Following on from Nick’s post defining what a Metro system is and why it really is the best way for a city to exploit a rail Right-Of-Way I thought it would be useful to dig a little deeper into this model for potential running patterns in Auckland. Not only for once we have the new trains but also what would be best to work for from there.

When the new EMUs are in operation I understand we’ll have enough trains for a simple 6 trains per hour [tph] model on the three main lines plus 2 tph on the single tracked Onehunga Line. This means a train every 10 minutes each way across the network, a frequency that Daniel Moylan from Transport for London considers to be a minimum for the ‘turn-up-and-go’ experience of a real metro system. Beyond this the network has a number of physical limitations to any greater frequency. Especially the approximate 20 trains per hour limit of the Britomart throat, and the hard to sort restriction at the confusing Newmarket junction. Confusing for me at least because of complications arising from the awkward backing and filling undertaken to get Western Line trains to visit on their way to and from Britomart [more on that later]. The Manukau City junction also looks like it might need work, grade separation or at least the quantity of track through through the spine of the Southern Line will need to increase because of the need to mix Metro services there with Kiwi Rail’s freight operations. Many of you will understand this better than me, so I look forward for your advice on that.

Ok so here’s an option:

Pre CRL 3 LIne Metro

This isn’t the only option of course but it is a clear Metro style ‘Line’ pattern assuming enough frequency for easy transfers to get to your preferred destination.

Now 6 tph, especially if that is most of the day everyday and not just a peak pattern, sounds really plush compared to what we have now, but this is for 2016. By then we will not only have integrated ticketing and fares and a bus network designed around delivering passengers to interchange stations, but also those much quicker and more appealing trains so it ought to be at great deal busier than ever. So will it be possible to add any more services to this as it grows? Well not on this pattern; Britomart is clearly full, and Newmarket is probably at least struggling.

But remembering that as much as the Metro system doesn’t try to tell you what time of the day you want travel it also doesn’t assume your destination either. So while Britomart can’t handle any more services until the CRL is open there is another line that I think would be well worth looking at [which may mean additional rolling stock]. Below in pretty green:

Pre CRL 4 Line Metro

A Henderson-Manukau Line. Now there clearly are issues around Manukau City Station that I’m unclear about at this stage. If this really is too many trains for that poor little station some portion of the Eastern Line services could head further south. Regardless, I think there is much to like about this line. It would be this system’s first non CBD centric service pattern, so really going with the Metro philosophy of serving all kinds of directions and desires. But more importantly I think it could prove popular. In the first pattern above anyone heading to Manukau from the west faces two transfers in order to do that by train. Personally I really think with a system of Auckland’s size and given how new we will be to the transfer model one transfer per journey is a target to aim at. And West to Manukau and visa-versa is a long enough route for it to be attractive to take the train. It also connects our two biggest hospitals, a bunch of schools, and heaps of intersecting bus routes. And the Manukau MIT Campus will be open above the station attracting students from all over. And it also improves access both to Manukau City and out West from the core of the Southern Line, including the coming bus interchange station at Otahuhu. I have no idea whether 4 tph is a good number; it is too infrequent to be ideal but among all those other movements it’s as a good a number for this argument as any other.

This pattern does work Newmarket hard as a hub. What an ideal place for that, a good destination for many purposes and at the centre of the network. But perhaps this will put too much stress on that intersection as it is currently configured? Well if that is the case how about we route three or four of the Western Line services directly to Parnell and Britomart without pulling into Newmarket? There will still be a high volume of West to Newmarket services on the line and for the majority of riders who are heading to the city [or Parnell] the journey will be considerably quicker and less subject to delay. If you accidently get on the wrong train you will just find yourself needing a transfer from either Parnell or Newmarket where there will be a train every 6 minutes for you to pick up through this busy route.

It does come at a cost to simplicity, but really that is the fault of the half-pie network we’re stuck with for now. Which is especially evident when you consider this running pattern suggested by our previous admin for when the CRL is open:

CRL 2 Line metro

Clearly it assumes that Onehunga is double tracked and that the CRL has an eastern as well as western link at its southern portal. Check out the simplicity and see how all those conflicts have been reduced, in fact it’ll be pretty quiet at Parnell compared to before and only 12 tph through Britomart and Newmarket [still a train every 5 minutes each way all day]. Which is great because of course that means there is now no problem to up the frequency of any line that warrants it. But still, west to south is either a long journey with one transfer or a shorter one with three! Bring back the Hendo-Man City Line I hear you say?

Yes. I really do think this is a better solution than just adding more trains to the CBD, it still gives the core of the Western Line a train every 5 minutes, just with a richer variety of destinations with in direct reach, and there are plenty of other frequent services to mix and match any desired destination by making a single transfer:

CRL 3 Line Metro

It looks like a more balanced system to me. We will have plenty of time to look at the value of this service by the time the we get the CRL and so many more users with so many different destinations on the network- but only if we cater for them.

There are also a couple of other interesting conclusions that can be drawn from this thought experiment.

First; that is a lot of movements through the Mt Eden junction at the southern end of the tunnel so I conclude for this sort of pattern to ever be possible we had better build a proper grade separated junction there from the beginning, making it a more expensive build. But also, by continuing to run this west south pattern from the opening of the CRL it would allow us to stage the construction of Newton Station as it wouldn’t be immediately required for Western Line travellers wanting to transfer to head towards Grafton, Newmarket, and all points south, including Manukau City. So it would assist in spreading the cost of the CRL but also give us a better and more future proofed asset in the long run. So that cost could well more than balance out.

Anyway, I reckon the map needs another colour.

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  1. If the map needs another colour, how about a working from Otahuhu-Newmarket-The Strand-around the Eastern Line to Otahuhu and return?

    * Not everyone wants to go to Britomart anyway.
    * Newmarket is a significant destination in its own right – even for people living on the Eastern Line? Also, simple enough for them to change at Parnell off a Newmarket-bound train to any citybound train
    * Likewise, anyone coming in from south of Newmarket could transfer at Parnell to a train from Henderson going into Britomart.
    * The part of the city near the Strand has a lot more activity than ten years ago.

    1. That’s a loop that really doesn’t have much appeal, even if loops were a good idea. Newmarket is within reach to any station on the Eastern Line with one transfer from high frequency stations so I don’t see that as being nearly as poorly served as west- south is. Also the Quay Park junction is just as vulnerable to over load as all the other at grade junctions on the network. And people in the eastern suburbs are probably more likely to take a bus directly to Newmarket than to skirt around the harbour to get there… unless the local board succeeds in so downgrading bus priority on Remuera Rd that an indirect train ride becomes quicker!

  2. I think post CRL your red line would be running at much more than 6 tph. Pretty dumb to build a $2b project and not ramp up frequencies – which is one of the key things the CRL enables.

    I like the idea of the green line in some respects though it does add complexity to west trains with different operating patterns and destinations.

    1. In the last map the red line is up to 8 tph, so there’s a train every 4 minutes each way through the CRL, 10k people per hour. But that can obviously change, maybe the blue will need more too?. One of the differences post CRL will be the return of some flexibility and breathing room for expansion to the whole system.

  3. Brilliant! I like how it gets around the Newmarket junction limitations. West-Brito trains can bypass Newmarket so no reversing trains which is a real limitation of how many trains per hour can run/reliability /etc.

    1. I’d like to see some hypothetical numbers of how much quicker a cross town trip would be.
      IE henderson – grey lynn currently transferring at britomart and proposed by transferring via Otahuhu

  4. I really really like the Henderson-Manukau line idea, but I’d go one step further and have all Swanson-Britomart services bypass Newmarket to keep the service pattern metro-like. Here’s your idea expressed as a post-electrification network map (assuming I can get the image to show, can a moderator edit it in if I can’t get it showing?

    Link to map

    1. That’s a nice mix. So assuming tphs 6/6/6/2-Onehunga/4-Crosstown then Britomart is at 20, Newmarket at 12, Otahuhu at 14, Manakau at 10. Is that what you intended?

      1. Remembering it’s Patrick’s idea (and I just drew the linked map), yeah something like that. IMHO you may be able to start the Crosstown line with lower frequencies, say 3tph, depending on available resources, then build it up if patronage justifies it.

        However I think a crosstown line would primarily be there to address an operational constraint of the existing network (being the mess that is Newmarket junction and West line trains taking ages to turn around, blocking the junction). I would only advocate retaining it if the CRL east link at Mt Eden Junction is not built, or if patronage is exceptional.

        Edit: Thanks to the mod for linking in the map!

        1. Andrew if you add AMETI out to Botany, and make Panmure and Papkura into interchange stations that’s a pretty nice RTN to be getting on with till we have the CRL open….

          And I wouldn’t launch the crosstown with fewer than 4tph, if it’s too infrequent that could affect uptake. But we’ll have better data to work with once HOP has been in use on the trains for a while.

    2. I really like the Henderson-Manukau and Swanson-Britomart mix. Provides really practical options for western line travellers and retains a direct route for all the schoolkids getting off at Grafton.

  5. One thing to consider Patrick would be to run the Eastern Line to Papakura and the Southern Line to Manukau. That would put the western line only one direct transfer away from Manukau.
    If that was the case then the green line could become Henderson to Onehunga.

    1. Yes I think there’s merit in switching the Southern Line to the shorter run, and the Eastern Line to Papakura. That doesn’t help us add services before the CRL is in though. Hendo to Onehunga would be an odd pattern I can’t help feeling, be interesting to know how current Onehunga users would view that.

      Remember Western Line users are about get to an increase in journey time next year with the opening of the Parnell station [as well as another handy destination]. I bet there would be a decent chunk who would be happy to skip the Newmarket Waltz. Especially because the Newmarket dwell is like an enforced transfer anyway, expecting a smaller number of travellers to transfer to get there and giving the majority a quicker journey is a net gain in my view….?

      Looking froward to getting all that clean data from the real HOP system. Mustn’t just design the pattern for current habits though but open it up for many new ones, then go out and sell the possibilities: When the new trains are up and running and the fares all integrated.

    2. Or (re)build Newmarket West station and add a northern concourse to Newmarket station, thus providing an easy 270m walking transfer between lines.
      The spare platform at Newmarket could then be used for long distance services.

  6. I’m a fan, gets rid of the issue of Grafton and the Newmarket reverse while adding more frequency and destinations – great idea, and will help rid the perception of the rail network being CBD-centric.

    A similar but different thought for the (much) longer term I had a while back was to utilise Avondale-Southdown for a Henderson-Manukau (or Airport) service. I confess to having no idea how useful or workable that’d be, but I thought there had to be some way of utilising that designation as part of a through-route rather than as a circle line or spur.

  7. Thinking more, how about an even more controversial plan:
    Have only this Henderson-Manukau line as the only main line out West.
    Then offer an additional “Express” train in the peak times only that does a Britomart-WesternLine direct service (skips stations between Britomart and Grafton including Newmarket ie, no reversing at Newmarket).
    Then in the peak times commuters out west get the best of both worlds (commuters in peak to CBD with no transfer), and for all day travel can get *anywhere* on the network via 1 transfer only, at either Newmarket or Otahuhu

    Takes a lot of heat out of Britomart as the major interchange, and solves the junction/reversing at Newmarket problems too.

    1. Expanding on my point of taking the heat out of Britomart:

      This Henderson-Manukau line because of how it is connected biases transfers to *not* take place at Britomart (see Andrews line map above) for non-CBD destinations.
      This is important as it frees up peak-hour seats. By having transfers happen at Newmarket or Otahuhu/etc seats are being used on the contra-peak legs and peak seats out on the edges of the network.
      Currently transfers use a peak leg to britomart then a non-peak leg back out, so this gives britomart a few more years of life before it gets to overflowing.

  8. There’s some really good thinking here……

    Would be fascinating to know how many travellers on the western line currently transfer at Newmarket for a destination on the southern line towards Puke. And with Middlemore, Manukau MIT etc, how many people would take up the service rather than drive.

    1. Yes two good separate points there: The real HOP card will give us the data for the first question, which will be great.

      But the second one we can only find out by putting on the service, sticking with it for a while and marketing it well.

    2. Well I have a friend who would do it, even tried it briefly, but found the transfer at Newmarket just to much of a hassle for a short Kingsland to Ellerslie commute. Part of that was poor timing, the other unreliability.

      She’s now in the peculiar situation of owning a car to commute in and taking public transport on the weekends.

      I can’t help but think that reasonable frequency and good reliability will fix the connection issue though. Even better would be a timed transfer.

      Not sure if overlaying service patterns that totally duplicate other lines is a particularly ‘metro’ solution.

      1. “Not sure if overlaying service patterns that totally duplicate other lines is a particularly ‘metro’ solution.”

        Agree. Not particularly keen on the idea – IMO should only be considered as a stop gap measure pre CRL. Post CRL, keep it simple & consistent and put the resources into to increasing the frequency of both lines. Single seat direct point to point services at the expense of increased frequency on main routes/lines sounds a little bit like the thinking behind the current bus network…

        1. I know where you are coming from but are you sure you aren’t falling into the trap of putting theory above all else. The duplications are a function of the curious 2.5 Line + 2 branches with poor junctions network we are currently stuck with. It’s not a network anyone would design from a blank sheet and this post is all about trying to make the best shape from this crooked start.

          It’s Metro-like nature comes from the frequencies, there is still a reliance on transfers, and I would argue, that the non CBD serving Hendo-Manukau line does decrease it’s commuter like pattern. But sure it’s a hybrid, and indeed, only a suggestion until the CRL is open. By then we will have a whole lot of data about real movements to base our planning on; a good five years of living with a transfer based model across all modes.

          I really wanted to run these processes to do two things, one to plan for a very real coming need, and not one based on a wish list of far off new lines. But also to test what sort of junction will be needed at the CRL southern portal. There’s been no discussion on that yet.

        2. My main concern is the sections of track where you’ve got three lines overlapped, lines that go in three fundamentally different directions. So if you’re at those stations then really you’re frequency is only one third of the number of trains you’re running.

          A better way to run the green line might be via the avondale-southdown corridor, connecting across the end of the Onehunga line, or even replacing it entirely. But that needs the new line through Mt Roskill of course.

        3. Yes I did think it flips down to that route nicely but as you say; it ain’t there yet….

          Onehunga isn’t really it’s own line, properly understood it’s just a little additional frequency at the top of the Southern Line. Also say the four extra services on the Western, if your aim is Britomart it’s still an option to hop on a Manukau service and switch at Newmarket, so much frequency through that core, it’ll get you there pretty fast….

        4. Patrick: “Onehunga isn’t really it’s own line, properly understood it’s just a little additional frequency at the top of the Southern Line”

          Indeed. I have always wondered why it had its own line/colour on the map when it is just a spur, much like Manukau (which doesn’t have its own line/colour).

          I guess its designed to have people look at it and say “Hey, you could link Onehunga with the airport, for a whole new line from Britomart passing through SW Auckland…”. And for them to respond with “Good idea…”.

        5. This layout also gets rid of the confusing occasional Southern Line train via Newmarket to Manukau, and the East line Manukau/Papakura same-colour split.

          I note that a similar situation exists on the “ultimate metro” being the London Underground – observe the overlaps between the Circle, Hammersmith & City, and District lines (the District line also being quite messy with 5 endpoints). While perfectly Metro-like is an ideal, existing network constraints do make that difficult. I think this idea still combines some of the goals of a Metro-like system being linear single-name routes (no same-colour splits or joins) with at-a-glance easy to understand service patterns. With our existing freight-based rail system and its difficult junctions, I’d say that’s quite an achievement, especially pre-CRL!

  9. Mean idea Patrick.

    Giving Western line passengers two options for travel is great. Not only would this make the South more accessible for the West and vice versa in terms of convenience & speed, but also areas like Greenlane & Penrose (and by extension Mt Smart).

    I also like that the direct link to Grafton would be retained on the Crosstown service as well, while the Britomart service would be quicker for dropping the Newmarket stop.

    As I understand it, this service pattern also eliminates the issue of Western trains having to ‘reverse’ out of Newmarket so this plan ticks a lot of boxes.

  10. 1. The high frequency between Westfield and Puhinui is problematic, with 3 separate service patterns and flat junctions at both ends, and insufficient passenger loading to justify such a high frequency. The problem could be reduced by terminating half the Eastern Line trains at Panmure or Sylvia Park. This way there would be a high frequency of trains at the major loading point from buses (Panmure). The Perth Manduarah and Joondalup lines have a shoulder period frequency of 7.5 minutes in their inner sections, and 15 minutes in their outer sections. The turnback facilities consist of sidings between the up and down tracks to minimise conflicting movements. These sidings are just after the platforms, and avoids the cost of building additional platforms. This arrangement provides metro frequencies in the inner section of their network.

    2. It is a pity Parnell were not built as an island platform. This would give the option of Western line trains bypassing Newmarket. With an island platform it would be a simple cross-platform connection for a Western line passenger to catch a train to Newmarket or further south, and taking only a few minutes more than the current arrangements. The current side platforms make these transfers time-consuming.

  11. First, nitpick: what you’re proposing is less metro (unless you’re thinking of the London Underground) and more RER/S-Bahn, with lower-frequency branches interlining to form a high-frequency trunk. Knowing nothing about Auckland, I’d ask how important it is to supply the farthest reaches of those three lines with 6 tph: if those areas are too suburban to merit 6 tph, then consider the possibility of short-turning trains, as on the Copenhagen S-Tog.

    Second: there needs to be extra rush hour service. One possibility is to just offer more rush hour service on some lines. But more imaginatively, you could add extra services, such as rush hour-only expresses and rush-hour direct lines. For example, off-peak, the western line and the Henderson-Manukau line could both be replaced with a single Swanson-Manukau line. BART does both: it has four lines into San Francisco and a crosstown line paralleling the tails of the two of the lines; normally each line has 4 tph, but in the peak one of the four SF lines gets 12 tph instead, and in the evenings and on weekends everything is cut to 3 tph and in addition the two SF lines paralleling the crosstown line are eliminated and the other two have timed transfers to the crosstown line.

  12. There is lots of interestig stuff there, and I hate to put a dampner on things, but can we please have some realism on the number of trains per hour able to use the existing Britomart layout? A look at the existing performance will show that Britomart creaks now.

    If we assume that a robust train plan has 2 minute clearances between trains using the platform ends, then there are thirty train moves. The diagram below shows how 30 minutes could be used to get 9 trains in and out of the station – so 18 in the hour. Of course, this ignores any train pattern frequencies, any minimum layover requirements and any desire to link destinations to platforms – the pattern shown is all about maximising the number of trains in the station.

    Of course it also assumes that there are no conflicts at Quay Park Junction to prevent this pattern and that similarly, Newmarket throws up no problems.

    Regonising that conflicts from Newmarket and Quay Park Jn will cause inneficiencies elsewhere, a prudent planner would assume that maybe 75%-80% of maximum capacity is available at any one place – so Britomart should only have 13 or 14 trains per hour.

    So network performance is already compromised by running 15 trains per hour. It is compromised more if 1 minute clearances are planned on being used all the time, which would be necessary to have 20 trains per hour.

    My Documents

  13. Im not convinced extra capacity on the Newmarket to Otahuhu part of the southern line is neccessary, or a priority.
    However once the Panmure busway gets into action we will run out of capacity on the peak Eastern line trains.
    So therefore I would propose a Henderson-Newmarket-Strand-Glen Innes-Otahuhu service. This adds extra capacity to the Eastern line, and new quicker journeys for those coming from the East and heading to Parnell, Newmarket and Grafton.
    Would allow Western trains to bypass Newmarket decreasing journey time and increasing reliability.
    The Southern line capacity should be kept for increasing Onehunga frequencies, and ten trains an hour might cause trouble at Manakau junction.
    However maybe there will be issues with capacity on the Newmarket Strand section with prevent this?

    1. I shiver at the thought of someone having to plan that one. That’s another two flat junctions and due to the nature of the junctions being single lead, a bit of single line, all within 3 minutes of Britomart. The train service going over them then needing to be accommodated within the existing service provision, not to mention not getting in the way of the Northern Explorer’s positioning moves. I really don’t see it working.

      1. I see little advantage in a rambling route like that anyway; it has no easy logic as a journey, of course people may only ride bits of it but it isn’t legible or sellable as an idea to the customer. I would also be very very weary of any service that goes that close to Britomart- still the most popular destination- then veers away at the last minute and doesn’t next stop till Orakei….

        Really value your input Richard as clearly you know about operational constraints, I am trying to understand those while viewing the system from a customer focussed viewpoint.

        After-all the more of those you get [customers] the greater the chance that investment can be won to sort out some of the more restrictive existing physical constraints and the greater the chance that future work will be done to accommodate higher frequencies.

        So if there was one junction that could be improved or one stretch of track duplicated that would significantly reduce operational constraints, what is that?

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