It’s not going to be a good afternoon on the rail network. Here is a press release from Trasdev.

NETWORK WIDE SIGNAL FAILURE HALT TRAINS

Transdev are advising customers to use alternate transport due to a major signal failure that has affected all trains.

Until the signals are restored we cannot run trains safely so please check the Auckland Transport website (www.at.co.nz) for bus services and travel updates.

If you are at a train station please listen for announcements as they should direct you to the nearest bus stop or contact 09 366 6400 for more information.

At approximately 2.10pm this afternoon KiwiRail advised that the Auckland rail network signalling system stopped functioning, both primary and secondary systems were affected. KiwiRail are working to confirm the cause of the network outage.

Police are also advising motorists to take extra care around the barrier arms as some are not working presently.

If you have smartphone you can follow Auckland Transport on Twitter or download the AT app. You can also sign up for text updates on the AT website to receive information directly to your phone.

Transdev will issue further updates as they come to hand.

Definitely a concern that both the primary and secondary systems have failed. It is also not the first time this has happened. Previous incidents have been due to a failure at Train Control in Wellington and contractors cutting cables.

I will update this post as more info comes to hand.

Update: AT have said on twitter that the network is back up and running again but as you can expect, it will take some time to work through the backlog

Update 2:

30 MINUTE TRAIN SERVICE BACK OPERATING

Transdev would like to advise customers that a half hour train service is now operating.

Customers should still use alternate transport wherever possible. AT HOP cards and paper rail tickets will be accepted on all buses.

“We apologise for any inconvenience customers may have experienced and we will be working closely with KiwiRail to get train services running as frequently as possible for the evening peak,” says Transdev Managing Director, Terry Scott.

If you have a smartphone you can follow Auckland Transport on Twitter or download the AT app for the latest updates.

Customers can also sign up for text updates on the AT website (www.at.co.nz).

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58 comments

  1. Quick contact made with NZ Bus. Even before official release and tweets was able to use AT HOP card to get free ride on Inner Link.
    Was one guy at station directing people to bus stops, though will need more that one in the next few hours.

  2. Just got a call from AT about my HOP card – after the chat about that I asked about the status of the trains, to which the woman replied that they are running again as of 3:37pm – can anyone confirm this?

  3. ATs twitter says that they are but to expect major delays. Might check out local train station just in case but I’ve got my BMX so might just have to use that the whole way home hah.

  4. Yes not a good day. Normally I don’t do the train but today I needed to finish work early
    in time to get my girl from school at 3. Caught the 1.20 from town…….Got stuck 300m from
    Westfield station and took over an hour for the train to make it to the station.
    Then the train conductor basically said get off the train, the Great South Rd is in that direction and there
    should be buses there…..you are not getting a special bus allocated just go and find a bus…
    those buses might take train tickets (or not) ………..(though he was very nice about it just
    flustered and uncertain)

    The train manager/conductor on the train had said that Auckland is fine but a panel in Wellington went out so the signals are gone….
    but it seems it was a bit more complicated than that ..I was thinking at the time it was a stupid thing if
    a panel in wellington was the only thing keeping Auckland network running esp considering that
    Wellington is a tad quake prone ………but it seems they have a secondary system too so I guess I need
    to take those thoughts back !

    Poor train manager guys job was of course complicated when someone in another carriage forced the doors open and left the train
    before they got us to the station ………not that I really blame that person but it added stress to the conductor and
    driver as they then had to delay the train further to ensure that person was not on the track ………

    Got home at 4.10 pm, missed the school pick-up and.had to pull hubby out of work to get our daughter, had to haul my 8 months pregnant ass
    along the industrial area of Otahuhu to get to the Gt South carrying about 3kg of work papers etc (we shall call it at dignified waddling pace!)……..
    so could have been a more productive afternoon !
    On the upside did get a bit of productive work-time while waiting in the train ……..

    Will be interesting to follow up what the causes were and why both systems failed

    1. Indeed. And yet, I fail to see how putting in electric trains is going to remedy repeated failures in the control network.

      *Sigh*

      Having to resort to manual signal overrides to get the trains from where they stopped to the next station is ridiculous.

      Having a failure in a system in another city bring your cities PT network to its knees is also ridiculous.

  5. “Customers can also sign up for text updates on the AT website (www.at.co.nz)”

    Not that this would have helped them much today. Most days I get several texts about how a train has limited seating capacity or how a particular train is cancelled between Swanson and Waitakere. Today, nothing. If I was relying on the text messages I wouldn’t even know there was a problem.

    1. Steve – what times during the day have you signed up for alerts? I’ve just got several about the western line…. There’s much still to improve about this service, but they do seem to be getting sent out today.

      1. Tim, you may be right – my first text came through at 4:56 and they have been regular since then. The 5:46pm text was an absolute classic of the genre – “the 4:53pm Western train . . . has been cancelled from Swanson to Swanson due to an earlier signal failure”.

  6. I arrived at Britomart just after 1600 to catch anything to Newmarket. I think the services were just getting up and running, and the first train left at 1620. The others were closely stacked behind it. The Britomart announcers were still talking about bus replacements even though the trains were running. It was all a bit confusing.

  7. For all the praise buses are given I find them to be completely useless when I do decide to risk using them. Decided to skip the train because of the breakdown so I went to catch the 163X from K Road to Glen Eden and it was a bloody nightmare. Was scheduled for 5:25pm, didn’t show up until 5:50pm – 25 minutes late. I knew whichever method I didn’t choose would end up being faster, I should’ve just gone to Grafton train station and tried my luck, I most probably would’ve gotten home sooner despite the delays. And to top it all off, stopping and starting all down the flipping motorway, it was enough to set my teeth on edge.

    Absolutely pathetic service from the buses and only reinforces why I refuse to travel by bus unless absolutely necessary. Not to mention the “real time” board claiming it was 5 minutes, 2 minutes, due to arrive, back to 5 minutes several times over. I would’ve been more satisfied with “We don’t have a clue, will turn up when it turns up” rather than give me hope it was going to arrive any time soon.

  8. Got no text messages before during or after. Waited at new Lynn for 45 mins with no announcements.
    They have learned nothing since rugby world cup.

        1. I commute outside peak times on purpose. I am rarely caught in traffic with a commute that is half that of the PT option, both in travel time and cost. As Roger W points out the flexibillty of the car is it’s greatest advantage and it’s mass inefficiency the greatest disadvantage. That mass transit ability of PT is it’s greatest advantage, and flexibility/cost/reliability it’s greatest weakness.

        2. So the car is really flexible, as long as you dont use it at certain times and you are able to work outside of normal working hours? That doesnt sound that flexible.

          How can you say that driving a car is cheaper than PT? If you believe that you cant be taking into account all the costs of driving.

          And reliability? That may be true in NZ where we have neglected PT for 60 years but certainly not in good transit countries, especially in Europe. I have very seldom been let down by PT in Europe, certainly no more than by car.

          Of course cycling ticks all the boxes. Cheap, mass efficiency and reliable.

        3. Goosoid, I’m only talking in the Auckland context. I dont live elsewhere. The car remains flexible even at peak times by virtue of the road network that we overspent on over the last several decades. Plus I can leave exactly when I choose, not subject to the whims of the bus time table especially if I dont want to go straight home. And yes, PT is costly. Outside my job I still need a car, so whether I commute by PT or not doesnt affect my ownership costs, it just affects my operational costs as well as my time.

          I would need to take two buses to get to work and it would take me 1.25hrs minimum with the assumption the bus turns up exactly on time, not 20min late. Also doesnt take into account I may have to walk through several hundred meters of pouring rain and wait a stop with no shelter. And it would cost $215 a month or $2600 a year.

          My commute by car takes 25min from door to door. I save 2hrs a day of my personal time by not taking the bus. Sure I could read a book or surf the web for 2hrs, but that is not productive use of my time. That is 450hrs I could be spending with my family at home. Petrol for the year would be around $1300 for my commute. I would double that to take into account some wear and tear, but I would still come up even with PT in direct cost to my wallet. It is the time factor that makes all the difference. I’m not saying PT doesnt suit many other people who make a choice to live near work or near major PT routes, at the end of the day, PT doesnt suit me. Sure I could quit a job I love and try and find another closer to home, but I dont have much choice where I live because of budget constraints, housing affordability etc. Hence why support intensification and greater PT investment.

        4. Ari – I misunderstood your points. Of course if the car suits you better than that is what you should do.

          I thought you were extrapolating your experience to justify no spending on PT/cycling in general but I see that is not the case. Also great to see your suppoort for intensification.

          Great to hear from someone who realises that there is a wider world out there and sees the benefit of a more urban environment, even if it doesnt match their current transport choices. Good on you, we need more like you.

    1. What about when for example a crash grinds the whole motorway network to a halt.
      http://www.nzta.govt.nz/about/media/releases/2605/news.html (Newmarket flyover). Or for a matter any crash can cause significant delays on the motorway.

      I got the Train from Te Papapa (Onehunga Line) it was running 4-5 minutes late at 5:23 instead of 5:18 so it was not bad at all and by the time we hit Newmarket my stop it was only 1.5mins late. Felt sorry for the conductor he said he was stuck on a train for 2 hours while the signals had crashed, poor bugga looked exhausted. Always hate that its the guys on the ground who have to do the hard yards and take the flak, while the people in charge of the systems don’t get much pressure on them.

      1. well was 3 hr trip home for me taking the train – even on the motorway express buses there’s only a few times in the many years that I have caught it that’s happened
        and at least in that case they don’t just drop you off at the next station and tell you to go find a bus goodbye ………..
        not to mention the cost of having to have Hubby take time off work to do the school pick-up I was meant to do – all in all in work hours lost for both of us it was an expensive day yesterday even with the work I did get done on the train ……….the irony of tagging off at the station we got left at so I ensured I paid for my trip was not lost on me ….

        But by the same token the conductor was a nice guy – and very flustered and stressed by the situation and I felt for him – was not his day ….esp when someone decided bugger waiting I shall just leave mid-track ….its not their fault these things happen ………but perhaps there’s some issues or updating the system needs to be more robust. Esp if they are going to be relying more on trains in certain areas (like ours) in the future …….you loose your back-up of go find a bus as there’s a lot less of them ….one would expect the electrification of the network comes with some decent investment into upgrading the systems as well as putting a few robust contingencies in place …..of course I am probably being an idealist there

        Though it does beg the question ……if it costs you time and money when these things happen can you bill them ? Of course in a fair world we know things do happen from time
        to time and you live with that BUT if its a regular occurrence and due to a system not getting the TLC it needs it becomes another issue – if you could bill for your time/expenses
        it might be motivation at a higher level for the system to be invested in ……..not that its likely to happen but it gives some sort of consequence …..
        I know the conductor on the train was telling someone who had a ticket issue yesterday that he could not make any decisions they would have to write to AT who would know about the signal failure ………

        1. Being able to get home reliably is important to you. I’d say give it another go, but if it fails on you again in the same way (10-30 minutes a few times a month is tolerable, worse than that regularly isn’t), then shift back to the car.

        2. Heh.

          I try using the train for a week every few months.
          I’ve yet to manage a week without a delay of some sort. Usually unexplained.

        3. In terms of recovering for time and money, you would have as much success as when the motorway is congested or there is an accident on the motorway and you try and recover from NZTA. So none at all.

        4. except an “accident on the motorway” does not equate to “we have poor systems that we cannot/will not invest in improving”
          in such a direct manner ………we could of course I am sure argue that the indirectly there is correlations and even
          analyse how motorway design affects accidents and abilities to get traffic flowing around them …….

          But then again 10 + years on an express bus on the motorway suggests on a congestion front at least
          the motorway has to be having a really really sh**ty design day for it to take 3 hours to get home/work……..
          and even then the bus driver has flexibility to get off and take another route if she/he gets enough warning……
          was one that came close a couple of years ago where a tiny car got sandwiched between 2 trucks and we were rather
          stuck for a long time so of course it does happen …….

          It more about motivation for these systems to be the best and most robust they can be …….
          of course instead of asking for “compensation for time etc” what tends to happen if these
          sort of things become frequent is people go stuff this and choose to use another form of transport
          ….thats a bit cyclical then as then you have less to invest back into improving systems (or less of a business
          case to do so as you lost your “birds in the hand”) ………

          anyway some things are more easily preventable than others …….if these things are part of a trend then it
          suggests some investment in dealing with the issues would be worth considering …..but of course if
          there’s no financial incentive to do that and the cost is great then its hard to justify ……..

        5. Of course, you are right. And the sooner we stop wasting 95% of our transport budget on roading and start spending more on PT and cycling the sooner we can get that efficiency and take some strain off the overloaded roading system.

          The cost is not great. PT is much cheaper to invest in than roads, especially motorways and it lasts a lot longer. It is just a switch in philosophy and ideology.

      2. Actually, the differences are:

        1. A crash on 1 Auckland motorway doesn’t stop ALL the motorways in Auckland.
        2. A crash in Wellington doesn’t stop a motorway here.
        3. If I know about a crash while driving my car I have a choice of sucking it up, turning around, or (god forbid) getting off the motorway and taking an alternate route.

        None of those are (legally) available to me if I’m on a train stuck between stations.
        If I’m stuck AT a station, then #3 is available in the form of buses, or calling someone with a car.

        Note that I’m not saying the train is bad, or the car is better on average, but the car is more flexible.

        Also, this sort of systems failure is on a par with the phone system failure in the south Island where Telecom didn’t both to put in redundant systems. It’s primarily a result of poor/cheap design.

        1. No doubt there are advantages to car travel. Or you could cycle and never have to worry about congestion or breakdowns (flat tyres excepted). My commute by cycle home is always the same time, regardless of external factors.

        2. love the idea of exercise …sure cycling is a great option for many ….not so loving the idea of a 30+ km cycle home with a toddler seat on the back
          and a bag full of work in rush hour auckland traffic ………..mind you would be quicker than walking home which I think would probably take twice
          as long as taking the train did yesterday ………but man I would’nt need the gym if I did that regularly !

        3. Yes well, I wouldnt live 30kms away from where I work for the exact reason that I want to have the freedom that cycling brings. That is more of a rural commute than a city commute.

        4. wasn’t rural last time I checked ……..just affordable housing for a decent sized family + extended family
          with certain needs situation ………….
          And I would not cycle with the toddler on the back for a work commute even if I was closer …..its bad
          enough driving with them and knowing any screw up you make impacts on them and cycling puts them at more risk of injury ….
          I do figure the bus/train are on average safer for them …but you can never say never …….just try your best to mitigate risks

          Mum in law being an avid cyclists would never do so with the kids on the back given how many close calls she’s had with trucks etc ……
          so given her love of it I take what she says with a lot of respect ………

          I am afraid cycling, while a great option for many isn’t going to work for everyone…….

  9. This is a new system. Why the failures? There needs to be an investigation. Does the control for Auckland and the Waikato need to move to Auckland?

  10. Oh, and a serious question: where do I buy a train HOP? I’ve been back in Auckland a few weeks, and have been meaning to buy a card once I see a sales outlet. That hasn’t happened yet. AT seem to have completely dropped the ball on yet another aspect of this project.

    And what is with the deceptive MyHOP website, which gives no indication that this is a limited and increasingly useless product? If I didn’t know from this website that there were two, I’d have bought one off their website.

    1. If you do buy a purple Hop, you can use that to get a free AT HOP as well, if you want to have a card for the buses for the next few months as well.

  11. The thing I can’t understand is that the back-up system failed as well. It failed last time as well and Kiwirail were going to investigate why it had. They obviously didn’t investigate hard enough. Definitely 0/10 for the value of their back-up system! One wonders why they bother! If the back-up system had done it’s job as intended then things wouldn’t have been so bad. there are always going to be occasions where even the best systems fail but the critical thing is to have a back-up system in place to deal with those occasions.

  12. I can’t help but wonder what will happen if this happens once the new network is fully in place, as there will be a dramatic reduction in bus services directly to/from the CBD to most suburbs. They really need to have a back up railbus service in place for incidents like these when this new network is implemented.

    1. And I’ve been thinking about the train failure vs motorway failure.

      There are a number of interesting points.
      1. If the trains carry more people, then any failure of the trains has more impact than the failure of a motorway
      2. The control system for a train (which includes the signalling network) is inherently more complex than that of a car
      3. Failure of a train pretty much closes a track. Failure of a car merely reduces capacity
      4. Catastrophic failure of a train has much more severe effects than the catastrophic failure of a car

      All of which imply that more care and attention should be given to trains than cars.

      Then there’s some interesting stuff derived from the decline and collapse of empires.
      Which might apply in either direction.

      An empire is a system. And so are train and car networks
      As a system expands it acquires resources
      As a system expands it uses resources to maintain itself

      The rate at which resources are acquired is proportional to the area covered
      The rate at which resources are required is proportional to the connections between parts of the system

      Eventually the requirements exceed the available resources and the system collapses.

      1. So you agree that Auckland’s over (almost exclusive) investment in motorised traffic up until 2003 and the huge amount of land given to that system is dangerous. Great to hear. I agree, investing in PT and cycling is the only reasonable option for Auckland.

        1. Absolutely, walking should be right up there and the walking environment in Auckland is awful in most places. We should especially be improving walking access to PT stations.

          However, cycling massively increases the catchment of PT stations. Walking is usually 800m catchment while cycling is about 3kms, each for a roughly 10min journey. Cycling has a 9 times greater catchment area.

        2. true assuming you can cycle……….if PT “stations” (be they bus or train) were designed assuming everyone could cycle to them
          that would be marginalizing a lot of PT users ………….often people who have no other option but PT for the same reason they
          cannot cycle ……..and the same people for whom a dodgy poorly designed footpath effectively becomes a barrier to use rather
          than simply a real pain in the ……

          thing about transport is we all need to get around and no one system will suit ….of course better investment in public
          transport, walkways, cycleways is important and will increasingly be so fro Auckland as we become more densely packed
          – but there is not a “one system fits all” solution to mass transport of humans with different needs.
          And when it comes to public transport there must be great difficulty in designing a public transport system
          is that it needs to be accessible to all – we are all different……..I get very saddened when it seems that those who are highly
          reliant on the systems and whose needs may be more complex might get left out of the equation ……

        3. Fascinating

          While I agree that roading has been overinvested at the expense of public transport, you managed to arrive at almost the exact opposite conclusion that I thought I was pointing to

          So I guess I’ll be more explicit than thought provoking.

          1. Rail supply about the same area (coverage) as road in Auckland, barring over the bridge
          2. I assume that the power provision and maintenance provision requirements for cars are approximately the same as electric trains (get parts and petrol/electricity to them)
          3. Trains are more complex than cars
          4. Trains are coupled to the signalling network
          5. The signaling network is coupled to Wellington (for some reason)

          Usually you trade efficiency and optimisation for complexity and fragility.
          Complexity and fragility carry additional costs to overcome
          When the scale becomes high enough, the additional costs begin to overwhelm the additioanl benefits

          Cars are a system, coupled to a lane (or a road), that’s comparitively small scale
          Trains are a system, coupled to multiple units, and coupled to a command and control infrastructure

          Net result, trains let you carry more than cars.
          They pollute less.
          They are hard to maintain on an individual basis.
          Failures cost MUCH more than cars
          Failures SHOULD be much less frequent

          Usually you find that the failure rate decreases more slowly then the cost increases, so the total cost rises

          THis is why cars get a better rap than trains.
          When a train fails, they visibly impact far more people than when a car fails

        4. You are forgetting the human system on the road network which doesn’t have to exist on a rail network, though I still agree.

        5. Can you define human system in that context?

          Both have drivers, there are more on the motorway than the train network, and the train drivers get tested on it a bit more regularly 🙂

          RE: Cars get a better rap, a better example might be that the US is devoting huge amounts of resource to stop terrorists when about the same number of people die in car accidents each month as died in 9/11

  13. You mean “operational difficulties” doesn’t explain everything?

    Agree though its a pretty rare week I don’t have at least one train cancelled

  14. And the Southern Motorway is blocked tonight after a four car crash. I really hope all the people involved are OK.

    Just shows no transport system is immune to accidents and errors and we need good alternatives.

    1. True there was a accident – I have no idea yet how bad and I hope it was not …….

      It it did block up traffic ….for a long time …..(which implies it might of been bad 🙁 )

      Anyway …I had the fortunate luck to be both stuck with the signal failure the other day
      on the train and in the
      express bus today on the motorway in the accident fallout traffic ..so I am therefore a little blessed to be able to make a comparison
      of my experiences …luckily no toddler either time which would have made both significantly
      trickier for which I am extremely grateful !

      Anyway my observations well it took me 2 hrs 50 mins to get home from the time
      my train departed after the signal failure the other day and
      1 hr 40 mins tonight with the motorway bus.
      The other day I was turfed off the train to walk around in an area I was not familiar with to “go find a bus home,
      the great south rds in that direction” …
      today I was on the bus the whole time and still got off at my normal stop albeit about 50 mins – 1hr later that normal.
      I have to say so far (though I think its not been a great week for piddling away time for me) that the bus was
      still preferable ………
      even with the toddler I suspect the bus would have been preferable – walking around the industrial area with 3kg of
      work, 15 kg of toddler and 8 months worth of belly trying to find a bus or sort how to get to Otahuhu and sort a lift
      (after having sat on a train for ~an 1hr and a half with said toddler)
      versus entertaining a bored toddler for 1hr 40 mins on a bus but getting off at the same stop as normal ……
      And I certainly would not have liked the safety aspect of having a teen on the train getting sent off to go find a bus either –
      luckily mine are not at that stage yet but when they do that sort of thing would be a factor in me wanting them to use the train or not !
      Of course our bus is not normally air conditioned so the train would have won there but for some odd reason today we had one of the non waka pacific buses do our run …….so we got air conditioning ……………
      I suspect if we had a different express driver they might have got permission to go off the motorway and go Great South which might have sped it up too ………this driver choose not to …….

  15. Exactly. Only differences are that the other motorways are still working, and you can take Great South Road instead if you are desperate.

    Personally, I’ll work late

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