ve also had a Special Housing Area confirmed and more in the process for Huapai and surrounds. All these developments plus the flaws highlighted by the Public Transport Users Association defy logic for cutting back Auckland’s rail network at Waitakere, the first cut back of rail services in over 30 years, affecting one of the fastest growing areas in the region.

The PTUA has surveyed hundreds of passengers over the past 6 months who use Waitakere and Swanson stations. The fundamental reason why passengers have ceased using Waitakere station is the clear mismanagement by design on the part of Auckland Transport. “AT’s own data reveals the huge scale of train cancellations designed to make catching trains at Waitakere a gamble”.
“Passengers never know if they’ll get to work or school on time, or be able to get home in the evening. The bus replacement option is a joke, slow, inconvenient and unable to carry bikes, pushchairs or wheelchairs for disabled passengers” says Christine Rose, Chair of the PTUA.

DMU Auckland courtesy of M KilgourThe PTUA has proposed the “Western Connector”, a regular diesel rail shuttle, between Huapai and Swanson connecting with the electric rail network. This is exactly the same concept as now operates at the southern end of the line between Papakura and Pukekohe and a good interim service until one day when electrification can be extended further west. “Trains are significantly faster than buses from Huapai to every single Western Line destination, including Newmarket, especially with recently announced added delays to the North Western bus service.

Jon Reeves said, “Auckland Transport should be a champion of the public transport user! AT’s continuing disservice to the rail passengers of Waitakere and further West is anything other than putting customers first.”

Due to a continuing campaign by the PTUA, Auckland Transport recently has decided to take another look at developments in Huapai-Kumeu and public transport needs. “PTUA has asked AT to advise us of the scope of the review. We want to make sure they do not use the outdated, flawed report as reference again and that they include a review of our common sense Western Connector proposal” says Mr Reeves.

“Every Local Board approached and the Auckland Council Infrastructure Committee agrees with us and our concerns. It is now time for Auckland Transport to prove they listen to the community it is supposed to serve.” said Reeves.

Click Here to sign our petition. 

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20 Jun

Meet the PTUA team at The Green Living Show

ptua funeral train for waitakereMeet the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) team at The Green Living Show, ASB showgrounds June 27th and 28th from 10am – 5pm.

At stand 431 you can find out about the PTUA, current campaigns, sign our petition to have trains extended to Huapai-Kumeu and fill in our 2015 Auckland PT Users Survey. We would be glad to talk with you.

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03 Jun


ptua funeral train for waitakereThe Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) will hold a special “Funeral Cortege Train” complete with mourners, the grim reaper and a coffin this coming Thursday morning (4th June). The train will depart from Waitakere Railway Station at 6:58am and arrive at Britomart Station approximately 8am.

The coffin will symbolise the pending death of Waitakere and Huapai-Kumeu railway stations as Auckland Transport (AT) refuses to listen ratepayers, residents, business associations and public transport users who want commuter trains retained to Waitakere while the case for having trains extended to the Nor-West growth centres of Huapai-Kumeu is reviewed.

AT CEO David Warburton has been invited to address the cortege when it arrives at the entrance of the AT Headquarters, lower Queen Street.


Waitakere Railway Station, Waitakere Township, West Auckland.

    • 6:40am Costumed mourners and grim reaper meet at station with coffin
    • 6:50am short speech about the reasons for this action by PTUA
    • 6:55am Cortege and coffin join train
    • 6:58am Scheduled train departs, stopping at all stations en route to Britomart. Commuters will be handed information about planned cuts to Waitakere trains as they join the train.
    • 8:00am Approximately train arrives at Britomart Transport Centre. Coffin carried out of train, through Britomart Transport Centre, across lower Queen St to the Auckland Transport Headquarters entrance (HSBC building, 1 Queen St)
    • 8:15am Auckland Transport representative invited to address the PTUA and supporters cortege. Then speech by PTUA Chair Christine Rose and Coordinator Jon Reeves. Questions and answers.
    • 8:30am service ends.

To ensure everything runs to time media are requested to be in place well in advance of the schedule above.

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25 May

Funeral Service Mourns Demise of Nor-West Rail

waitakere-ripped-offThe Public Transport Users Association is holding a funeral service to mark the demise of Nor-West rail options, with the closure of Waitakere station as currently planned by Auckland Transport. Mourners will travel by train from Waitakere Station to Britomart, and the Auckland Transport offices in QE2 Square.

Waitakere train station was opened in 1881, but will be closed in July this year. This decision is also the death knell for passenger services at the next stop on the line, at Huapai-Kumeu, a significant greenfields and Special Housing growth area on Auckland’s fringe.

Waitakere rail station was upgraded with a new sealed carpark and other improvements in 2013, and a new station was built in Huapai in 2008, “meaning good infrastructure currently exists to support the continued and expanded Nor-West service” says PTUA chair, Christine Rose. She says “We’ve got the railway line, the stations, the rolling stock, and the population growth”. “To close the line and options for expansion, is dead thinking”.

waitakere invite funeral

PTUA co-ordinator Jon Reeves says the organisation hopes Auckland Transport will review their decision to pull the plug on the area’s public transport life support system, given that decision was based on outdated and overinflated information – information that the AT Board have committed to review. “At the time the report damning NorWest rail was written, the current growth boom in Kumeu-Huapai had not begun. The SHAs had never been imagined.” “But the report also gold-plated the infrastructure requirements. We’re looking at a low cost public transport solution using existing resources, that require virtually no infrastructure upgrades”.

DMU Auckland courtesy of M KilgourChristine Rose, a long-time local resident and public transport user, and a former District and Regional Councillor for the Kumeu area, says “the Council and the Government are looking for solutions to transport issues related with SHAs in the Kumeu district. PTUA provides the answer with the ‘Western Connector’, our low-cost, resource efficient proposal for passenger rail.” “The answer is obvious. No new tracks, stations or trains are needed on this dedicated, congestion-free line.”

Funeral trains are nothing new for the North Auckland line. In the early 20th century, coffins were carried from Auckland to Waikumete (Waikumiti), in both general services and special funeral trains.

The PTUA Nor-West Rail funeral service and cortege will leave Waitakere Station on the 6.58 train service on 4 June, arriving Britomart at 8am, proceeding to the Auckland Transport offices for a short service.

 PTUA say they will be hoping for a resurrection of the service when AT review the issue sometime this year. “We’d be happy to bring this service back from the dead, and breathe some life back into public transport rail services to the Nor-West.”

Click Here to sign our Petition!

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10 May

Rail Costs Need Challenging

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) agrees with the report in today’s New Zealand Herald that Auckland rail operating costs are far too high (see ‘Subsidy Four Times More than Wellington’)
After reviewing Auckland and Wellington rail operation costs comparison data PTUA is seriously concerned that the costs of operating Auckland rail services is disproportionately higher than the Wellington rail operations.

kumeu-public-meeting“Costs of operation are simply too high compared to Wellington” says Jon Reeves, PTUA Co-ordinator. “In 2013-14 Auckland train operating costs at $139 million were 61% more than Wellington at only $85 million. Even though Wellington trains are mainly electrified, the fuel and traction costs deferential between our Capital city and Auckland are minimal at only $7 million for the 2012-13 year”. “So that alone cannot justify the massive gap in costs”. “Questions need to be asked. Does Auckland Transport have a top heavy management structure? Is it working efficiently and effectively? Is Transdev, the French owned rail operator, charging Auckland too much to operate our trains? Is there a massive case of fare over riding, or is not all the fare revenue being received by Auckland Transport resulting in these higher costs”?

Auckland has now taken over Wellington in terms of the number of passengers carried by rail but fare revenue is over 40% less in Auckland ($12.6 million) in the 2013-14 year. Mr Reeves says “While the length of train journeys may be slightly higher in Wellington, the difference in fare revenue is just too great to go unquestioned. It would seem that Auckland has higher levels of fare evasion than officials at Auckland Transport admit”. Reeves says “Our members, who include passengers and train staff, constantly tell us that fare evasion is huge and wide spread across the Auckland network”.

Image courtesy of M KilgourRecently it was reported to the PTUA that nearly an entire platform of passengers was seen boarding a train at Henderson station without tagging on their HOP cards or buying tickets from the platform vending machines. “I personally witness it almost daily on my rail commutes to Britomart from South Auckland. Fare evasion is costing honest, fare paying passengers and ratepayers dearly through the need for higher fare prices and household rates increases to cover the operating costs shortfall” Reeves said.
The PTUA is calling for a Board of Inquiry into the state of Auckland rail as it is too important to let these costs slide by unchallenged. Christine Rose, Chair of the PTUA said “It is times like this New Zealand needs a Ministry of Railways to sort these sorts of issues out. Without a Railways Ministry we believe a Board of Inquiry could analyse in-depth what is truly going wrong with operating costs and revenue in Auckland.”

join ptuaThe PTUA is a lobby group focused on representing passengers’ rights. One of those rights is to ensure passengers are not paying too much to cover for incompetence. Mrs Rose says “Someone needs to question the status quo. On the one hand we have AT management planning to ridiculously reduce the length of the Auckland rail network by cutting train services to Waitakere Township from July, and refusing to implement a very low cost, much needed rail service to growth suburbs of Huapai and Kumeu. On the other hand facts show AT is paying far too much to operate our trains and fare evasion is rampant”. “What is wrong with Auckland Transport management? Only a Board of Inquiry can get to the bottom of this. The current model is not working in the favour of the communities and ratepayers it is supposed to serve. To top it all off, the trains aren’t even able to run on time and we have witnessed four months of terrible performance levels with record numbers of trains delayed or cancelled” Rose said.

To: Mayor and Councillors

From: Michael Lee, Auckland Councillor.

Date: 7 May 2015

Subject: Rail Operating Costs

I am providing this memo at the request of the Budget workshp of 6 May. I have periodically raised with Councillors and management serious concerns I have about the sharply increasing levels of operational costs of commuter rail and whether this is justified and ultimately affordable.  I have raised these concerns with the Auckland Transport Board in my role as a director. Given the far-reaching rating decisions that are required to be made by the Council for the Long Term Plan, this matter is of material interest to the Governing Body.

Attachment 1 to this memo outlines a comparison between rail operations in Auckland and Wellington. Overall, while the two systems carry a broadly similar number of passengers (Auckland has pulled ahead in the past year), the Auckland rail network had a gross cost to operate of around $139m per year (2013/14), whereas Wellington’s gross cost is just over $85m for the same year. Furthermore, fare revenue received in Wellington is over $43m while in Auckland it’s just over $30m. Overall this leads to some major differences in the net cost per passenger of rail in Auckland and Wellington, as summarised below (2013/14 data):

Auckland Wellington
Total subsidy per passenger $9.37 $3.68
Total subsidy per passenger km $0.65 $0.16

As explained further in attachment 1, I do not believe there are any fundamental reasons why the net cost of rail in Auckland should be more than twice that of Wellington on a per passenger basis. The introduction of electric trains and integrated ticketing should be driving down the cost of providing rail service in Auckland ( as predicted in the business cases for both these projects)  yet this is not reflected in the total operational cost we are providing each year to Auckland Transport which continues to increase significantly.

I therefore propose an additional recommendation as part of our LTP decision-making process to encourage Auckland Transport to deliver better value-for-money from rail operational costs. If there are significant savings to be found in this area then that enables a lower level of rates increase in future years of the LTP, and frees up more funding for further investment in transport. My proposed recommendation is outlined below:

That the Budget Committee notes the significantly higher rail operating costs for Auckland compared to Wellington and requests the Chief Executive to work with Auckland Transport and report back on options for potential savings in these costs as part of developing the 2016/17 Annual Plan.

Attachment 1 – Comparison of Auckland and Wellington rail operating costs

Please find the results of bench-marking between Auckland and Wellington commuter rail operations. The key figures are publicly available in detail in the Wellington Metropolitan Rail 2013/14 Annual Report released in December 2014. Auckland’s figures are extracted from the Summary of Financial Results 29th July 2014 (AT Board open agenda).



Pax boardings per year June 2014 (m)  



Fare revenue received



Fare received-per-recorded boarding (average)



Total Operating Costs (Including security)



Farebox Recovery



Ratepayer Subsidy ($m)



NZTA Subsidy ($m)



Total Subsidy rates & NZTA ($m)



Total Subsidy per passenger



Total passenger km (m)



Opex per passenger km ($)



Fare per passenger km ($)



Subsidy per passenger km ($)



Please note that despite almost identical numbers of passenger boardings recorded in year ended June 2014, the cost/revenue disparity between the two operations: Wellington Regional Council/KiwiRail and Auckland Council/Auckland Transport Transdev/Kiwirail, has increased markedly since my previous benchmark exercise in March 2014.

Note Wellington’s station train security costs ($1.711m) are declared in the WRC Metropolitan Rail Annual Report, whereas Auckland’s are commercially confidential and so I have not detailed them. However they are significantly higher than Wellington’s both in real terms and proportionately given the similar numbers of passengers carried. Auckland train/station security costs are increasing significantly.

Please note the total operating cost differential between the two operations (gross figures) over two financial years 2012/13 and 2013/14:

2012/13. Auckland $116.06m.Wellington $81.20m.Auckland $34.86m more costly (ie 43%) more costly than Wellington.

2013/14.Auckland $139.285m Wellington $85.09m.Auckland $54.20 million more costly (ie 61%) more costly than Wellington (for a very similar amount of recorded passenger boardings).

In regard to revenue received, the difference is:

2012/13. Auckland. $27.13m. Wellington $40.40m

2013/14.Auckland $30.63m. Wellington $43.26m

Therefore in 2013/14, Auckland’s train fare revenue received was $12.63 million (29.2%) less than Wellington’s for a similar number of recorded passenger boardings.

Net figures. Deducting revenue from total operating costs reveals a greater disparity.

2012/13. Auckland net costs: $88.93. Wellington net costs $40.80m.

Auckland net costs $48.13 million more than Wellington.

2013/14. Auckland net costs $108.66m. Wellington net costs $41.82m.

Therefore Auckland’s net costs are $66.84 million more than Wellington’s. That is 2.6 times that of Wellington’s – or to express it differently – the net coperational costs of Wellington rail would need to increase by 160% per year to be at the same level as Auckland.

Netting out these figures not only compounds the significant cost difference but also reveals a major revenue disparity. In other words Auckland not only has a cost problem it also has an apparent major revenue loss problem.

In a report to the AT Board last year management stated that ‘many key differences will be mitigated when Auckland introduces a new electric fleet of trains.’ Management also pointed to the ‘mature’ nature of Wellington’s public transport usage and also pointed to ‘topographical differences’ between the two cities. The weight placed on the last two points is however debatable when it comes to proportionate cost and revenue numbers. However it is fair to say Wellington’s electric service is fully operational while Auckland’s is not yet completely rolled out. But it is important to remember Wellington also runs diesel SA/SD type trains (SW) on the Wairarapa line and to Palmerston North and diesel operations in Wellington will continue for the forseeable future. The actual fuel & traction cost differences for 2012/13 (last figures available) were Auckland $11.29m and Wellington $4.2m – Therefore Auckland’s fuel/traction costs were just over $7m more than Wellington’s. But even the if there was elimination of fuel/traction costs differences with the full roll out of Auckland electric trains, this will make only a marginal difference to the overall cost disparity.

More significant are ‘labour’ cost differences revealed in 2012/13 (I do not have more recent figures): Auckland $44.2m. Wellington $25m. ‘Labour’ costs for Auckland’s operation in 2012/13 were $19.2 million more than Wellington’s.

This labour cost differential persists and is difficult to explain given Wellington has a manual ‘clippy’ staff system and Auckland has a full automated smart card system but (and I think this is absolutely critical to the whole problem), only three stations, Britomart, Newmarket and Manukau are gated. Most telling are the fare box recovery figures: Auckland 22% Wellington 50%. This is slightly down from 2012/13 (Auckland 23.3%, Wellington 50%). Government expectations are that fare box ratios should be 50% but Auckland has been moving in the opposite direction. Fare increases, especially those of two and three years ago, were corelative with a lower fare box ratio, presumably because of higher evasion and a period of patronage decline.

In 2010/11 Auckland’s rail operating costs were $56.1m. Opex costs for the current 2014/15 are budgeted to be $158.668m. Patronage for 2010/11 was 10.3m pax, the current year’s patronage is likely to be 13.5m.


The issue of significant cost/revenue differences between the Auckland and Wellington commuter rail operations appear to be systemic and is suggestive of much more detailed analyses to explain them. However two simple facts are clear. The Auckland commuter rail operation has a major cost problem as well as a significant revenue loss problem. A similar benchmark exercise for year 2014/2015 is likely to reveal an even greater disparity between the cost of Auckland and Wellington operations and raise questions about the ultimate sustainability of these costs which ultimately fall on Auckland ratepayers and taxpayers. It would not be unreasonable to ask in light of the circumstances, are ratepayers and taxpayers getting value for money from this service?

– Pax boardings year to June 2014: Auckland 11.435m./Wellington 11.6m. (Very similar numbers for both networks).
– Total costs of operation 2013/14: Auckland $139.285m Wellington $85.09m. Auckland $54.20 million more costly (61%) higher than Wellington
– Fuel & traction costs for 2012/13 (last figures available) were Auckland $11.29m and Wellington $4.2m
– Finance costs for Electric Trains $26.7m offset by NZTA special subsidy of $17.22m current year.
– Fare revenue 2013/14. Auckland $30.63m. Wellington $43.26m
– Auckland operates HOP card for train journeys. Wellington operates traditional “clippies” collecting fare payment onboard trains.
– Only 3 stations are gated in Auckland (Britomart, Manukau, Newmarket). Allows for fare evasion at all other stations.
– AT management shortly withdrawing all trains to Waitakere Station based on proven flawed and outdated 2012 report.
– AT management planning to withdraw services to Waitakere July 2015 based on a proven flawed and outdated report undertaken in 2012 by MR Cagney.
– PTUA has tabled concerns about the report to the Auckland Council Infrastructure Committee and Waitakere Local Board. Both agree trains should not be withdrawn until an
independent review is undertaken of the report.
– PTUA tabled concerns about MR Cagney report to AT Board in April 2015. AT management have convinced the Board to go ahead with withdrawal of Waitakere trains.
About PTUA:
The Public Transport Users Association is a voluntary lobby group giving a voice to public transport users.

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