As regular readers or train users will know, the service offered recently hasn’t exactly been great with many cancellations and delays. When it comes to cancellations the Western Line has been hit the hardest and in March 6% of all services on the line failed to reach their destination (reliability) – that’s 181 services all up. Note, this is a different measure from whether they arrived on time (punctuality) and of the services that did reach their destination only 73% were within the 5 minute requirement. The other lines weren’t too much better with them combined averaging just 95.5% punctuality and 81.4% reliability.

Radio NZ has picked up on the issues with the Western Line and managed to obtain a list of all 181 reasons that trains were cancelled for.

Radio New Zealand has obtained from Auckland Transport, a “raw” list of reasons for March’s cancellations on the most troubled line, to the west. There’s a wide variety of human and technical reasons in this selection from the 181 :

  • Driver got sick at work
  • Late running train due to passenger loadings (previous train cancelled)
  • Driver late for train
  • Service terminated at Avondale due to door fault
  • Roster planning – shift not covered
  • Heavy tagging of service while waiting at signal
  • Trespasser in Britomart tunnel delayed departure
  • Delayed due to loading wheelchair-bound passenger – cancelled to recover timetable
  • Roster planning – no driver
  • Trespasser riding on outside of train
  • Faulty driver seat
  • Unfilled shift – compassionate leave
  • Rolling stock short supply, unable to cover service
  • Train fault – headlight not working

The agency’s general manager, Mark Lambert, said Auckland Transport knew it had to do better.

“The performance in the last few weeks and months has been unacceptable,” he said. “We don’t want to be there, and we’re looking at everything we can in terms of immediate improvements, but also how we can bring forward initiatives to improve things.”

Mr Lambert said rail services had been hit by the phasing out of the old, unreliable diesel trains. As the maintenance contract at KiwiRail wound down, staff had begun leaving, and the standard of maintenance had fallen.

The progressive introduction of the new Spanish-built electric trains had also been affected by minor bedding-in problems, all of which were being sorted, he said.

This is only a snapshot of the full 181 cancellations but the thing that really stands out to me are the number of mentioned which are due not to technical issues but roster ones such as no driver being available to drive the train. That could be from drivers being delayed on one service missing their next one but it’s not the only reason with the number of drivers available to run services also being impacted by the roll out of the electric trains. It’s this reason why AT have also stated they want to get all services converted to electric operations by the end of July.

There’s also this report on the issue from Radio NZ which includes some vox pops from train users. One thing that surprised me was how positive most seemed to be with comments like issues happen in any transport system, that they are looking forward to the electrics and how good it is that so many people are using PT. I’m not sure what the reason for this is but perhaps most users are much more forgiving in these issues than we and most readers have expressed recently.

Or listen here

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  1. I think most people can see that light at the end of the tunnel and just want AT to get on with rolling out the EMUs. It’s like an old bomb of a car whose inadequacies you come to overlook (even become nostalgic about) as the time to get it replaced approaches.

    I hope it indicates a seachange in attitudes towards public transport in this city: that we are starting to realise the virtues of the concept of public transport, even if we have to ignore local government’s historically abysmal planning and current poor implementation.

    1. The seat is probably a safety-critical item, hence would be deemed hazardous to continue the journey as the seat could not perform its role in case of an emergency (absorb energy and protect occupant)

  2. Heavy tagging whilst waiting at signal? Why cant Police do their job. On that 6-car 21:36 Western EMU on Friday night they had to emergency open only a single end door to avoid a bunch of fare evading, tagging, swearing & spitting idiot youths standing at Ranui, Henderson & Sunnyvale from boarding. Police seem to completely neglect the PT system and only focus on protecting roads.

    1. Watched a group of fare evaders just push their way past Ticket Inspectors today at Henderson. That was it, no resistance, left the inspectors in their wake,what can you do…… Very sad indictment on our trains fare collection system. Why do the rest of us pay fares again??

      1. You can’t reasonable expect fare inspectors to try and physically restrain someone; they don’t have powers of arrest and their safety is paramount.

        The only proper solution is increased gating at stations, not practical to do them all, but if you get the major destinations, then you remove the incentive.

        1. Actually the proper solution is for the NZ Police to spend less time revenue raising on the roads, and actually have police on trains during key points such as late at night/after sporting events and stations that have high risk of armed offences and other violent crime such as on the Western and Southern Line.

        2. Someone ought to stand up to these bludging thugs. The minimum would be to kick them off the train (preferably at speed, but the humane alternative is just at the next station). They should really be subjected to a large fine and trespassed from the train system. If the fare inspectors aren’t tough enough to do it themselves, then hire more security guards and have roaming police patrols to assist.

          I have seen a tough train manager refuse to allow the train to leave Kingsland station when half a dozen fare-evading youths boarded and kicked them all off the train. Good on her!

      2. Some stations need police on the trains. Many of these “fare evaders” who aren’t kids with no money are adults temporarily out of jail. We can help them with that.

        But it would be good to see something done about poor kids who need to get places. Maybe WINZ and AT should step up and sort out a way to legitimize free riding by kids who have nothing. Better than teaching them to behave in anti social ways to achieve the same thing.

    2. “Police seem to completely neglect the PT system and only focus on protecting roads”

      Frustratingly, that is because roads present far more of a public-safety issue than Public transport (especially rail) does. So once again, the “worst” system gets all the attention. Exactly the same as when it comes to ‘safety related’ funding. Money is always ‘justified’ for roads because their safety record is so poor.

      It is just perverse that this same logic cannot extend to the obvious next-step of building rail up to take over more of the overall transport function, and cutting back on some of the excesses of road, simply because rail is so much safer

    3. Police seem to completely neglect the PT system and only focus on protecting roads.

      Well thats not what was happening at Greenlane Station Yesterday around 5pm. Police were at the station talking at length to youths. Included was the police helicopter.

      1. The Youths at the three stations mentioned above were kicked off earlier in the night and had been there for hours. No sign of police, in fact while they were cursing and carrying on at Henderson a massive amount of police cars and a van drove straight on by without a care… Law enforcement in this city or NZ as a whole is pretty useless IMO, see crime all the time, nothing ever done about it except if it involves a car and going a bit too fast.

        1. I’ve seen police checking for fare evasion at Henderson before, definitely not frequently enough but I have seen it. Henderson, Ranui and Fruitvale are known trouble spots for fare evasion and I think some peoples perception of the network can be clouded a little by seeing it at these stations. For some reason Henderson station seems to be a place that a lot of people just hang around on the platform at.

  3. These are the exact things customers should be told when their train doesn’t turn up. Not track issue or making timetable etc but exact details and an apology

    1. The southern line has been bad this week due to staffing issues. Yesterday lots of trains delayed or canceled

  4. roster planning?!? Seriously?

    Is that code for “Veolia can’t manage what they’re paid to manage”?!?

  5. The public tends to be very forgiving when kept informed in a transparent and honest way, and when it is plain that the transport company is doing all it can to fix things.

    The public gets p*ssd off is when it find itself repeatedly fobbed off with obfuscatory and truth-concealing statements such as “operational difficulties”, or reaons that suggest utter incompetence, or else no information or apology at all. Just an arrogant and contemptuous silence.

    1. Needed to leave Germany a day early then planned. From today a week long train driver strike starts in Germany
      Travelling from Germany too Netherlands yesterday. All German trains running late, ours 30 minute, Netherlands train 10 minutes late.
      But we were repeatedly told of the expected delay, reason for delay and we get apologies for the delay, seems to stop people getting to piss off.

    1. Totally agree. They knew when they introduced the new timetable that staff were going to stretched thin given many would be unavailable due to EMU testing and driver training requirements. So many drivers are already pushing their maximum hours to cover the roster and if someone calls in sick its hard to cover.

  6. More than 1,400 Waitakere services cancelled last year, much of them between Swanson and Waitakere. They’ve given a lot of reasons for Western Line cancellations in general, but haven’t publicly mentioned the intentional canning of trains beyond Swanson multiple times a day every day. Perhaps it’s not desirable to mention that in light of the decision to cancel trains based on poor patronage, as it will highlight that said poor patronage is self-inflicted and not a true indicator of true demand?

      1. I often wonder if the reason for the low bus cancellation figures is because the bus companies actually operate the bus service later in the day just so they can record that bus service as operating. E.g. if they don’t have anyone ready to operate a 07:00 bus they’ll just quietly not operate the service until a spare driver becomes available even if it is several hours later. The real time system has been interesting as it shows how bad the bus service can be — I’ve seen buses operate over 60 minutes behind schedule. In one case I saw a bus service operate over 3 hours late. Transdev at least to their credit don’t tend to pull those tricks to cover up their performance figures — if they can’t operate a particular service before the next service is scheduled they’ll cancel the service outright and focus on delivering the next service. I suspect Transdev does a better job of strategically cancelling services and reallocating equipment/staff to recover the service as quickly as possible — whereas bus companies will just muddle through and get as much buses out of the depot as possible.

  7. Lots of cases of bad management in there! Crazy to think how many of these are easily preventable – this doesn’t look like a hard problem

  8. It seems that many of these are staffing issues. If no new drivers are to start training until October, then these problems will persist through March of next year.

  9. It took them so long to load a wheel chair they had to cancel a service? Are you serious!? It’s not AT that have to do better, it’s Transdev. This transition should have been managed better. That’s what ‘managers’ do.

  10. Hmmmm, it’s not reliability issues when you’re simply not doing the maintenance to the same standard. That’s a bit of an alarm bell. Also wonder about the “lack of rolling stock”, given the pile of EMUs always sitting at The Strand. They need to fix the EMU bugs quickly if they’re dropping the maintenance standards on the diesels and fleet size too quickly.
    As for the wheelchair: I quite frequently see staff at Britomart standing about while passengers who require the ramp are unable to get on. How hard is it to spare a minute from a conversation to unlock a ramp? A little bit of customer care (such as if they could just update the electronic boards for once!) makes all the difference

  11. As for fare evaders, I used to be a Train Manager on the Tranz Scenic trains (Overlander, Northener etc), One of the staff detected a forged ticket so we advised the pax they would have to get off at the next stop (Otorohanga).
    The upshot of that, is that while I was calling for Police assistance at the station, the pax stabbed the other staff member in the chest and hand, and while I was intervening, stabbed me in the ear.
    I’ll always remember walking through the train, RT in one hand talking to train control and the driver, cellphone in the other talking to police, blood running all down the side of my head and a passenger started trying to argue with me about why it was taking so long to get moving again (It had been about 15 minutes at this point)… … it’s a thankless job.

    1. But on the other hand, an incident of that gravity is thankfully rare (I remember that particular one being reported in the news at the time). Most passengers, most of the time, are really appreciative of the on-board Scenic staff and particularly the way they handle situations that arise, and keep passengers informed. There must be a strong element of job-satisfaction from knowing the level of customer-satisfaction this produces. But unfortunately there will always be the odd ratbag. . .

    2. Sorry to hear that happened to you Richard. Love the Tranz Scenic. Do the trip to Wellington at least twice a year.

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