I attended the One Day International Cricket match at Eden Park yesterday. While game was outstanding, and finished in a stunning nail biting tie, what really let things down was the post match public transport. The whole thing was a disorganised shambles. The rail network is of course closed all Anniversary Weekend  for major electrification works, so public transport was by buses.

In the last few years the rail services to major events have become quite popular, and many people expect their to be trains going to most major events, this being especially true of Eden Park. For example these are the statistics for the last All Blacks game at Eden Park where an impressive 47% of people used special event public transport services.

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The crowd at the cricket was reported at 28,612 so while not at the level of the highest profile All Blacks games, still not insubstantial, and also much higher than the Super 15 crowds which have excellent provision of public transport. However the Public Transport provision fitted a crowd a handful of that number.

After the game finished at 10.15pm most people heading back to town flock towards Kingsland station, as they are now used to having trains lined up ready to go on both platforms. However of course there was nothing, with no special signs telling people how they could get back to town. There were the normal platform signs telling people they needed to go to New North Road to catch rail-replacement buses, which is the case all weekend. Though noticing all the confused people walking around the signs clearly weren’t enough, and there were none at the New North Road bus-stops telling people where to go.

The only special event buses organized running direct to Britomart required a wristband for boarding, which is great for efficiency of loading. However these wristbands had to have been purchased at Britomart on the inbound services, and there were not being sold at Eden Park. So there was no way for anyone without a wristband to get on the bus. This is plain madness. Many people may have arrived at the ground by other means, and want to head into town afterwards. For example I caught a bus from Symonds St near the University as it was more convenient for me, but as these buses are infrequent in the evening I was relying on a special event bus to get me home. Anyone without a wristband was simply told to cross the road and wait for the next normal rail-repalcement bus. However this was ridiculous as there were only a handful of buses, and people waiting at the stops in Kingsland would have packed out the buses.

The only normal rail replacement buses heading towards town were at 10.02pm (too early), 11.02pm and 12.02am. Note that the game finished at about 10.15pm so this would have meant an unacceptable 45 minute wait. There were also the regular buses running along New North Road (the 221 and 223) though these were running at there normal (rubbish) frequency of every 30 minutes. I did see one of these buses loading up straight after the game, but saw that people were already standing in the bus, so no point joining the queue of 50 people, most of whom would fail to fit on the bus. So overall in the hour after the game there were a total of 4 buses (all small ADL’s) that people could catch towards town unless that had pre-purchased a wristband. This picture from 10.55pm highlights the mess that this left. Note that this scene was repeated for at least 3 different bus-stops in Kingsland. Also I heard many comments and also saw many people who had given up on public transport and decided a taxi was a safer bet, which in the case it definitely was.


Note there were extra rail replacement buses heading west. However these were not advertised or even on website or timetable, and only confirmed when I asked AT on twitter a few days ago. There was also no signage indicating where to catch the buses from. In the end I gave up on joining the queue, and walked to View Road where I could catch a service from down Dominion Road.

The big question is why was the event transport so badly organized and so stupidly awkward for this event. To see what should of been done we can look on the AT website which highlights public transport options for the Auckland Nines in 2 weeks, and looking to attract a capacity crowd similar to the large All Blacks Test. While they have the advantage of trains running, note there are also special bus services running direct to Midtown, as well as the Northern Busway, Takapuna, Manukau, Botany and Pakuranga. None of these areas had direct buses for the cricket.

The issue is certainly complicated because all the Rugby Union games as well as the Auckland Nines have free travel on special event services by just showing the ticket. However as seen above the wristbands are a very clumsy way to get around this, and excluding and ignoring people who don’t behave by ditching them on an infrequent bus service is not acceptable.

While I don’t like being an endless complainer it is really important that Auckland Transport gets these special event services right. This is because using these services will only be occasional or even new public transport users, If they have a good experience then people will be encouraged to use public transport more in the future. However if they have a dreadful experience, such as being left behind and ignored (like the people in the picture above) then they are likely to be burnt by the experience, avoid public transport in future, as well as shaping anti public transport investment attitudes.

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    1. We’ve got more than enough single deckers to move that many people – all those buses that take people into the CBD on weekdays are just sitting idle.

      There’s no fancy infrastructure or extra vehicles needed, you just need to pay some guys to drive the existing buses near Eden Park, pick spectators up, and drive them away. And put up some signs, etc, so people know where the buses will be going from, and get reassured that there will be more coming soon, if they have to wait.

      There’s a middle ground that’s done pretty badly here. After the Rugby World Cup we’ve gotten OK at handling gigantic rugby games and concerts, that need special event buses and trains and sweeping road closures. But for mid-sized events, where all you need is to run (and publicise) that there will be a few extra services run on the existing routes with normal fares (e.g. Sandringham Road buses) – AT don’t seem to be doing that.

      For this event, I wonder if it was just poor communication between the organisers and AT – did AT not get told (or not process) the size of the crowd that was expected?

  1. Chief operations manager Greg Edmonds needs to take responsibility for this nonsense. I thought one of his primary duties was to promote public transport in Auckland. This has clearly been a complete failure at the cricket. Mr Edmonds, please explain.

  2. Rugby games have free public transport and extra services because the rugby organisers pay for it. Is cricket unwilling to follow suit? Or does AT just assume that no-one goes to the cricket, so they don’t even bother to ask for it?

  3. Last time India played an ODI in Auckland the game was sold out (albeit half of Eden Park was being rebuilt) so anyone could have guessed close to 30,000 were going to show up.

    Hopefully Auckland Transport are never asked to organise a piss up in a brewery.

  4. It’s hard not to conclude that AT must be infested with PT sabateurs at management level…? How else could such a simple situation be so poorly managed? I know incompetence is always more likely than conspiracy but isn’t it even more insulting to conclude that they are this hopeless? Not providing anything is one thing, but not even bothering to tell their customers what they’re not doing is extraordinary….

    And do the electrification works at this late stage require whole network shut downs? Aren’t they finalising Britomart to Newmarket, and the Eastern line at the moment? Couldn’t they have run western line services for the game? At least run more buses?

    1. There was mast work happening on the Western line this weekend (spotted work being done erecting masts at Kingsland Station when driving past). Whether it was necessary to do that this weekend, I can’t say, but I’m leaning towards probably not.

        1. I’m sure the workers can just step aside a minute while the special train passes, it’s not like they’re going 300km/h are they?

          1. Umm the trucks can’t step aside for a minute while workers are hosting the gantries, wires and so on. Would be a big hassle getting everything out of the way and then set up again. But Kiwirail/HILOR should have forseen this. Enough Australian experience over last decade for us to learn from. I assume the biggest issue were on the section South of Westfield. North of here freights can divert along the other line, and only a couple of trains run along the Western. Overall just have to put up with the closures, but AT sure can do better with the bus replacements. Just was on bus for 1.5 hours this evening going to Papakura, no wonder few use them. This was after 30 min wait because not let on with my invalid AT card! Should really split them and run express to Homai from town.

  5. Wasn’t this already foreshadowed in the last Cricket event at Eden Park earlier this moth (Windies v Blackcaps day/night ODI), and wasn’t the same situation in effect (trains not running), buses on normal 1 hourly schedules, special event services with no signs or anything to tell people where to catch them?

    So in that sense nothing has really changed.

    And it seems at best that ATEED, AT and NZ Cricket don’t communicate much,if at all, over their event planning..

    However, its not a good look, when the NZRFU can organise big events and NZ Cricket can’t deliver more than a backyard cricket event.
    I think Nz Cricket needs to stump up with the PT is pre-paid and in the ticket price like Rugby does – so you only need to show your ticket to get PT.

    But I also sense KR is leading AT by the nose here with these continual system shutdowns evey other week – seems they’re expecting them as of right from now on.
    As they’ve been allowed to get them on demand for so long. And is something Mike Lee warned AT and KR about last year that it will have to change.

    And I read KR/AT are now going to shut the eastern line nightly from 9pm until further notice to complete the electrification of the Eastern line they were supposed to do over the just past Christmas shut down. When I checked yesterday on progress there, the electrification wires hadn’t made it to GI yet – just the earthing wires that were there 2 weeks ago.
    So its not even halfway done yet, so we need another 3 months of every weekend shutdowns now to finish the job?

    A lot of questions need to be asked of AT and the way they’re managing the whole PT system as right now, they are simply not doing the job they’re tasked with doing.

    1. Like or or not KR have tried to electrify the network at night but that gives them about 4 hours per 24hrs in reality for full closures and setting up before starting work and then removing themselves from the network. During the night freight trains are regular so that cuts into the 4 hours even more. And as we are all aware the programme is behind schedule and was way behind mid last year. They can’t put in pole foundations, erect poles, string wires and the plethora of other things that go into electrifying a railway and do it safely in the day with the frequency of trains. So the options are partial continual shut downs or complete shut downs on weekends or partial ones for most of the night on some lines. Otherwise the electrification will go on for the next decade. What would you prefer? And this shambles at Eden Park could have easily been dealt with by buses if some over paid exec’s got off their butts and did something. But hey its Auckland after all.

      1. I understand KR’s reluctance to do work at night, its not very safe and doesn’t actually achieve very much.
        (Which raises the question of ongoing maintenance of the network which will need to be done overnight once its fully live – Network Rail in the UK copes with a 5 hour overnight windows on a regular basis so I’m sure KR can manage too, but they’re not there yet it seems).

        However, back to the electrification, if KR is behind its because either their project estimates are woefully inaccurate and/or they or their subcontractors are not resourcing the job properly. And either way it means that KRs project management has to be called into question.
        So what do you think the issue is KR underestimating the task or not paying the subcontractors the right way to deliver what they promise?

        AT are merely taking KR at their word that they need X days of shutdown to do Y amount of work. When its becoming clearer by the day that X is manifestly too low and Y too high.
        So yes, AT can share blame for last nights crap PT delivery, but they can’t/aren’t expected to manage a KR electrification project.

        If KR actually needed 2 months of shutdowns to complete the job over Xmas they should damn well say so. upfront.
        It would be way more preferable all round to have 2 solid months of disruption (e.g. over Dec to late Feb) and cope with the disruption once than a never-ending project that never quite delivers despite full shutdowns every other weekend as have now.

        I hate to point out the obvious here, but without a finished electrification project the EMUs are not going to deliver all the benefits expected, so AT have “skin the game” as well as KR.

      2. First, may I say that I am not defending KR and/or HILOR’s performance to date – after all, the original target completion date of August 2013 was not achieved. However, any project of this magnitude, especially one as infrequent as this one (electrification of the NIMT was 30 years ago) will throw up unforeseen issues, both practical and technical. However, it’s fair to say that the constraints of night work were probably underestimated. AT has dragged the chain in a few areas too, although their top priority of commissioning the EMU depot was achieved (almost) on time.

        However, KR/HILOR’s recent construction performance has been outstanding, largely due to obtaining additional resource for a month or so over summer. So I have no reason to believe that the network commissioning programme will not be met (by August 2014). Any problems with EMU delivery and commissioning is a separate matter.

        As for future track and traction maintenance, this should be minimal in the early years for obvious reasons, and mainly comprise visual inspections at regular intervals. As the network ages there will be some replacement/upgrade requirements, but there’s nothing abnormal about that.

        1. You can’t defend the indefensible Jonno.

          KR and co have had many years to get this work done, they knew what was required and when, they knew what resources they needed to have, so why are they so behind?

          Every single milestone they’ve set themselves they have failed to meet – by their own admission.
          AT may have missed a few themselves but not as badly as KR has -,and AT have delivered a working EMU depot pretty much on time.

          And its not like we ordered the trains a week ago – this whole modernisation project was committed to years ago (and trains ordered under the 1st period of the current National Govt) and in any case OnTrack was gearing up to deliver it even before then as the EMU tender process was well under way. And they were working on double tracking and signals upgrades. (see this link for a timeline http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/news/australasia/single-view/view/mayor-unveils-first-auckland-emu.html)
          – Electrification contract signed in 2008 for a 5 year project.

          So why is the resourcing of a known work program, such a problem over 5 years on?

          If nightwork is turning out to be such a problem for KR and HILOR as you suggest, why are they persisting with it then?

          AT announced a week or so back that permanent from 9pm closures of the rail network on the Eastern Line from 9pm Sun-Thu are in place from this week until further notice
          – so obviously KR want them still or is it just more wishful thinking by KR and AT that somehow that current August date will be met – if only enough rain free days can be had between now and then? and what if we get the usual rainy Autumn/Winter – we’ll have a depot full of parked up EMUs with no track to run on come September?

          I also can’t see why KR can’t route the freight trains via the NIMT on these nights if needed while the Eastern line is being worked on, yes its less efficient to do so, but so is KR/HILOR having to pull all their trucks/workers/gear off the line every once in a while for a freight train to come past.

          Extra resources over Xmas – this high level of resources being available is exactly what KR promised and committed as being the norm over these extended rail network shutdowns which started years ago.

          And now you say this last one was a “one off” special?
          Is it only worthwhile when you’re 6+ months behind on your original delivery date like now as KR simply totally underestimated the job?

          I’d point out that KR’s contractors poured the concrete bases for the pylons on the Eastern line 2 years ago, they’ve been sitting in the fresh air ever since waiting for the pylons to be installed on them until this shutdown. just gone. So someone somewhere here has not been planning things right – and its not AT from what I see.

          1. I’m not defending anyone here either but had this project gone ahead as planned pre 2008 it would probably be well finished by now but sadly the rug was pulled by the incoming National Govt who amongst other reasons didn’t like PT funding coming from fuel tax (but they seem to love hitting us with more and more fuel excise taxes for their own purposes). Hence more SA’s were produced to cover for the RWC although as it transpired not enough.

            So electrifying the network including resignalling only began in earnest about 3 years ago once National decided to loan the ARC the money to do the project.

            The fact is start up electrification from absolutely nothing on a busy NZ metro/freight line has not happened since Wellington in the 1930’s and add to that a 100 year old signalling systems and similarly out of date infrastructure, so obviously because of that its not as efficient as it could have have been. I have to say in the last 6 months things have gone ahead in leaps and bounds but again experience and hence everyone knowing what they should be doing helps a lot.

          2. But none of that information (old signalling system, old track, busy freight/metro lines, double tracking likely government interference in one form or another) were unknown to all parties before they signed the contract.

            Yes a late start may have meant KR and subcontractor resources that were allocated for this work were reallocated to other projects thus hampering the project start up phase, but that was 3 years ago now.

            National disagreed with local fuel tax, not the need for electrification – so there was no need to delay that as the technical parameters of the EMUs (voltage, AC or DC etc) were fixed by KR ahead of the original EMU tender process, before National stepped in and delayed it. So electrification could proceed regardless.

            The RWC happened on AT’s watch, not ARCs, recall how AT got lambasted when the trains failed on the opening night of the RWC?
            ARC ceased to exist in 2010 when the Super-City came into being.

            Since then KR have had 4 summer shutdowns (10/11, 11/12, 12/13, 13/14, last 3 after EMU supply contract with CAF was signed) to sort their shit out and deliver.
            And its only now you say that they’ve actually got a handle on the job?

            Signalling for the western line was redone when it was double tracked (before electrification), so thats no excuse for delays there.
            I recall many problems during double tracking which were stated as being due to the wrong clay being used as binder for the track ballast – clay which was too conductive of electricity which triggered numerous signal faults until they sorted that out for good with the new signalling system..

            As for no local experience since the Wellington in the 30’s, maybe,
            But aren’t KR using Australian resources who have experience with exactly that sort of thing?
            Who will be up with the current state of play even if KR aren’t? And if KR are not using Australian partners with skills like this – why not?

          3. I see now that your primary concern is with on-going blocks of line beyond what was originally planned – no disagreement there. My comments were based on the expectation that all traction work will still be completed ahead of AT’s EMU commissioning programme, despite the earlier delays. But I acknowledge that that doesn’t help weekend/night-time train users.

          4. You’re darn right Jonno if KR had delivered then this omnishambles would not have happened as the network would be running to is same old crappy level, but at least its a known quality that people know about and yet still use for Eden Park fixtures.

            NZ Cricket need a bat up the arse too as its obvious hey have their head in the sand when it comes to pre-paid PT on tickets, as with this system in place any match ticket older could hop on any bus without problems like they do at the rugby.

  6. The answer to the question may simply be, they don’t care! How else could this happen otherwise. And don’t forget AT is a CCO and therefore answers to no one but highly paid executives, the ratepayers and passengers have no say or way to vent their frustrations and can literally take a hik

  7. At are only keen to spend money on exciting infrastructure projects and not on day to day pt running. Why not spend some money making all buses on mt Eden dominion sandringham and new north every 10 minutes all day till midnight – would transform the central isthmus pt options overnight and not cost as much as a new train station or bus depot. Wouldn’t have fixed this issue but would have helped.

    1. Actually it pretty much would have fixed this issue as those are the very arterials which run near Eden Park. Ten minute frequencies supplemented or doubled around the match times would have made a huge difference to those bewildered souls wondering where the hell the transport was.

  8. How did they manage to get the Big Day Out so right (with more people) and yet screw this up so badly, a mere week later? Different managers / planners?

    1. It’s a pity that I didn’t have a half decent camera for the BDO as the busway though GNR and the organisation was so good it deserves a blog post of it’s own to highlight that Auckland Transport can get things right (taxi stands excepted – that was a bit shambolic but not a major issue given the ‘busway’).

      1. Yes it seems to matter of event choice. AT can do a good job when they want to, but sometimes randomly ignore obvious events for no reason. Cricket seems to be main issue. Remember after ashes test last year a thousand people descended on Kingsland station, with no hope of queuing up to get a ticket from the machine. As game finished late only half hourly trains.
        Note with your buslane comment, at Kingsland the weekday buslane had cones all the way along it, preventing parking but clogging up buses!

        1. Cricket seems to be the common issue here, what is about cricket that AT doesn’t get or like?
          Or is that NZ Cricket doesn’t play with a straight bat when its comes to the transport planning of their events with AT?
          Or are AT just guilty of poor captaincy and can’t set their field to match the batsmen at the crease?

          You can imagine what the situation would like if AT ran the power network – no anticipation of predictable events, so when the weather is colder, or a popular TV program finishes a little earlier or later than usual, the country has brown outs as the power supply wasn’t managed correctly.

          In the UK there is a guy paid to watch TV, so he can ensure that as ad breaks come up with popular live programs, that the grid has the right power ready for the surge.
          You’d think AT would do the same for the events they are delivering the PT for.

          You have to wonder if AT finds the whole daily AM and PM weekday peaks too hard to predict and manage – given how crap they are at transport management 101.

  9. Is it not far easier for kr to just shut down certain sections of track for the weekend or for evenings? So western line for feb eastern for march etc

  10. Poor form by AT, but I don’t understand why many people would “flock” to Kingsland station after the game. Surely most people would leave by the same mode of transport that they used to travel to the game?

    1. Well 2 points. People arrive at the game over a course of maybe 1.5 hours, with still more coming later. However everyone wants to leave at the same time. During the day the local buses much better frequencies so not as big an issue getting to the game.
      People attending the rugby have become used to trains waiting at the station at the end of the game.
      Also people often want to go to different destinations from when they arrived.
      Ie lots go into town after the game to continue the party. Lots of other reasons why people would use different forms of transport, like might get dropped off one way, and need PT home, or vice versa

    2. That’s the entire point of a good PT system right there. It offers choice. A person might be anticipating drinking and so get dropped off with the expectation of getting PT home. As for heading to Kingsland Station, this has been taught and the expectation is, that is where trains depart from.

  11. A shambles indeed and reflects very poorly on cricket given that this is one of NZC’s flagship events for the season. I’ve been to Blues games with bigger crowds than this and the transport was fine – must try harder for all concerned.

  12. Why is NZ Cricket allowed to hold an event at Eden Park with 30,000 participants and NOT include public transport in the event ticket? Surely, the Auckland Council can pass a bylaw requiring all events with crowds > 20K to include free public transport in the entry price

    1. To your point Chris, I think it’s more about having to have a plan for shifting people than about making it free. If public transport is frequent and has sufficient capacity, and if fares are reasonably cheap, then there’s probably no need for the event organiser to pay for everyone’s travel.

      Much more important is the ability of everyone to get home afterwards – several times I have had to leave concerts early (including Laneway) because of public transport timetables not lasting the distance. Extra buses/ferries/trains, and making it a requirement for event planners to coordinate travel timings and numbers with AT for any event over 5000 people, and the job’s done. AT really does need to know the numbers well in advance if they are to have a fair chance, but they are also best placed to lead the process for event planners to follow.

  13. I’m not sure if people realise that the “free” public transport for the rugby is actually paid for by ARFU and NZRFU during high-profile matches. As a result, if NZ Cricket doesn’t want to stump up (excuse the pun) then there is no additional transport provided. The other main issue is that all the bus (and train) services are privatised and AT would have to foot the bill (and probably at some outrageous sum because the bus companies have them over the coals).

    1. Yes we realise that however AT require traffic management plans for events that impact on the road network. Why don’t they extend that to requiring event organisers pay for a certain level of PT (based on anticipated crowd volumes).

    2. There was additional transport provided, but the issue was it had to be pre-purchased. Nothing wrong with having the wristbands, those people could have been given priority to get on the buses. However not even allowing people with money/AT HOP cards on the special event buses, and then providing no other option is plain hopeless.
      Not sure what would have happened with rail, no hope of 100 to 1000 without HOP buying a ticket from the machine.
      Need to have roaming paper ticket sellers (manage for railbuses, but thats another story), or just have people telling everyone to just head to Britomart and buy tickets there. However would probably still need roaming ticket sellers at Britomart or people would have been stuck there for 30 minutes.

  14. Interestingly enough, today at the train station there was a nice new female voice announcing that trains are running to the breakers game. Maybe AT are listening and are trying to up their coms game?

  15. Went to the Phoenix game at Eden Park last night. I thought the timetable for the extra trains was good. One problem was perhaps allocation of trains within the timetable. Caught the 6:14 from Waitakere, boarding at Sturgees Road. This was the train scheduled to arrive at Kingsland 30 odd minutes before the game and, I would have thought, those running the trains would have picked as the one to be most in demand by train users.I thought things were looking promising as I watched a five carriage SA train heading west as I waited on the platform …then our train turned up. A two carriage ADL. I knew it wasn’t going to go well when people were at the doors by Glen Eden-helped by a large bunch of chanting football fans. Good entertainment though. By the time we got out of New Lynn it was sardines time as the poor little train grinded up the hill to Avondale. By Mt ALbert people had to be left on the platform for the next train and (probably non or infrequent train users) were commenting about a lack of decent air conditioning. Kingsland platform was a welcome sight for all on board that over-worked train!!

    Can’t comment too much on how things went at the end of the game as I left just before full time and managed to get on the Waitakere bound scheduled service that they held back at Kingsland for a few minutes (intiative?)to take the early leavers.

    1. We also went to the Phoenix game & caught the NEX and then the train. It worked well but we were fortunate (as in I was the last person allowed to board) to get on the NEX* going to the game. They said there were no extra services so I am not sure how long those left on the platform (quite a large number of people) and at subsequent stations had to wait and whether all got on board. Things seemed to run smoothly coming back. We didn’t leave until the game ended so it was crowded at the station but seemed well controlled (with helpful staff directing stupid people like us to the tunnel so we could get to the right platform). The train was packed which is to be expected. Sensibly, no one seemed to be checking tickets which helped move people through quickly. My only real complaint was the behaviour of some of the louder and more obnoxious passengers but that is hardly AT’s fault. All up, the trip back probably took about an hour which we thought was pretty good.

      *I have to mention the lovely driver we had on the NEX going in. A credit to AT.

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