With patronage on the rise and the first electric trains starting to carry fare paying passengers in just 18 days it once again starts to raise the question of when annual rail patronage in Auckland will pass that in Wellington. It’s a question we’ve asked before after we got very close to doing so a few years ago but after the RWC hangover wore off, patronage fell away again.
The graph below shows the history of patronage on the Auckland and Wellington rail networks since 2002.
To me there are a couple of key things that stand out from the graph.
- Wellington patronage peaked just shy of 12 million trips in the middle of 2009 (although I understand it reached about 16 million in the 1980’s). After that patronage declined to about 11 million about 18 months later. Now that the fleet of Matangi electric trains have been fully rolled out and with reliability improving as a result, patronage is slowly growing again and is sitting at 11.47 million as of February.
- With the exception of the time during the RWC and over Christmas, since 2011 monthly patronage in Auckland has been very similar to that of Wellington, normally just a few thousand trips per month behind.
- There have only been a handful of times when patronage in Auckland has exceeded that in Wellington however those times can usually be explained by an event of some sort e.g. the storm damage last year or the NRL nines/Eminem concert this year. It’ll be interesting to see if Auckland can repeat it in March however it is something that will happen more frequently in coming months.
- The most noticeable difference between the two is the patronage over the Christmas/New Year period. In Auckland the lengthy shut downs for upgrades have clearly had major impacts on patronage. They’ve been a necessary evil while we get the network upgraded and hopefully with Electrification due to be completed this year, they’ll be a thing of the past (at least until the CRL really starts). If the shut downs stop then it suggests that alone may deliver about 300,000 more trips a year. Another good reason why the council shouldn’t let AT get away with lowering their SOI targets.
Before anyone raises it, yes on a per capita basis Auckland will be behind Wellington for some time yet.
Based on just how busy the trains feel this at the moment, my guess is we could pass Wellington by June this year but that do you think? Vote in our poll when you think Auckland patronage will pass Wellington’s