There can occasionally be interesting bits of information found within the written questions asked of government ministers and so I keep an eye on it from time to time. Going through them the other day I stumbled across a few questions that Green MP Julie Anne Genter had recently asked about the rail network. In particular about faults in Auckland and Wellington, and about level crossing incidents in Auckland.

On faults she asked about the number of point, signal and track faults (defined as rail breaks, buckles or pull-aparts) that had occurred each month for two years for each region and the results are surprising, especially in light of the answers to similar questions in the past.

In total for Auckland there were 544 faults in the 12 months to the end of June, almost identical to the year before which saw 548 faults. This is made up of 58 points faults, 460 signal faults and 26 track faults. The previous year saw 65 points faults, 462 signal faults and 21 track faults. The number of signal faults certainly seems very high considering that in the past we’ve had the following numbers in response to similar questions (the new system was rolled out from ~2011).

Signal failures:

  • Apr 07 – Jan 08 (10 months) 144
  • Feb 08 – Jan 09 (12 months) 214
  • Feb 09 – Jan 10 (12 months) 172
  • Apr 11 – Mar 12 (12 months) 454

While the increase might be alarming at first I understand it’s actually a bit of an apples and oranges type situation.  As I’ve been told the faults we see now are quite different to those experienced before the new system was introduced. In the past the faults could each cause significant disruption however now I understand they are mostly very minor and the result of what’s known as a dropped track – something that can be fixed remotely and with very little delay for trains.

What is good news is that points faults have reduced dramatically. The 58 over the last year compares very favourably with the old results below that were were around 4-5 times as high.

Auckland Rail Network Points Faults

In Wellington the numbers for the most recent year were 80 points faults, 383 signal faults and 11 track faults with the year to June 2014 seeing 81 points faults, 554 signal faults and 27 track faults. As Wellington has a different signalling system I’m not sure if the same processes and impacts around faults apply.

Here’s a table showing all the numbers provided

AKL + WLG Rail Network Faults

As mentioned there was also information on level crossings. The data provided covers a 13 month period from 1 June 2014 to 30 June 2015.

7901 (2015). Julie Anne Genter to the Minister of Transport (30 Jun 2015): How many level crossing incidents, if any, have been reported by Auckland drivers per month from June 2014-2015, and at which crossings did these occur?

Hon Simon Bridges (Minister of Transport) replied: I am advised that there were 117 level crossing incidents reported to KiwiRail between 1st June 2014 and 30th June 2015 within the Auckland area (Pukekohe to Helensville); these records are only for designated crossings and do not include incidents involving trespassing. The definition of incident is in accordance with the Railways Act 2005 and National Rail System Standard 5: Occurrence Management. The list of crossings is attached

From what I can tell National Rail System Standard 5: Occurrence Management refers to collisions and near collisions. Below is the data provided where I’ve added totals for each crossing and colour coded it to highlight those with the highest number of incidents. As you can see the worst three crossings are

  • Woodward Rd (this seems to be incorrectly labelled as a pedestrian crossing)
  • Manuroa Rd
  • Morningside Dr

AKL Level Crossing Incidents

The only crossings we know that are definitely planned to be removed are Sarawia St within the next 1-2 years and Normanby Rd and Porters Rd as part of the CRL.

As an aside, Simon Bridges and his office are clearly much more on to it in answering questions – his predecessors would often be weeks late before answering.

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  1. I’m still waiting for people to start dying at the Walters Road crossing in Takanini once the electric trains and increased frequency go in.

  2. How are these collisions/near collisions happening? Is it due boom gates not working properly, or idiots ignoring them and trying to go around them?

  3. It is assumed that faults are being addressed by the rail operations management and AT.
    Is there a way to grade the crossing incidents?
    Should there be some other form of prevention?
    Should we be looking seriously at grade separation for all those with over 5 say?

        1. They re routed most of the New North Rd buses down there so that would have to change. This crossing slows them sometimes, but nowhere as badly as the traffic at St Lukes with zero bus priority.

  4. That’s an awful lot of crossings Auckland Transport/KiwiRail are going to have to grade separate when it’s decided that Auckland is big enough to have a proper rail network rather than a couple of freight lines with the odd commuter train running on it, which still seems to be KiwiRail’s view of things. I trust there’s a lot of planning being undertaken at the moment to deal with this eventuality.

    1. Isn’t grade separation the solely AT’s responsibility? Besides there is a budget which seems to keep getting deferred not to mention the civil engineering challenges posed by the proximity of Morningside and especially Woodward to New North Road.

  5. Woodward Rd – do we know whether these are pedestrians or cars? Once the motorway tunnel is open, there should be a lot less car traffic along Woodward.

  6. Thank you Matt L, if you hadn’t posted this we would not be any wiser. The level crossings are something that needs greater coverage and more information. Could the vehicle/pedestrian information be separated in future by those reporting or even from the existing reports? (I’d have time at this time of year to read them and annotate a spreadsheet and volunteer for the task)
    Perhaps we need to try an prioritize those grade separation as per the closure%/vehicle numbers (see priuor post on this subject).

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