Auckland Transport made a number of announcements yesterday in relation to trains, some of which will be familiar to readers who follow our posts monitoring the AT board reports.
Ridership almost 19 million readers per year
Later this week, ridership on the rail network over a 12m period is expected to reach 19 million trips. Given it was at just over 18.4m to the end of Feb, this suggests March was huge, possibly over 2 million trips for first time – helped of course by the hugely popular Adele concerts. This also suggests we’ll hit 20 million trips in August or September, more than three years ahead of the target the government had previously set for the City Rail Link and which the Ministry of Transport said would not likely be met.
Transdev have had their contract extended through to January 2020
I’ve lost count of how many times this contract has been extended since Transdev’s predecessors first took over the rail operation in Auckland back in mid-2004 – first as Connex and then Veoila before changing to Transdev some years back. The contract has been extended multiple times over the years, including to avoid disruption during the roll out of electrification and our new trains. AT did initiate a tender for the trains back in in 2015 and even got as shortlisting three companies (Kiwirail, Serco and Transdev) before postponing it all later that year.
Over the last 13 years the service provided has definitely improved but we still have regular bouts of severe customer unfriendliness, for example like list night when, in the pouring rain, my train was unexpectedly terminated at Henderson and I was left to find another way home. Passengers weren’t told of this until after leaving Sunnyvale (one stop before) and no reason was given for doing so.
Improved customer service and ticketing
A handful of major stations have ticketing offices, operated by Transdev, and customer service centres operated by AT that provide PT information and journey planning. Amazingly, these have been silo’d operations with one not able to help the other. At provide an example of the issues that currently exist below.
Currently customers need to queue at one point to buy a cash ticket and queue at another to get journey planning advice and other information on AT Metro services.
Mr Main says, “Bringing the ticket offices and customer service centres together will provide a faster ticketing service and give our customers better service overall. This will be in place by the end of July.”
As you can see, the plan is to combine these together to provide better overall service.
The five stations that have these two offices are Britomart, Newmarket, New Lynn, Papakura and Manukau. There is also a customer service centre at Panmure which will be changed to offer tickets too.
More to reduce fare evasion and vandalism
On-board Transport Officers coming
AT are planning to pilot on-board Transport Officers later this year.
New legislation that is expected to by passed by Parliament later this year will mean the Transport Officers will have greater powers to enforce fare payment by all and will be able to issue penalty notices to fare evaders as well as provide assistance to customers.
“We are proposing a pilot with 18 officers working on the AT Metro public transport network. Safety and security on public transport is important to our customers therefore it is important to us. The presence of legally empowered Transport Officers will provide this and provide a deterrent to people who do not want to pay their share and purchase a ticket. Our customers have also told us that equity in fare purchase to travel is very important to them.”
These Transport Officers will be new and not (currently) a replacement for existing on-board staff.
More Stations Gated
Gates will be installed at eight more stations over the coming 18 months. These stations are Otahuhu, Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Henderson, Parnell, Middlemore, Glen Innes and Papakura. They said there were more being looked at for potential gating but they weren’t ready to discuss those yet. It’s going to be interesting to see how they deal with some of these stations, for example will it reduce the number of entrances to stations like Manurewa and if so, what does that do to its usability?
I know many would like to see all stations should be gated but in my view it’s not needed. Gating is expensive and if the target is to reduce fare evasion, then as long as most passengers pass through a gate at one point on their journey they can be effective.
AT said yesterday that fare evasion was estimated to be 4-6%. Based on the figures publicly available, it would suggest AT are missing out on about $2-3 million of fares. Seeing people fare evade is annoying yet regardless of what is done, there will always be some level of fare evasion that occurs. The challenge for AT is to strike the right balance between enforcement and revenue collection. The cost of these new gates and of the
transport officers could very well exceed the amount of additional revenue they collect.
AT say all of the initiatives will be complete by the end of 2019