A few years ago there was a lot of noise an complaining about Onehunga. At first it was because almost a year after it had originally promised to be operating, the station hadn’t even been started. Then once it was built the issue was that the platforms were built at only 55m long, too short for our future electric trains which we already knew would be around 70m long.  Of course there was a lot of jumping up and down by many saying how it was another example of poor planning in Auckland however there actually turned out to be a fairly logical explanation for it. The simple version of it was that get all of the consents and agreements to build it right the first time would have taken months, if not years longer so the decision was made to build what they could and start the services sooner.

Well now the consents and other issue have been sorted out so AT have lengthened the platforms so that they can handle our new trains. I took a trip out there yesterday to have a look and it appears the job is all finished so here are some photos.

And at the other end of the station

But that wasn’t the only addition to the station, there are also some public toilets being installed which is something needed at more stations

While on the topic of Onehunga, it is probably worth pointing out another thing mentioned a few years ago about it, its patronage forecasts. The forecasts most likely come from the same models that are used to predict how well things like the CRL will be use. Here is what ARTA said in July 3020 about patronage at Onehunga:

ARTA’s spokesperson, Sharon Hunter said, “Passenger travel shows patronage on the line from September 2010 for the two hours at morning peak, from 7am to 9am, is estimated to be approximately 100 people boarding at Onehunga. This compares with 3,600 people alighting at Britomart during the morning peak period.

Now I don’t know exactly how many board during the morning peak but I have heard stories of up around 50-60 on some trains alone. It would be really interesting to see how those previous estimates have worked out in reality as I would suspect they way underestimate what is happening in reality. That is something that seems to be a common feature with Public Transport yet the opposite is true for vehicle traffic which is constantly overestimated.

Edit: Sharon got in touch with me and provided this information:

The most recent survey counted 170 passengers boarding at Onehunga in the morning two-hour peak with 60+ boarding the most popular service (7:45am departure).  For a full weekday about 400 passenger were counted using Onehunga to board trains.  In overall rankings that is about the same as Orakei and Meadowbank (i.e. ranked about 30th out of 42 stations).

Interestingly in terms of projections, Te Papapa is exceeding expectations with more than 100 boardings counted in the morning 2-hour peak period.  The combined effect of Onehunga + Te Papapa is generating around 280 passengers per day in the morning two-hour peak versus the 2016 modelled 360 so it is heading in the right direction.

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  1. These two statements (yours and Sharon Hunters) are compatible, if there are only 2 trains from Onehunga in the two hours of the AM peak.

    Now that may have been true in 2010 (1 train an hour), but I think that the numbers of trains per hour is well over 1 on that line now. And with EMUs, well we might reach 4 trains an hour it being single tracked and all that.

    And don’t forget that just because you get on a train at Onehunga, doesn’t mean you will get of it at Britomart.

    I would expect many people who get on at Onehunga will change trains at Penrose (to head south even if going out east via the GI line)
    – or of course Ellerslie, Greenlane, Remeura stations or even Newmarket – especially if heading out west or working in Newmarket.

    Must say that single track doesn’t bode well for future growth options..

    1. Greg et al, being born and raised in Onehunga and having lived in Japan for some years now and seen many a single-line JP commuter rail service in action (yes, there are in fact many single-track lines still in operation in JP), I beg to differ with everyone’s belief that Onehunga has to be doubled tracked to manage future growth.

      An example is the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enoshima_Electric_Railway

      The Enoden has 15 stations over 10kms of track using 2-4 car EMU sets and has 15.33 million passengers per annum (42,000 passengers a day on average) – way, way more passengers than the Onehunga line will ever see, even in the very long term.

      The Penrose-Onehunga section of the line can definitely thus stay as a single track and be able to more than adequately handle increased passenger growth. It just takes more focus on train scheduling and passenger management rather than trying to infrastructure-build a way out of the problem.

      1. If I understand the Enoshima situation it relies on passing loops at several stations to allow reasonable frequency. That might be possible at Onehunga by building a passing loop around Te Papapa, but that would only go so far as long as the Onehunga terminus and the Penrose end are only single track, single platform. Another issue would be track speed, it’s severely limited due to the copious level crossings which would would reduce throughput.

        Still, with a little work fifteen minute headways should be reasonable.

        1. Track speed on the Enoden: its slow because there are a ton of level crossings, but it is no slower than the maximum speed the current Onehunga DMUs attain on certain parts of the line. Enoden still achieves its 42,000 passengers a day throughput despite the large number of level crossings and using passing loops – a far higher throughput that the Onehunga Line will ever get to. AT would do well to get some of the Enoden people down to NZ (I would be more than happy to set this up and act as interpreter / translator) to help devise an efficient schedule and institute optimum passenger management procedures for the Onehunga Line etc) including dwell management. Enoden trains are never late by the way. They, like all other trains in Japan, run exactly to timetable at all times of the day / night – a result of detailed planning and absolute commitment to customer service.

        2. But I would imagine to really follow the Enoden example Onehunga would have to be operated as a separate shuttle line with passenger transfer at Penrose, without trains running through to the southern line and on to Britomart. I assume Enoden achieves it’s reliability partly due to the fact it shares no main line track?

        3. Enoden does not have to share main line track but it has to tightly dovetail its timetable in with JR main line trains running through Kamakura and Fujisawa and Odakyu trains running from Fujisawa up to Shinjuku and down to Odawara / Hakone. The interaction with these other 3 main lines is such that the Enoden has to run very efficiently as a single track line thus I think its modus operandi is highly relevant to the Onehunga Line. I would keep the Onehunga Line as it is running from Britomart right through to Onehunga and use Enoden experience and practices to sharpen up the reliability of the service (as an ongoing single-track entity) and its interoperability with the Southern / Western Lines.

    1. OK, so 4 OBL trains x 250 seats = 1,000 seat capacity, of which 170 are being filled by passengers originating from the Onehunga Line.

      While that’s not bad I think that if you looked at average loadings out of Pukekohe and/or Papakura (or Henderson and New Lynn for that matter) you will find that they’re much higher.

      1. 170 passengers over 4 trains is about 42 per train. That is about a similar number that I see getting on at Henderson in the mornings but those services benefit from also having picked up patronage from further out. A two car ADL which is used to service Onehunga has about 130 seats so that 7:42 service which gets 60+ people has half the seats filled up on leaving the first station.

        It would be interesting what the difference would be if frequencies could be increased to 4 per hour, that would make the station a much more viable option for commuters so would likely have quite an impact on patronage.

      2. You’re diddling the numbers a wee bit there Stu.

        The ADLs used on the Onehunga branch have 136 seats per two car-set, so that’s only 544 across the four peak trains.

        170 is the reported patronage from Onehunga Station, but that’s not the only station on the branch. Add in Te Papapa boardings and you have 280 passengers originating from the Onehunga Line in the morning period.

        280 out of 544 equates to a seemingly reasonable occupancy level of 51%, but I have no idea how that compares to other lines or bus/ferry services.

    1. The 2010 CRL designation business case included a high level cost allowance in the cost benefit assessment for other network improvements including duplication of the Onehunga branch. This not the same as saying it necessarily be double tracked.

  2. The line opened in September 2010, so Sharon’s statement is not in the least bit at odds with the current situation. What is obvious is that the line is patronised to at least the levels projected before it was opened, and probably better. Once we’ve got HOP running on the trains the true numbers will be available in short order, which will make it possible to have these discussions on the basis of much more definite data.

  3. Thanks Matt for that update and photos, did you happen to see the progress at Penrose, last time I was there platforms 1 and 2 were being
    upgraded and the original station building painted

  4. My understanding is that initially at least there will only be HOP gates at Britomart and Newmarket. Is this correct? If so, are we still on the honesty fare treadmill? And will we REALLY know patronage data?

    1. Yes it will be an honesty based model, sort of. You will have to tag on and off or you will be charged a penalty maximum fare. If your trip begins or ends at either Britomart or Newmarket you will be forced to tag on or off by virture of the gates. There is of course the potential for people travelling between suburban stations to neither tag on or off, for that there will need to be enforcement.

  5. Sharon has just got in touch with me with this information

    The most recent survey counted 170 passengers boarding at Onehunga in the morning two-hour peak with 60+ boarding the most popular service (7:45am departure). For a full weekday about 400 passenger were counted using Onehunga to board trains. In overall rankings that is about the same as Orakei and Meadowbank (i.e. ranked about 30th out of 42 stations).

    Interestingly in terms of projections, Te Papapa is exceeding expectations with more than 100 boardings counted in the morning 2-hour peak period. The combined effect of Onehunga + Te Papapa is generating around 280 passengers per day in the morning two-hour peak versus the 2016 modelled 360 so it is heading in the right direction.

  6. Yes, more photos please,

    Bit hard to check things out from the other side of the ditch, someone has pointed out to me that Jon C’s old blog http://www.aktnz.co.nz has started again. Its the photos and diagrams that really help make the blogs

  7. Heh, I used to board the train at Te Papapa more years ago than I care to remember, then transfer at Penrose, when I worked at the Otahuhu Railway Workshops. Those were the days, built lots of trailers for the bosses and also occasionally worked on railcars and diesel-electrics.

    BTW Onehunga Station might be ready for trains, but the OLE and Penrose Substation still require some work (mainly testing etc). But should be all done before Christmas. Then there’s the small matter of not having any EMUs to play with yet. But great progress all the same.

    1. AT’s latest board papers show the electric trains are already having their components being manufactured so there’s good progress being made. Can’t wait!

      1. Yes, very good progress. Unfortunately the NIMT locos can’t be used on the OBL as their fault rating is too low so there’s a risk of frying them. It may be possible to use them at say Swanson by feeding the long way round, but August 2013 will roll around soon enough and there’s still quite a lot to do, although line stringing should be completed in early 2013.

        1. It’s only 18 months until the EMU’s start coming into service. That time will pass by probably a lot faster than we will imagine. The face of Auckland is going to change.

  8. I cant believe all the hoop-lah back then about the platforms being a few metres too short for the 3car EMUs, which in hindsight AT did the right thing by making them as long as they legally could at the time (without doing new resource consents etc) to get the line opened quicker. Lengthening it now has made no noticeable impact.
    With 2 trains per hour, and 1 in the offpeak, of course patrongage isn’t going to sky rocket. Those are NOT frequencies that people can easily rely on. Untill those increase, I don’t see much of an increase in passenger numbers from this station. Surely, increasing the off-peak frequencies to 2tph now is an easy-win for now?

  9. @ jonno1 – Thanks for the info – could you explain what you meant when you say the NIMT locos (the SA diesel locos I presume, not the Hamilton-PN electric locos?) have too low a fault rating, so would fry? Do you mean the locos would damage the electrification wires/substations, or that the locos themselves would fry, or that they would just break down and block the route? Thanks 🙂

  10. Hi Bob, no I was alluding to the NIMT electric locos which in theory could run in the Auckland electrified area as they both operate at 25kV AC. But the NIMT locos were built at a 3kA fault level (a measure of short circuit current withstand capability), while the AEA has a fault level of 10kA (I might have those numbers slightly wrong but the principle holds). So if a short circuit fault occurred during test running it could severely damage a low fault level unit (ie fry it!). Not a good look, and Murhpy’s Law has a bad habit of rearing its ugly head in these situatiions. This risk can be mitigated by deliberately creating a long distance from source to load, eg Penrose Substation to Swanson via Orakei, Britomart, Newmarket (rather than from Penrose-Newmarket directly) as fault level deceases with distance due to line impedance. However this wouldn’t add much value as in the end it’s the actual EMUs that have to be tested in the real-world environment. Apart from putting load on the electrical network, another purpose is to test contact wire height and position and miscellaneous clearances, but there are other ways of doing this, both low- and high-tech.

    1. Reading between the lines Kiwirail might not have Electric Locos in the future. Seems lately they’ve been running their new DL locos straight though to destination rather than loco changes at hamilton and palmerston north. Interesting idea.

  11. Yeah cos we all know that fossil fuels are the future, not those pesky electrons that we generate ourselves…. er what?

    KR so is being run without any sense that it has a long term future now is it?

    1. Our glorious leaders have implied that we need not concern ourselves with a future in which fossil fuels are exceedingly expensive, so why should KR care? If it’s good enough for our elected overlords to bury their heads in their rectal cavities regarding the cost of diesel it’s certainly good enough for bureaucrats who’re trying to avoid having their entire organisation shut down by said overlords.

    1. Big impediment for NZ is the incompatible traction system in Wellington. Hooking Auckland to NIMT for traction is just a matter of putting up the wires, but Wellington is a huge headache. Anyone know how much work would be involved in switching Wellington over to the common system? Do the Matangis need motive system replacement or can they run on either system with minor tweaks?

      1. One option would be to cascade all the existing DC trains to the non-NIMT lines in Wellington, then buy new trains and rewire the NIMT to 25kvAC. So you’d end up with two different standards in parallel. The main issue there is it would require permanently separate tracks and platforms for each system.

        1. That’s an interesting option. Having separate platforms and lines can’t be that hard, surely. The only stations that handle NIMT and non-NIMT trains are Kaiwharawhara, which already has separate tracks, and Wellington Station itself, which has nine platforms to play with.

      2. A couple of issues to bear in mind here. Firstly, the Wellington electrified area operates at 1500 V DC. Even if it were economically feasible to rebuild the overhead lines at 25 KV AC, it’s not just the OLE but the complete supply chain that would have to be replaced, ie from Wellington Electricity (or whatever it’s called). So this is a legacy system that we’re pretty well stuck with.

        Secondly, while the AEA and NIMTEA are both 25 kV AC, they’re quite different systems, with different fault levels as I mentioned above. Also, the NIMTEA is actually a 3-wire 50 kV AC system with centre-tapped auto-transformers. That’s not to say that the AEA EMUs couldn’t operate within the NIMTE, but not the other way around.

        So in short, there are three systems, not two. And that’s not a criticism, it’s simply evolution of rail electrification over the decades.

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