Regular users of the western line will know that in the services have been struggling in recent months and that’s even when trains aren’t breaking down. It’s especially noticeable in the morning peak when and while there’s been a little bit of relief during the school holidays, with schools back today I’m expecting services will have been chocka again (I say that having written this post on the weekend).

Over the last few years patronage has been growing strongly and in the last 12 months trips up over 16%. That’s increase is not quite as high as the lines which have been electrified but is still a very significant rise. This is even more so considering that there hasn’t been an increase in peak frequency since 2008 despite during that time double tracking has been completed. The timetable changes that have occurred over the years have extended the length of the peak and improved off peak frequencies which only a few years ago improved to half hourly.

2015-03 Western Line Patronage
The yearlong bump was due to the Rugby World Cup

One little side note is that based on a patronage per service measure the western line carries about 60% more passengers on each train than what is seen on the other lines. I suspect that this is in part due to the Western line having a higher number of trips to destinations along the line rather than just to Britomart. This is kind of shown in the great visualisations put together by Aaron Schiff

Aaron Schiff Visualisation - away from Britomart

While increasing patronage is a good thing, at peak times the lack of improvements in capacity – with the exception of a few extra carriages – has had some negative effects. Now trains are regularly crowded with some passengers sometimes standing from as far as Glen Eden or even Henderson. Those from even closer in such as Kingsland sometimes aren’t able to get on at all – and before anyone mentions it, the buses going past on New North Rd or Sandringham Rd are also full. This is obviously bad for customers but it’s also bad for operations. It means more time needs to be allowed at each station for people to push their way to the doors or find a space to squeeze on while they wait for people to reluctantly move away from the doors and down the aisles. This slows the trains down and therefore increases chance that the service will run late.

Poor punctuality frustrates people and in some cases will put them off using the service altogether. In recent months punctuality has declined and in February it was less than 80%. In other words more than 1 in every 5 trains will run late. The performance results for February are below

2014-02 - AKL - Train Performance

When delays are occurring due to busy services – or “heavy customer demand” as Transdev would say, there aren’t always that many solutions. The most obvious would be to increase capacity but that isn’t frequently something that can happen quickly. I’d also point out that it was promised that the western line would move to 10 minute services in the peaks in 2010 when double tracking was finished but numerous excuses have continued to be created as to why that can’t happen. The latest excuse is the Sarawia St level crossing and I suspect that once that’s sorted I’m sure they will find another one such as capacity constraints at Britomart or Newmarket or perhaps the CRL works.

A shorter term solution is to simply extend the timetable by padding it out further and it appears that’s exactly what AT have done. This poster started appearing on trains last week.

Western Line Timetable increase poster

The new timetable is here and as it says, travel times are extended by up to three minutes. Below is a quick comparison of travel times between the December 2014 and April 2015 timetables and as you can see a minute has been added between:

  • Sturges Rd and Henderson,
  • New Lynn and Avondale
  • Mt Albert and Baldwin Ave

Western Line Timetable increase num

I have a few issues with this approach. While the timetable might more accurately reflect the times that customers will see it does so by making the services slower and therefore less attractive to potential new customers. It also improves AT/Transev’s performance results by simply shifting out the measurement.

Of course this isn’t the first time the timetable has been padded out. The graph below shows the travel times from Swanson of a few of the different timetables that there have been on the Western Line since Britomart opened. In total the new timetable is up to 8 minutes slower than was achieved back in 2003.

Western Line Timetable time changes

Despite what’s been mentioned above the timing of the change suggests there’s possibly another reason for the timetable increase and it’s one I certainly hope I’m wrong about. AT have said recently that they now intend to have electric trains running on all services by August. From what we’ve seen on other lines that should mean we start seeing electric trains running off peak shortly and given that it would seem odd to increase the timetable now. That is unless the testing of the trains has revealed that they’ll be even slower than the old diesel units they’re replacing. It would be seriously disappointing if this were the case as times should be going the other way. As I said, I really hope I’m wrong (and that AT clarify this).

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  1. Yes will be very disappointing if the new EMU are slower than the old diesels (I find this hard to believe as on paper at least the EMU should be considerably faster).
    It is amazing that diesels/carriages free’d up from the other lines can’t be added to existing trainsets in the meantime to increase capacity.
    But as has been discussed on here it is not just trains but buses that are also full. Silverdale park n ride this morning had 20 people queued up to get on a bus to Constellation (there were already people standing on the bus before these 20 boarded). The NEX needs to be extended to Silverdale immediately (even without a dedicated bus lane (although no reason why shoulder lanes couldn’t be used as elsewhere in peak periods).

    1. The DMUs that ran on the Manukau and Onehunga Lines were either withdrawn (ADK class) or redeployed elsewhere, especially where the SX set ran (ADL class). Also note that we’ve been a loco down for SA service since DC 4732 rolled over about a year ago.

      Also note that the ADK class aren’t suited to the hilly Western Line as they lack power.

  2. How could the EMUs possibly be slower, especially on a line like the western line with closely spaced stations and lots of curves? The acceleration between stations should be far superior.
    The major problem with the new EMUs are the ridiculous dwell times at stations. It’s so incredibly slow and inefficient. Maybe the managers should come to Melbourne to see how they do it. Dwell times are usually below 20seconds at suburban stations. Train comes to the platform, doors open straight away, passengers enter and the doors close straight away and the train departs. In Auckland, the train manager farts around with keys, goes outside several times to check, slowly closes and then the train eventually leaves. Usually 1-2min dwell at stations

  3. The trains themselves are not slower, but the door open procedure is a time wasting farce, adding delay at every stop. This is the 21stC; it needs someone turning a key and blowing a whistle; really!?

    1. The diesel trains are much quicker with dwells simply because passengers don’t operate the doors on them. This was the problem when we first got the DMU’s from Perth, they operated on the same principal and that was fixed by a guard operating the doors. And there aren’t the delays going on once the train is stopped to actually open the doors that i believe is a safety check by the train itself. So I dont think its train crew procedures that is slowing things down.

      1. I don’t think the passenger operated doors have anything to do with it. In the end, it’s still the TM who controls the unlocking and closing. That part is the part which is taking the longest. Many systems the world over (in fact probably most) operate with passenger operated doors without problem and long delays. This is an operational issue.

      2. I only used the DMUs a few times when they had the door buttons, but the difference was you could “pre-order” the door to open by pushing the button whenever you liked. It would then open as soon as the Train Manager released the doors. Now you have to wait for the TM to release the doors so the door button lights up, then you can push the button. Pushing it in advance of the button light up is ignored.

        It is a pity the ramps in the middle car deploy every time, as I believe their retraction is one of the reason the dwell cycle is slower. They could have had their own button to deploy, although I guess that could be an issue if someone who needs it does not push the button and falls into the resulting gap.

        1. Indeed, I was surprised to first ride the EMUs here and see that unlike in Germany or Switzerland you can’t press the button in advance such that it opens as soon as the driver releases it (and yes all trams and suburban trains are driver only with roaming ticket inspectors). Instead here in Auckland you have to stand there waiting for the light to flash and then push and then wait and finally it opens. But the length you’re kept waiting it ridiculous, a good few seconds after it’s come to a complete stop before you can activate the doors. It needs some serious optimisation, and I can only hope this will happen in due course. It’s not like anything being done here is novel or unique, the Swiss have been running a train system that’s on time to the second for decades, why don’t we simply employ them as a consultant. It feels like in Auckland everything has to be reinvented from scratch, with all the associated flaws and failures that come with that process.

        2. Currently a wheelchair user cannot reach the ‘open door’ button so adding yet another for the ramp would make it impossible for a WC user to use the train independently.

      3. Rubbish, passenger operated doors are the norm around the world, it’s the way it’s been implemented here with a TM who sometimes is still sitting on the seat and only gets up to release the doors after the train has stopped, elsewhere everyone would have got on and off in this time.

        1. > Rubbish, passenger operated doors are the norm around the world

          I don’t have a problem with the idea of pushing buttons to open doors, but I’ve got to take exception to the idea that it’s “the norm”. I’ve been on plenty of urban and intercity railways in the UK, France, Italy, Greece, India*, Singapore, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand, and I’ve only seen passenger operated doors twice: in Auckland and on a creaky ancient railcar in rural Hokkaido, Japan. And on that rail car, even the Japanese tourists were baffled by the idea of needing to push a button to get out of the train. (Hell, on many Japanese trains, the interior doors are automatic).

          Certainly every metro system worthy of the name has automatic doors, and needs them due to the volume of passengers. The weather’s not a problem if you do the obvious and give the stations roofs.

          (* to be fair, one of those trains in India did not have doors at all).

        2. I have childhood memories of pressing buttons on the (I think) ADKs, but otherwise it hasn’t been a requirement on the Auckland network. It’ll take some time for passengers’ habits to change.

        3. To be fair, I think the new Matangi units in Wellington also have button-operated doors, unlike the previous units, although I haven’t been on a Matangi yet.

          That said, Wellington’s system is really a suburban commuter system compared to Auckland’s. Wellington’s system is set up to take people to and from the main terminus in peak time, and very little else. There’s none of the metro-style all-day and anywhere-to-anywhere demand that you increasingly see in Auckland.

        4. I’m in Germany for a few weeks this month, today I took the Kassel to Hann Munden half hourly DB train which was running 25 min late, (making it really an hourly train service) this trains TM does not control the door or steps outside the train at stations, Passages press the door button to open doors. The TM just walks through the carriages to checks tickets.
          But I did notice the TM on ICE trains (which were averaging about one every 15 minutes) did step out of there trains whistle, check and close door.

        5. Sure many of the intercity German and Swiss trains have conductors, but again large numbers of them have passenger operated door too, and the U-bahn has automatically opening doors. But the Auckland system is equivalent to the S-bahn in Germany or Switzerland and I’ve can’t recall coming across one in Switzerland where I lived for the past 10 years that didn’t have passenger operated doors.

          The point I’m more trying to make is that passenger operated doors do not imply slower operation, however, the way they’ve been implemented in Auckland with a TM who is extremely slow means it is a slow process.

    2. Agree ttoally. Just got back from Melbourne. On the way to AKL airport last week I took a Manukau EMU to Papatoeote and watched the painful performance by the train manager at each station where the dwell times were always more than 90 seconds. In Melbourne on the way to Broadmeadows the dwell time was never more than 20 seconds. Passengers push the door button as soon as the train stops and it illuminates. They get off and on quickly as they know the dwell time is 20 seconds. We have newer trains in Auckland. Why do we still have the antiquated performance with keys and whistle at every station?

  4. I’ve already had two people confirm that in testing the EMUs are averaging 5 minutes longer then the diesels and in some cases they are up to 8 minutes slower from Henderson. This I’m told is primarily due to how they are being operated with dwell time way too long thanks to inefficient processes. The signaling system being more strict is also an issue

    1. That’s hilarious! Anyone would think this has never been done anywhere else in the world. Is this a Transdev, Kiwirail or AT issue?

        1. Ive noticed the emus approach some of the platforms at less than walking pace. Dare i say health and safety gone mad.

        2. ETCS overkill, I think. It’s particularly ridiculous at dead-end stations such as Britomart and Onehunga.

        3. Well if the unions are the cause it would be the only example of feather bedding or demarcation disputes left in the economy?

          I read the other day that the Herald said the issue with lack of EMU drivers is fundamentally caused by Transdev’s decision last year to stop hiring/training diesel drivers – ahead of the EMU rollout.
          Yeah that chicken came home to roost if so.

          Don’t know if thats true, but one thing is certain, Auckland Transport is doing itself or the Auckland PT users no favours by keeping Transdev as they stand in the job longer than they strictly need to.
          They add nothing but FUD to the whole picture. If they were out of the loop, and the problems persisted we’d pretty much know exactly who was a fault here.

          And while many would blame the unions for a lot of things they see as wrong – whether the union is truly at fault or not.

          We can’t blame them for the lack of communication when problems occur can we when Transdev provides train managers whose very job is to provide, well, how do I put it nicely – “management of the train”.
          And if they can’t or won’t do so, then like Snapper before them, they should be “off the run”.

        4. From my understanding, the trains were designed for driver only operation but shortly before they arrived the union demanded that TMs be kept and be in charge of doors so door controls had to be added. Even with that handbrake on operations things could still be a lot better, for example currently they
          -Release the doors
          -wait for ages for passengers to get on/off
          -close doors while waiting on platform to watch for people
          -close their door
          -tell the triver to leave

          They could instead be located in the rear cab.
          -Release the doors
          -wait a set time (people will get faster if you make them)
          -close all doors
          -tell driver to leave.

          That would remove a lot of the time consuming waiting steps but means the TM isn’t able to roam the carriage. Given they don’t seem to do anything anyway to address antisocial behaviour it isn’t a great change on what exists now.

        5. I had a feeling it might be a union-related issue, as many TMs seem to turn the simple process of operating doors into a painfully drawn-out performance. It’s as if they’re trying to say ‘Look at me, I’m so important that without me the train wouldn’t operate,’ which is a blatant example of trying to justify to the public a feather-bedded duty. I’m certainly not in support of removing TMs from trains but I think it’s ridiculous that AT has been forced to ‘make work’ for them, when there are so many duties they could perform that would actually benefit the travelling public, rather than hindering them. It really works against ATs aim of having rail perceived as a modern and advanced system of transport, when you’ve got someone who hops out of the train with a whistle at every station, while failing to do anything about people smoking, tagging or engaging in other anti-social behaviour in the carriage.

        6. Would the outcome of any negotiation between AT and the union about the EMUs fall within the scope of a LGOIMA request?

        7. It might not have been AT that negotiated it but a Transdev. Still could be worth an OIA to see what AT has on the issue and what their internal comms say about the slow trains

        8. TMs probably need to be less human when it comes to stragglers. I’ve had to wave one off who’d kept a train waiting while I was having trouble tagging on.

    2. Wellingtonians will recognise the problem. When the new cable cars arrived with self docking, no-one could work out how to speed it up. Experts came out from the manufacturers but to no avail. And that is how they have operated ever since . So a journey that used to take 5 minutes now takes 7. As a result the peak frequency is 10 minutes and the capacity of the system less than planned.

  5. Ok why not this idea, get the Train Managers off the trains and put them on the platforms at the main (or all the) stations on the Western Line during Peak at least.
    [since each train as 1 TM on it, and there must be at least a dozen TM’s on all the Western line trains at any one time, putting 1 of them at each (or nearly every) station should be easy].

    Then have the Train driver operate the doors like they will for real when Transdev current contracts are ended.
    That way the “TM” can assist at the station for any issues or passengers without the buggering around with the door procedure.

    Yes they can still blow the whistle if they really insist.

    Off peak, then if TM’s still travel on the trains they can let the driver run the doors too. So the TM “manages” the passengers not the f**king doors.

    1. I think with the set up of these trains, driver only operation would be impossible in Auckland. The main reason for this is the ramp for the disabled. In Melbourne, disabled passengers know to wait at at end of the platform where the driver is and board on the first door. Driver has a portable ramp in the driver’s compartment which they bring out and put on the platform. Passenger then gets on, driver takes ramp and the train departs.

      In Auckland, with the ramp being on the middle carriage, the driver would have to get out and walk down the middle of the platform and assist them, possibly from 2 doors if it’s 6car. This would be hugely time consuming. Even with portable ramps, because Auckland’s trains aren’t low floor in the drivers compartment, he/she would still have to walk to the middle carriage.

      1. The ramp is part of the issue but not for the reason you state. It’s automated and deploys at every station regardless of whether it’s needed out not. That takes time

        1. Ok, begs the question, could they change it so that they only deploy when required? And would that save any time?

        2. Does that mean that the ramps deploy even if no one uses that (or even any) door?
          If so then that easily adds 40 seconds dwell time minimum to each stop no matter if anyone gets on or off.

        3. I wasn’t meaning a button for customer’s to push, but one for the driver to push if they see there’s a need for it. But I guess that would add more time. Do the doors in Auckland unlock automatically once the train comes to a stop, or does it need to be done by an operator? That is one thing they could do to cut dwell time. They do this in Melbourne and it works fine (I swear I’m not a Melbourne ambassador lol!). This means no waiting for the doors to open ever.

        4. Each EMU pair of doors opens independently of the others – once the master “door release” is pushed by the Train driver when train comes to a stop. Driver can’t unlock doors before then either.

          When the master door release is triggered a Green ring light up around the internal and external door open buttons to inform passengers that the doors are now openable – if they push the button.
          If no one wants to get onto or off a particular door then that door stays shut. So adds no delays.

          However, if the door is a lowered door (as the two trailer “middle” car doors are) then the inbuilt ramp deploys first, then the door opens.

          The ramps are slowish to deploy and retract, as they measure the distance to /height of the platform and therefore need time to adjust themselves to the gap between the platform and the train.

          Once extended they form a continuous link from train to platform – so allowing wheeled things of all kinds, be it wheelchairs, pushchairs or bikes or people of all levels of fitness a flat walk on/off the train from the platform.

        5. Currently a wheelchair user cannot reach the ‘open door’ button so adding yet another for the ramp would make it impossible for a WC user to use the train independently.

        6. Huh, I always thought the ramps only deployed if someone pressed the green door button on the trailer car then the ramp deployed? Sure thats what I’ve seen on the Eastern line when at a station. No one enters or exits the trailer cars, no ramps to fiddle with.

          Would have thought it made more sense for door ramp deployment to wait someone to push the door button, then deploy, so what it adds delays to the dwell time, its only for stops where the trailer car door opens.

        7. You maybe right. I haven’t had much opportunity to catch EMUs yet. Reality is in the peak it wouldn’t be often someone wasn’t getting on or off in the middle carriage

      2. Why? Only talking this for EMUs not diesels.

        The door ramps in the middle/trailer car are level with the platforms and have retracting ramps so no assistance from a TM is needed for any passenger to use them.
        And I’ve never seen a TM lift a finger on the EMUs to assist any disabled passenger.

        Yes Diesels need a TM for the mobile ramp on them but not EMUs and the its the EMU door issue that the problem.

        To Driver can release the EMU doors from his cab. The door opening is controlled by passengers at each door as per the on board announcements.

    2. Auckland trains need staff, and there are more staff on the network now than ever before (at least in recent decades). But it’s a basket case set up. Stations have security guards who can see when kids are not buying tickets and overhear them planning to evade paying, but do nothing because “it’s not my job”. We have Maori Wardens (yes in NZ we have race-based employment) who do the same on the trains, and even help their mates get away with not paying. Then we have ticket inspectors and Train Managers whom are not accountable to each other (i.e., separate “teams” on one train). All the different positions and responsibilities are fragmented, applied across different companies, and not one of them have even basic customer service skills, and not one of them can tell you what is going on when things go pear-shaped. All of them however, have an attitude of “you, the customer, are below me”, and will happily turf people off at stations so their train can run non stop to the destination without any customers to slow them down.

      Basically, the whole lot need to go, and they need to bring in a new company with high customer service skills. Passengers should be greeted with a smile, the staff should be knowledgable, and they all need to work as one team. Station guards, ticket inspectors and train managers should all be on the same page.

      Drivers on the other hand should be left alone. Their job is too important to be worrying about closing doors, wheelchair ramps or in-train security. There’s a reason why drivers are covering the in-cab monitor from the CCTV cameras – they don’t want the distraction.

      1. “Drivers on the other hand should be left alone. Their job is too important to be worrying about closing doors, wheelchair ramps or in-train security. There’s a reason why drivers are covering the in-cab monitor from the CCTV cameras – they don’t want the distraction”
        How is it drivers in many cities around the world are perfectly able to cope with driver only operation but our ones aren’t. The only person that should have anything to do with controlling the doors is the driver. If we have to have a TM their job should be customer service only. They currently only serve to slow trains down and piss off passengers with inactivity.

        1. Train Managers are not causing door delays, passengers are, because they stand there waiting for the doors to open not realising they are supposed to push the green button. Passenger operated doors are quite silly, they should just all open and close automatically. When the TM sees they obviously don’t understand, he/she opens the doors for them, which probably makes it seem like the TM is responsible for the delay.

          A TM is required to ensure the train is operating properly, and is also required to make sure all doors are clear on curved platforms, which the driver cannot see.

        2. Users may be slow to get used to their role in door opening but that doesn’t explain the painful and unnecessary delay that precedes them even being able to. Matt is right, customer service should be the role of any staff on trains, not this made-up and delaying technical task.

        3. When London Underground (as it then was) introduced new rolling stock on the Central Line in 1993 it introduced one person operation (OPO) and passenger activated door opening. The latter didn’t work. As we’ve found here, passengers were unsure as to what to do, which caused delays. After a couple of months of delays and confusion LU reverted to driver activated doors. The passenger buttons are still there but, as far as I’m aware, disconnected. It’s a lesson that Transdev/AT might learn from.

        4. Passenger-commanded doors are not silly. At low use times they reduce wear and tear on doors, reduce the nuisance of door opening noise and drafts, and improve the efficiency of heating and cooling. They are very common around the world. I last used one about an hour ago on the Barcelona metro.

          But, obviously, they should be set up so the passenger can place the command in advance, without having to wait for the driver to unlock the doors.

          Obviously there will be a settling in period as people get used to them in a system which hasn’t had them before.

        5. @John – I’m sure the promo video for the electric trains featured the door pre-selection. They should have it in place, it would speed things up massively.

  6. I’ve still not seen a convincing answer to the why short (less than 6-car) trains are operating on the line at peak times. Is there really a shortage of carriages and suitably powerful engines now that other lines have had the old diesels displaced?!

    I could forgive the padding if it were accompanied by more capacity on each train right now, and some proper money spending on the one or two engines that clearly seem to fail at the moment. One failure leads to an avalanche of knock-on problems it seems.

    1. Apparently there is, all the big Diesel SA sets were redeployed on to Southern line to up its frequency from December last year, so no spares leftover for Western line yet.

      Hence why they need to get the Southern Line electrification sorted ASAP, that frees up diesels sets to cater for the Western Line without the jokey door handling issue.

      1. Greg, all three 6 car SA sets are rostered to the Western Line. There are none on the Southern Line, other than when the normal plan gets stuffed up, resulting in Western and Southern sets getting mixed up.

    2. I noticed the longer Dwell time on the Eastern line before (last year) but haven’t really thought about it since then, but I can confirm that yes the EMUs take far longer to depart Orakei station now than the old diesels did even now – some 6+ months after EMUs started running on the Eastern line.

      Before I could alight the train at Orakei, walk to the HOP machine by the overbridge, tag off, walk up the overbridge ramp and have the Diesel pulling away as I crossed the overbridge ahead of the train (when going Manukau bound).
      With the EMU’s in play I easily can do the same and be a lot further up the road *before* the EMU has pulled away from the station platform – and thats all down the the slow door handling by the TMs.

      Now once the EMUs is going, it zooms past where the Diesel would have go to on a like for like basis on a straight track, but of course out West you have a lot of closely spaced stations, level crossing with ETCS mandated slow speeds, which means the EMU’s can never Catch up” that lost time relative to the diesels.

      1. Could that also be because the EMU is ahead of timetable/schedule, so is waiting at the platform for the right time to depart?

        1. Looking at that interval from Newmarket to Britomart (or v.v.), why don’t AT as a matter of course, directly employ two train drivers at peak times (the AM and PM peak) to manage the Newmarket turnaround for west bound trains. One drives the train from Britomart to Newmarket, while the other sits in the rear cab [tail gun charlie].

          Then once Newmarket is arrived at, the driver who drove the train into Newmarket, exits the train, locks the cab.
          And the driver who was in the rear now takes over and becomes the driver the rest of the journey without needing to change ends. The guy who hopped out, wanders to the far end of the platform ready to pick up the incoming from western line train, to take it to Newmarket. While the driver who drove it to Newmarket sits in the rear cab as tail gun charlie.

          A changeover process I am sure that can be done in 15 seconds not the 2+ minutes it takes now for the driver to wander from one end to the other.

          So that would save easily 2-3 minutes of dwell per trip into or out of Newmarket per train (x 756 or so passengers a train = a lot of “passenger minutes saved” or preserved).
          All for the cost of what 2 having extra drivers scheduled for 2 hours each a day. We’d spend a lot more money to save a lot fewer car drivers in cars from that sort of delay.

          I think seldom would there be two Western Line trains (1 up 1 down) arriving at Newmarket at once, and even if there was, a small wait for the driver from the up train to take control of the down train would not add much delay because signals would block the other train from leaving anyway. But doing it sure would save a lot of passengers a lot of time.

          Yeah I know in the real world we wouldn’t need to do this, but then in the real world we’d have EMUs that travel the same route faster than the old clunker trains they replace.

        2. They tried that several years ago when Newmarket reopened after the rebuild. I think it last a few weeks, before it was put in the ‘too hard basket’.

        3. They never actually implemented the double driver strategy although ARTA assured this blog’s then Admin that they intended to do so. Despite Mike Lee kicking up a fuss, ARTA and its successor organisation have always held Western Line passengers in vague contempt: lots of vacuous promises yet declining levels of service (timetable padding, timing, frequency, etc). Needs a complete change in attitude on the part of AT; from top to bottom!

      2. I caught the train daily to Glen Innes and back from Britomart a few week back and also wondered why on every trip the train seemed to wait much longer than necessary at Orakei, something needs sorting there.

    3. Isn’t the shortage a problem due to a shortage of staff (delay in training them etc, parlty due to the heavier use of the line so hard to fit staff training in!). Could it be the dwell times in general could be so they are not ahead of the set “slow schedule” in existance (partly due to diesels on the line still)? Also they seem to be running things very cautiously regarding safety? I suspect they are dead scared of a big derailment disaster or something full of people!?

    4. The locos are leased from Kiwirail and the leases are starting to expire. They are not being extended which is likely due to KR wanting exorbitant fees.

      Also not ask locos are equal. Only a couple are powerful enough to haul 6-car trains reliably. Also as mentioned above by Alex the trains the EMUs have replaced so far have primarily been the DMU services.

  7. Anyone else noted the degredation of the track ?
    The lack of cant on bends is obviously the cause.
    This may explain the ever increasing journey times as speeds need to be restricted

  8. The extra minute between Sturges and Henderson is because the track speed there has been reduced to about 20km/h, due to swampy ground conditions in the long cutting. Every city-bound train is currently delayed there. Despite being brand new formation, with extensive drainage, built in 2007 for double tracking, it needs to be redone. Not sure about the other spots.

    EMU simulations showed they would be 14 minutes slower than the diesels, but real-life testing has narrowed the gap slightly. But, they are slower, because the software setting have them crawling along at walking speed at various locations where level crossings are located a short distance after signals.

    I think it’s safe to say that the EMU schedules will be significantly slower than the original diesel schedules, and probably even slower than the pre-diesel steam train schedules.

  9. Another train cancelled on the Western line today from Britomart (1:47 from Newmarket). After inconveniencing me with that they then have the cheek to do it again by having ticket inspectors on the next train to come along. I can see that inspections have to be done with un-gated stations everywhere (hint for AT: check the school-kids first, there were some openly bragging about not having paid on my inward trip) but it’s a bad customer relations look to have them on a train already packed with people annoyed because the previous train was cancelled. It’s like they are forcing me to prove I have paid for their crappy service!

  10. Actual patronage at peak times is probably much higher, due to the overcrowding and number of people riding for free because the clippie can’t get to them

    1. > number of people riding for free because the clippie can’t get to them

      There aren’t clippies any more: if people are riding for free it’s because they’ve chosen not to pay.

  11. If electrics are slower than diesels, would diesels be slower than a steam train? Something to ponder while you’re waiting 15 minutes for the next Western Line train

    1. That would be a great thing to investigate. Let’s look at old timetables and see if it’s any faster than 80 years ago.

      1. We have clear evidence over this side of the tasman of some steam or early electric schedules being faster, but we know these are just the accumulated barnacles of health and safety, of unionism, poor infrastructure planning and so on. There was no reason in the old days for pax to not demount from the train even as it slowed to a stop, or accelerated away. But most pax would have been fit and male in the working peak. No provision for disabilities etc.

        1. Thats true, but they have added quite a few extra stations i believe. It is getting to the point where there is one stop every 800m-1km on some lines especially in the inner suburbs. Bloody ridiculous

  12. I’m surprised nobody has pointed out – “slower than was achieved back in 2003” is not a very good way of putting it. “Slower than was timetabled” may well be accurate, but the timetable was a complete fiction due to the single track between Avondale and Henderson. Delays of 20 minutes were quite common, almost normal.

    This is not to diminish any of the present issues due to ETCS, doors, loadings, etc. Just sayin’. Overall things will likely still be better if running reliably to any timetable.

  13. Is nobody else aware that for a reversal the driver has to “sign out” completely from the train and “sign in” again at the other end.

    Adds, from what I have been told, about 2-3 minutes to the Newmarket reversal.

    Perhaps West trains should travel nonstop Britomart-Grafton via the direct link, or perhaps have Kingdon St reopened.

    1. In my opinion, I believe the western line could handle 8-9 trains per hour pre crl. 6tph to britomart and 2/3 tph to papakura/manakau/otahuhu i.e. bypassing britomart. The extra 3 mins is added on according to 5th picture/diagram. Your right. 2-3mins is needed for the reversal

  14. Well with Parnell station there will be both an additional delay but also a new opportunity for transferring. If western line trains were to skip Newmarket southern line bound passengers could use Parnell to switch. Of course this is less than ideal as they would have to change platforms and currently there is no bridge planned for the station! presumably this is just as yet unfunded, but will happen.

    1. I would be pretty pissed off if I had to go from Newmarket the wrong way to Parnell to catch another train back through Newmarket junction to go west. I haven’t run the numbers but I’m pretty sure more western passengers currently head to Newmarket than head to all southern line stations put together.

    2. Agree with Nick R here, there are a large number of passengers who get off the western line trains at Newmarket, especially at peak times.

  15. When the EMU order was announced, I recall a post on here about how it would lead to an increase in capacity. Part of this relied on an increase in speed saving about 10 minutes per line, so each train could cover more return journeys in a given time. So if the time savings are evaporating, perhaps more trains need to be ordered ?

    Re the protected work practices, surely a locomotive drivers union would be happy with a loading of say 20% per hour for driver-only operation.

      1. It’s my understanding that we desperately need more drivers. We also have a whole bunch of train managers wasting their time on a job that clearly doesn’t need doing. Train managers with years of valuable experience in the rail industry.

        Seems like an obvious solution might be offering to send those train managers to train driver school, and we can solve our driver shortage and train manager surplus at the same time, and no-one needs to lose their job.

  16. You have to wonder how much this 2 person crew is costing compared to international standard 1 driver crew.
    I don’t have numbers but assuming there are 100 train managers and they are on say $50k then that is an annual cost of $5m!
    I would rather see that money going into having more security (or even better transit police).

  17. There is a 2 person requirement for passanger trains in New Zealand.
    The EMUs were brought in as 2 person trains from conception, not at a late stage. Pure AT honey coated drivel.

    How is it a Train Manager can average 25-30 dwell time on most desil trains, yet the SAME Train Manager can only manage 50-55 second dwells times on EMUs?
    It’s a door operation issue pure and simple.
    How do CAF made door systems operate on other trains around the world?

    1. Easy, on other trains around the world they don’t rely on some guy getting to their station and jangling a set of keys around in a lock before the passenger operated door buttons are activated. Its the extra step we didn’t have before.

      Why do we have such a stupid requirement? We don’t have it for any other passenger vehicles, certainly don’t have bus managers whose sole purpose is to push one button.

      Seriously, the do it all over Australia quite successfully. If the Aussies can manage DOO then why can’t we? In Melbourne the process is super simple. Driver unlocks the doors and passenger door light starts flashing immediately. Driver locks doors and three second countdown starts and doors close.

      1. “Why do we have such a stupid requirement? We don’t have it for any other passenger vehicles”

        Never flown in a plane before huh? How safe would passengers feel if their airliner only had a pilot?

        Different forms of transport have different requirements, and trains are somewhere between a bus and an aircraft. If there is a mechanical issue with a carriage at 100km/h, I would sure as heck want someone onboard monitoring all carriages, who can detect the issue and contact the driver.

        I question why you hate Train managers so much, but don’t question all the staff we now have on trains, such as teams of ticket inspectors and Maori wardens, or the multitudes of security guards at stations, who are well placed to provide customer services but don’t. You seem to have a problem with operational staff numbers, but not other types of staff. There’s been no reduction in staff levels, the roles have just changed and responsibility fragmented.

        You’re targeting the wrong “issue”. Where’s the criticism of the appalling state of customer service on our network?

        1. I flew on a helicopter transfer two months ago where there was only one pilot (no, I can’t fly a helicopter myself by the way) and have been on small prop driven airlines where it is driver only operation… But you seem to be arguing we need multiple drivers on board? Sorry but the existence of a TM doesn’t make me feel any different about what the driver does anymore than an air hostess makes me feel confident the pilot can do their job!

          I don’t *hate* train managers, I just see them as a waste of time and money. I don’t like ticket inspectors or anyone else either. I thought it was quite clear I’m an advocate for driver only operation, in fact I’m an advocate for driverless operation. The elevator in my building does just fine without someone to open and close the doors, don’t see why my train needs one.

        2. Airliner Nick, the term refers to larger aircraft.

          As for driverless trains on a conventional rail network, that won’t be happening. Driverless requires an independent environment, with as much as possible elevated above ground or buried below it.

          No, I don’t advocate multiple drivers (not sure how you got that impression).

          Regarding cabin staff in aircraft, in this day and age they are very much regarded as part of the operational staff. All major airlines have a programme attended by both pilots and flight attendents, aiming to foster a “single team” mentality, which for decades didn’t exist. Pilots and flight attendents were previously separated, but multiple accident investigations found that the separation was a factor that could have prevented the accident.

        3. I would have no faith that a train manager would detect any issues with a train at 100km/h or 10km/h and from my observations, even if they did notice it, they probably wouldn’t do anything about it. Other than open the doors what is it that train managers do. They certainly don’t provide much customer service, they don’t even attempt stop people being loud and obnoxious, they don’t address people playing loud music or standing on seats. The same goes for the Maori Wardens.

          I’m not opposed to a staff member being there but if they are managing the doors then they need to be in the rear cab so not holding up the trains. They could then also monitor the whole train using the CCTV. If they are to be in the train with passengers then they are customer service/security only and not in charge of doors.

        4. Driver only operation is universal in modern urban rail systems with features similar to Auckland’s and vastly greater loads. Closest to home, try Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth. In all these cases the problems you raise were faced and solved. I’m sure they can be solved in Auckland too.

  18. Not sure about the buttons.

    People have commented on Melbourne’s suburban button pushing but have missed the country (Vline) Velocity cars – photo:

    While it ‘suffers’ from having a guard who will open the doors, get out on the platform to see the pax board and then radio ‘right of way’ to the driver, I still don’t see those performance impacts because…

    When they are running a bit late they just get on with it. Get the driver moving the very second the last pax is on. Open the doors the very second the train comes to a stop. Gesture at the pax to get in the nearest door.

    Are you sure it is not just cultural. Are you current crop of train staff from a generation when Auckland rail had 1/10 of its current ridership?

  19. Something I didn’t know is that until the guards key is withdrawn from the lock the traction circuit is disabled so power can’t be applied until ALL doors are proven shut.

  20. I’ve just got of one of the EMU’s at Fruitvale Road station on the Western Line, and and seemed to take a long time to depart from Fruitvale Rd, so may this is why the extra padding in the time table.

  21. Nobody has come up with ETCS issues yet!

    Papatoetoe on the up is a good example of this where the “home” signal is held at red for stopping trains to protect the level crossing. Because of that ETCS remembers the stop command until the train crosses the balises which give the indication for the next signal. (I know this explanation does not come out of the ETCS handbook). Only then can the train accelerate normally.

    I should imagine that this is what is happening out west – but I haven’t been there for years.

    Geoff what do you think?

    1. I already fingered it above see:
      “… out West you have a lot of closely spaced stations, level crossing with ETCS mandated slow speeds, which means the EMU’s can never ‘Catch up’ that lost time relative to the diesels.”

      So I’m not surprised EMUs struggle out west to keep to the Diesel times. But that just means that ETCS is a problem looking for a solution, as the Diesels don’t have this mechanism to the same degree.
      Someones idea of security through obscurity here – because EMUs are quieter we have to make them slow and cautious.

  22. Someone said dwells are up to 90 seconds. Can this be true? That is COMPLETELY INSANE. An efficient dwell on a competently managed system is 20 seconds. A worst case dwell on a poorly designed or managed system should be 30 seconds (at most suburban stations, off peak – not talking about the main crowd points).

    Did no-one in authority think about these issues when they spent X hundred million dollars ordering these trains?

  23. The dwell time (non peak pax levels) is 50-55 seconds.
    The onboard staff can’t do anything about this… It’s poor development. And as I said before, how does this compare with other CAF made door operating systems around the world? (Not interested in the rest).
    How about using the same methodology and mechanical processes used on Desil trains? Then we can expect 30sec dwell times again! How many minutes would that shave off a trip? 5 -6 mins?

  24. Dwell time was over 70 seconds at Orakei this morning and I don’t think it would be under 50 seconds much on the eastern line. The Diesel trains sometimes arrived at GI early and had to wait for the timetable but I can’t see that happening with the new trains

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