Late last week I asked the question of whether we have enough trains. The post has resulted in a lot of discussion however some of the answers I received from Auckland Transport left me asking more questions. In particular

CAF has committed to supplying 46 EMUs for weekday operations. That number is sufficient for 12 of the 34 train sets required to operate the timetable to be doubled as 6-car trains.

So I sought some clarification around why only supply of 46 EMUs. AT have now have now provided that clarification confirming that the 46 was just to implement the services we have now and an additional six sets will be available for service once the roll-out has been completed.

The 46 sets is what CAF has confirmed they can supply to daily service as at 20 July. This does not include two additional EMUs that are held on standby ready to inject into service operations to smooth service recovery following disruption. A further three EMUs are not available as they are waiting for replacement ETCS equipment which has long lead times. These are expected to be released for service over the next few weeks. Three EMUs are “maintenance spares” which allow CAF to take the trains out of service for lengthy periods for major maintenance.

Capacity will be increased from the three trains currently out of service plus the three to be delivered next week. Once the accelerated delivery schedule is complete and all 57 EMUs have been accepted into service, up to six existing 3-carriage trains could be increased to 6-carriage trains (based on the current timetable).

I guess only time will tell if the extra six trains will be enough to cover the capacity constraints at the peak and shoulder peak periods.

Full EMU
My 6-car train was pretty full last night

Note: the comments of first post contained a lot of discussion around buying extra carriages or bringing back the old diesels. There is no need to rehash those arguments again.

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  1. Has AT talked or considered talking to the Educational providers regarding moving student peak and giving them an added discount?

    1. What are you suggesting? That universities start classes at 6am instead of 8? and finish at 8pm?

      Who would pay for the extra staffing and other associated costs and why would Auckland University want to make working at it even less appealing for academic staff than it is already. The fact of the matter is AT could find the money if it wants to, and the government has no shortage either. Forcing the cost onto universities rather than actually developing PT further would be a pretty poor idea.

        1. I say westerners are just to space contious. Try riding the train in Japan its already every 3 mins during rush hour and there’s still crowding issues. Sure in Auckland where we have not reached a population like Tokyo or a frequency of that something must be done. Maybe changing the seating to metro style already will solve the issue in the short term

  2. That is heaps of space. When they get up to 4 per sqm they will need more trains. Those seated passengers are valued at less than $7 per hour. Compare that to car drivers at around $11 per hour in the Economic Evaluation Manual (2002 values time 1.42 update factor).

    1. But each one gives a peak car driver at least $17.42 in benefits from congestion reduction (to NZTA in effect), so that full 6 car EMU at peak is delivering $13K worth of value to car drivers. And thats way more than the combined value of the fares *and* the NZTA subsidy AT receives for those 750 passengers.

      Someones getting badly ripped off here.

    2. “Those seated passengers are valued at less than $7 per hour. Compare that to car drivers at around $11 per hour…” – in the EEM we don’t value different transport users in terms of their relative worth, i.e. a car driver is not more important than a train passenger. The value reflects the cost of the travel time to the user in terms of what they can productively do with it. Car driver: not much, listen to the radio, maybe take some hands-free calls. Train passenger: read something, make calls, play on phone, etc. So the cost of an extra minute on the train isn’t as wasted as when driving.

  3. Some obvious follow-up questions for AT:

    Are there enough trains in the fleet of 57 for when the Western Line shifts to 10 minute frequencies at peak?
    Will there be sufficient train / crew availability to extend services late at night – say midnight Sun-Thurs and 1am Fri-Sat?

    1. There should be enough trains if they follow the example of NZ Bus and pick a service, or services that they would prefer not to run and simply run it when they want to.

      1. Until they can deliver 6 TPH (10 min frequency) they have to run 6 car EMUs on all services then.
        Yet I hear time and again that 3 car EMUs are sent in to do a 6 car EMUs job.

        1. Yep and then they run 6 cars late at night, with only me on them for a few stations… Guess not many people use them late as car travel times are often significantly better… But yeah apparently their excuse is they don’t have the time to exchange for 3-car or vice versa according to LE.

      2. I’m guessing but perhaps the lack of 10 minute services on the Western Line is down to not enough money in the budget, definitely not enough room at certain choke points, not enough drivers, not enough usable rolling stock or maybe all the above.

      3. And also the number of at-grade road crossings and the potential of some to cause rush-hour traffic snarl-ups. I’m familiar with Woodward/N.Nth Rd and St Jude/Avondale roundabout.

  4. I’m interested in what the triggers are for ordering more EMU and how close they think we are to getting to those trigger points.

    1. The most likely trigger is a change of government in 2017. If the current government were to allow auckland to buy more trains now, they would endanger their goal of not funding the CRL before 2020.

    2. No point in talking about buying more trains at a time when AT are selling existing trains. They obviously don’t think they’ll have capacity issues before the CRL opens, or they would be holding on to the existing trains.

      1. It all depends on what the strategy to meet the demand is. I’d be looking at leasing the appropriate electric engines, but it’s not my call.

        I’m pretty certain that AT/AC & NZTA/MoT are aware of the issue, but the horse trading about solutions is not being done in public.

        I’d expect the result to be announced well before the next general election cycle, to avoid the opportunity of opposition parties scoring political points.

        1. Leasing electric engines? Great idea if one can only find the rollingstock leasing company that has a surplus of 25Kv Cape-gauge locos and suitable carriages just sitting around waiting for hire. Would have been much easier to hold onto the perfectly functional SA sets until AT had a good handle on how patronage was tracking. I’m not sure whether the withdrawn sets are even still available, or whether they have already been hocked off to Mozambique or somewhere. If they have then yet another bullet has been fired into foot.

  5. “A further three EMUs are not available as they are waiting for replacement ETCS equipment which has long lead times”

    That raises a tonne of questions for AT about their operations:

    What happened to those 3 EMUs such they needed replace ETCS equipment? Power supply issues in the EMU (fried ETCS?)
    Has it happened to other EMUs in the past, if not, what’s so special about the 3 EMUs that had ETCS’ that failed?
    Why does it take so long to source replacements?
    Is that issue which impacted 3 EMUs likely to recur at all and if so will it impact even more EMUs in future so other EMUs could be sidelined?
    What are the procurement process changes going to be in such a case to avoid long delays for that or other equipment with long lead times?

    If ETCS or other equipment is hard to source maybe AT need to buy some spares of those to have on-hand if its that fragile that its broken already on 3 trains?

    Seems pointless to have 3 $8m EMUs sidelined for weeks or months because $50,000 or whatever it costs parts are not available.

    Each 3 car EMU in operation at peak if full generates at least $6.5K worth of congestion benefits to road users *per peak trip* so if an EMU is out of action for weeks (or months) due to ETCS replacements then thats a lot of lost benefits forgone right there. I’d estimate maybe 4 trips per EMU per day in the peak, so thats $26K per “working day” of benefits lost, times 5 days in a week = over $100K a week of lost benefits, or $400+K per month. So whatever those ETCS spares cost, keeping some on hand would be useful.
    Let alone the cost of rail user in having cancelled, delayed or overflowing services due to lack of sufficiently capable (or in some cases, any) trains being rostered.

    1. Well, it could be related to the line from “someone fairly high up at AT” who was on the train with one of my wife’s work colleagues and said “The Auckland grid can’t supply enough power for the 6 EMU trains” Because if that is ACTUALLY true, it would likely mean significant fluctuations in voltage/amperage to the trains electrical systems.

      1. That seems highly unlikely from what I’ve seen of the network design. There are two 25kV 36MVA supply transformers (one each at Penrose and Southdown Transpower substations) meaning heaps of capacity, and the entire network can operate fully loaded on either one (ie there’s n-1 redundancy). For voltage support there are cross-ties at each of the six traction switching stations as well as end-of-line circuit breakers at Papakura and Swanson linking the up and down mains. Should the CRL go ahead a third supply point will be provided. Maybe there’s some hidden constraint in the design, but I seriously doubt it.

        If that statement was actually as quoted, to have any validity it would need to relate to the functionality of a 6-car EMU design, not the network. I’m not competent to comment on that aspect.

    2. Each 3 car EMU in operation at peak if full generates at least $6.5K worth of congestion benefits to road users *per peak trip*
      That’s a very good and interesting statistic! How can it become a part of Simon Bridges vocabulary? Is anyone able to get it to him with the other one we’ve seen quoted about the 2 billion cost of vehicle congestion in Auckland?
      Perhaps inclusion of the standing room only pictures and the details of those left standing on the platforms may help the government change their mind about earlier start on CRL.

  6. Availability is good measurement of the overall reliability of the fleet. 95% availability = 54 EMUs available. 90% availability = 51 EMUs available. Would be interesting to hear what Perth achieves, and for comparison, say Singapore for its metro, and some of the better fleets in the UK.

    At one stage Tranz Metro achieved 95% availability for the Ganz fleet after an overhaul programme in the 1990s so it can be done. Although, I suspect much like electrical appliances, operating conditions including the quality of the mains power will be a factor.

    1. That the ETCS is already causing trains to be withdrawn from service long term really begs the question, what is so badly wrong with this product so early in its so-called service life? Even when its working properly it has caused a lot of poor performance issues thus far. Rumour has it some EMU’s were being cannibalised for parts as well for other faults. Again if this is correct what have ratepayers purchased?

      1. Same occurred with those Chinese made Diesel locos a few years back too as I recall – simply not enough spares on hand for all the faults in both cases?

      1. There are 5 SA sets servicing the Puke Shuttle. 3 in service during the peaks, one spare held at Pukekohe and one at Westfield. Every day after the a.m. peak, one set goes empty to Westfield for servicing and returns to passenger-service for the afternoon peak. It is this empty movement that Owen Thompson would have seen.

    1. There are several SA runs between Westfield and Papakura each day, as they constantly shuffle half a dozen sets around in support of the three active sets on the Puke shuttles. It’s one very expensive exercise for 600 punters per day. I wonder what the cost is per passenger of so many diesel trains running around for so few people? They would get much more efficient use out of them by running them right through from Puke to Britomart, then start doubling up more of the single EMU sets.

      1. The desire for “Out with the old and in with the new” seems to have reached obsessive proportions. There is no reason why the SA’s could not continue to supplement the service as you suggest. I think their continuance is somehow seen as tainting the shiny new electric image that AT wishes to present. If this is the reason, then for the sake of silly notions of prestige, they have thrown away a viable solution to the looming difficulties. I forsee trouble ahead.

  7. I can honestly understand why the western line would be the most crowded. It doesnt share any stations with the other trains lines except Newmarket and Britomart. All other 3 lines have at least 4-5 stations where 2 lines will meet meaning people heading there have 2 train options spreading that squeeze a little

  8. A bunch of half-answers.

    I hope that this obfuscation actually means that work is being done behind the scenes to cater for future growth. The 57 units may be sufficient for current demand, but they will be insufficient for future demand even at crush-loadings. That should be immediately obvious.

    It’s disappointing that ETCS has constrained speed and capacity so far. Hopefully that can be averted – but ultimately we need third lines for freight in order to run a proper network. Again I hope that planning is being done for this.

    1. Planning for the 3rd main is pretty well advanced. It is funding that is lacking. Everyone wants it but no-one wants to pay for it.
      Actually I don’t think it’s true that “everyone wants it”. I don’t believe the Government does. They should be the ones funding this as a “Railway of National Significance”, but I think they have a total aversion to funding any new rail infrastructure. It just doesn’t fit with their GOP world view.

  9. One reason we seem to be short of trains is the timetabling policy of allowing very generous turn-around times at the outlying termini. This ties up units unproductively instead of maximising their running. It is being done in order to assist timekeeping and recovery from delay. But the crazy thing, at least from a passenger pont-of-view, is that with frequencies of 10 minutes it doesn’t matter if everyting is running a bit late. I do wonder if we are striving after the wrong basic objectives in trading away capacity like this.

    1. Yep trains idle at Swanson for ridiculous amounts of time, surely that’s enough headroom but then they want to add a 3rd platform to Henderson for turnarounds? and seem to be cancelling services from Henderson to Swanson quite often already. Seems Sturges to Swanson will be the next Waitakere very soon, the worst travel times get the worst service it seems.

      Its odd that the Southern line never has this, Seems Onehunga services “catchup-cancel” at Penrose, East at Puhinui and West at Henderson. But you don’t seen Southern line trains cancelling at Manurewa or Takanini.

    1. They do not run X cars at certain times, its just completely random from what I’ve seen. They do seem to “focus” 6-cars on directional peaks though as outlined in their response, but not always successfully. Someone, somewhere in AT or transdev must be completely incompetent as the rest of the world seems to be able to operate train services without as many excuses and are usually more transparent about what the issue actually is.

      I noticed there are a lot less service disruption SMS but it seems they are just reporting a lot less of them now as when on broken down trains, delayed trains etc no SMS is received. Seems they are just not reporting it to make things “look” better.

      1. There is a definite plan for rolling stock allocation. But how well it is adhered to each day I don’t know.

  10. In the future when we upgrade to newer sets of trains we should along side it increase platform heights so we can get full level boarding and no steps inside the train. I think the steps are just taking up spaces where people could be standing as they are afraid they could fall. pure flat trains however means you are able to put a bit more people on the train without the danger of falling down stairs

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