Last week on the first day of operation there were a number of complaints about delays on services that used our new electric trains. At the time I said it wasn’t surprising that some small teething problems were probably to be expected and that if they continued then it would be concerning if they were still happening days later. Throughout the week we kept getting reports of slow or delayed trains and I experienced it myself yesterday when I took a trip to Onehunga with some of my fellow blog writers. Particularly noticeable was the incredibly slow crawl into both Tepapa and Onehunga Stations.
I had heard late last week of the reason for this and today it was reported in the Herald.
Speed controls on Auckland’s new electric trains are overriding their drivers to make them slower than the diesel clunkers they are replacing for $520 million.
Auckland Council infrastructure chairman Mike Lee says trains are up to 10 minutes late as a result and has accused rail operator Transdev of running them “too conservatively”.
The train drivers’ union shares the view and will meet Transdev to discuss the issue this week.
“They don’t seem to realise that what the public wants is speed,” Mr Lee told the Herald. “We have got to go as fast as we can – every second counts if we want to win the competition with cars.”
He said drivers were frustrated at being overridden by a new automatic European control system to restrict them to 10km/h when arriving at Britomart through its tunnel, or 15km/h when approaching Onehunga and Te Papapa stations from up to 200 metres away. That compared with a 25km/h limit for the old diesel trains at Onehunga and Britomart.
The top permitted speed for the three-car electric units on open tracks is 110km/h – about 20km/h slower than Mayor Len Brown says they are capable of.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union organiser Stuart Johnstone confirmed the delays and said drivers were becoming frustrated with the electric overrides on what were otherwise “very good trains”.
Although the new control system was “a good safety device to have”, he believed it needed recalibrating.
I think Mike might be a quick to blame Transdev as the track speeds are set by Kiwirail but that these trains are being kept slower than the clunky old diesels is a disgrace.
Auckland Transport have claimed they and Kiwirail are just being conservative over the implementation of a new system for safety reasons.
Chief operations officer Greg Edmonds said it was “entirely correct” for the train control system to be configured conservatively to start with.
and here on Radio NZ tonight
I can understand that answer but the reality is Auckland Transport have been testing these trains almost every day since September last year. In fact at EMU launch they talked up the fact that in testing they’ve clocked up over 25,000km already. Testing was where they should have been sorting out issues with the signalling systems and line speeds, not leaving it till after they started carrying passengers. Put simply it’s not good enough and we didn’t spend $1.1 billion on electrifying the rail network and buying state of the art trains to run them slower than the existing trains.
So sort it out Auckland Transport. These trains need to be FASTER FFS.