Back in January I made a request to Auckland Transport asking what had been done/planned to improve travel times on the rail network, the response I received was very positive and if able to be implemented fantastic for rail users. You can view the entire response here.

The highlight is the section on dwell times, which remarked that CAF have been hard at work testing different options to reduce the dwell times with one option possibly allowing 20 second dwells. Whether this option is feasible outside the depot however is to be seen.

CAF have recently undertaken timed tests in the depot for different opening and closing options – for the time from wheel stop till power is back onto the traction motors. It can be achieved in 20 seconds, plus the actual door open time depending on the open and close method. A modification has been implemented that has further reduced the time required to make the traction loop by 2 seconds – which is a good improvement to bank.

AT also asked KiwiRail and Siemens (signalling company) to look at improving network travel times by optimising the ETCS (European Train Control System) signalling to allow increased line speed. The sections reviewed looked to be centred around the Westfield – Newmarket – Britomart section of network. As someone who uses the Southern Line I can understand this with line speeds feeling very slow considering the track alignment, zero level crossings & geometry. In a section where next the southern motorway you feel you should be putting the pedal down leaving traffic in the dust, instead you find yourself limping along.

Full Speed Ahead

The areas AT believe line speed can be increased are (up – towards north, down – towards south)

  • #3a: Line Speed Increase NAL South (Westfield Junction to Newmarket) – (saves 10 sec Up, 15sec Down)
  • #3b: Line Speed Increase OBL South (Westfield Junction to Newmarket) – (saves 15 sec Both)
  • #3c: Line Speed Increase NBL (Newmarket to Britomart) – (saves 20sec Both. But addition of Parnell station will negate.)
  • #8: Sarawia St in-fill balise (Reduction in delays approaching 203 signal) – (saves 10 sec per train crossing to Platform 1)
  • #9a: 304 Signal approach clearing removal (eliminates risk of Up EMUs stalling at Neutral section).
  • #9b: 204 Signal approach clearing removal (eliminate the need for trains to slow to 20/km).

Overall the time savings of this could result in travel time savings for

Southern Line – Up Main Services of 70sec & Down Main Services of 35sec
Onehunga Line – Up Main Services of 65sec & Onehunga Down Main Services of 35sec
Western Line – Up Main Services of 30sec & Western Down Main Services of 20sec

However some of travel times may be negated by the opening of Parnell station, however Southern Services will of course have that offset by the closing of Westfield.

They are also looking at adjusting the level crossings to allow higher line speeds, this will be very useful if implemented for Western Line users.

Modifying the level crossings to support higher speed operation will result in the level crossing alarms operating for longer until the trains start running at the higher speed.

It mentions the potential reports to be done in the future for other sections of the rail network, hopefully we will see further optimisation in the future.

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    1. I’m guessing here, but it sounds like it might be referencing the time it takes from when the passenger doors close, to when the driver is able to apply power to the train (the train cannot move while the doors are open) in order to depart a station. Currently that time appears to be a consistent 6 seconds, so this would make it 4.

      Hopefully someone is able to confirm.

  1. It is the timetable and congestion that needs fixing not dwell times, the dwell times will fix themselves one the other two are sorted.
    Short dwell times don’t help if the train then waits for signals due to congestion or at timed stations to allow the timetable to catch up. The southern line has 8-10 minutes saving just by speeding up the timetable and removing conflicting movements that cause congestion, the western line has about half that (more if Newmarket can be by passed), there is no excess time in the eastern line.

  2. Do they mean 20 seconds PLUS the door opening times? Geez how does it take so long to open & close doors I’m sure internationally this is done instantaneously.

      1. “It can be achieved in 20 seconds, plus the actual door open time depending on the open and close method.”
        That sentence is poorly worded and ambiguous. If there was a comma after “depending”, then it would mean 20 seconds to open and close the doors, plus the time the doors are open. Otherwise, it could mean 20 seconds plus an undefined variable time to open the doors.

        1. I read it as 20 seconds from wheels stop to wheels go, plus whatever time you choose to have the doors left open. I interpreted it as a minimum of 20 seconds if you stop, open doors, close immediately, then power off. And longer if you actually have the doors staying open for several seconds to allow people on/off.

  3. Excellent work Harriet. And AT/CAF/Siemens. This is what we have been waiting to hear. The Dwell times sound exactly like what we have been expecting is possible. Unclear whether the ETCS improvements above will be on the scale we are hoping for? And of course the extremely padded timetables will have to change for these improvements to be realised daily…. onward.

    1. The ramp needs to deploy before the doors can open, CAF have been asked in the past if this can stay partially deployed (the same distance as the fixed steps) but this is apparently not possible.

  4. On my trip home yesterday on the Onehunga line the TM was definitely doing his best to keep the dwell times down. He was doing the usual wait outside and check all doors were clear, but then instead of waiting to close his door till the others were shut he closed his with all the others. I timed a few stops and we were getting around 30-35s from train stopping to moving again, depending on passengers exiting/boarding. I was pretty impressed, it felt noticeably quicker than the typical 50s that can sometimes happen.

      1. Yep, also seen quicker dwell times when the trains are late or behind schedule. But due to the absurd padded timetable, they then ‘catch up’ to being on time, and go back to the casual pace.
        Or just end up waiting at the Wiri signal change for a minute or two wasting any ‘gained’ time

    1. Anecdotally, there is considerable variation between the styles of different train crews (both drivers and train-managers). If all could be brought up to the level of the on-the-ball ones, this would help.

    2. Seems like what I was thinking of in an earlier thread, and what AT is exploring (different options to reduce dwell time).

      It’ll be much faster, at least 10s… IF the train manager doesn’t close all passenger doors first and THEN his/her door.

  5. “Overall the time savings of this could result in travel time savings for

    Southern Line – Up Main Services of 70sec & Down Main Services of 35sec
    Onehunga Line – Up Main Services of 65sec & Onehunga Down Main Services of 35sec
    Western Line – Up Main Services of 30sec & Western Down Main Services of 20sec”

    Great news, pity its taken so long to get to this point.

    And whatever it costs to do, its no doubt going to be a fraction of the cost of the sort of money NZTA spend routinely to give a similar sized cohort of daily SOV drivers similar “time savings” for each $B+ motorway improvement they propose, including the PuFord highway.

  6. Plug doors optioned by AT instead of the earlier sliding doors on the EMUs is factor for slowness. Its a few seconds per open/close but everything adds up.

    But what about the Western line and those never ending slow take offs and approaches because of the red signals all over the place? Siemems has to look at that as its a definite problem that could be vastly improved through extra balise’s and better signal operation.

      1. Sliding doors by their design are simple in motion and quick. The plug doors closing is slow whilst it all locks into place. Not a huge difference but again seconds count when added up.

        1. The plug doors don’t look any slower to me when they are moving and there is no reason they should be, the only difference would be the plugging and unplugging, which at most would add a second all up, not seconds. In a system with 50 second dwell times this is a minor issue, but appears to be major to a number of people.

        2. Unless you worked in this area and did comparisons and I assume you have not it would all look the same but it isn’t. They are slower. As said they add seconds and combined that, as most of us, appreciate adds up.

  7. If dwell time are reduced by 30sec and there are 10 stations, potential time saved will be 300sec, plus line speed improvement, we could look at a total saving up to 6 minutes, which is a 10% improvement.

    If some of the section has speed limit increase from 80kmh to 110kmh, as well as the britomart section speed from 30kmh to 60kmh, there would be even more improvements.

    Prehaps the padded timetable need to be changed from fixed minute to frequently per hour, so the train does not need to slow down in order to cater for the ontime KPI.

    1. Trains generally do have to keep to minute timetables to make sure that they line up with their signal slots the whole we through. Of course we could just speed up the timetable.

  8. This is great news to see they working at this. To me there seems to be a lot of time that could be saved from signalling fine tuning esp at level crossings and such. Also to make things work well whether it’s a 3 or 6 car set.

  9. I’ve seen guards occasionally use the level access doors for their checks; given how slow those doors are I assume that slows down the overall process and would be a zero cost to fix?

    Having an ability to ‘pre-order’ doors is such a no-brainer, I can’t believe AT didn’t think of this. Perhaps the process was a bit broken using the static mock-up only for user testing and consultation.

  10. Huh. They wait at stations to match the timtetable and then have to wait for signals coming into Newmarket and Britomart. We wait and then wait some more.

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