The new PT network being implemented by Auckland Transport is a fantastic concept – vastly expanding the number of routes that operate at least every 15 minutes, seven days a week. When implemented the new network will have a transformational effect on public transport in Auckland. As shown in the map below, the rail system (along with the Northern Busway) forms the heart of this network, with many of the frequent bus routes feeding into it. In fact this is core to the whole concept of the new network – a shift away from running low frequency “everywhere to everywhere” services and towards much more of a “hub and spoke” model
While weekday rail frequencies have improved a lot recently, the main lines still only run every 20 minutes off peak and half-hourly at weekends, which is pretty problematic given that they will have a bunch of 15 minute frequency bus routes feeding into them. Therefore I recently make a LGOIMA request to Auckland Transport, to find out how long it would be before weekend rail frequencies are increased to where they should be. This was Auckland Transport’s reply:
Thank you for contacting Auckland Transport (AT) on 11 February 2017 requesting the following information:
I ask for any relevant documentation/minutes/presentations (Those that are superseded do not need to be released, I understand these requests take time, and do not want to be needlessly taxing.) that
a) Shows if Auckland Transport still intend to deliver at minimum, 15 minute frequencies on the 3 main lines pre CRL between 7am – 7pm from Monday to Sunday as per the Auckland Regional Public Transport Plan Page 124.
b) If the answer is yes to a), then any relevant documentation/minutes/presentations that show when Auckland Transport intends to implement the frequencies.
c) If No to a), or a long period to implementation (I will define this as later than Q4 of 2017) of b), any relevant documentation/minutes/presentations that show why this decision has been made e.g. lack of funding/infrastructure/staffing numbers etc.
As outlined in our Regional Public Transport Plan, the option of being able to operate a service 7 days per week, at a 15-minute frequency would be subject to sufficient funding mechanisms being in place, to meet the increased train fleet and crew operating costs; train maintenance, and also additional track access and power charges. (Section 6.1, Objective 1, Page 35) The documentation that you have requested, that outlines the timelines to achieve the schedule stated in the Regional Public Transport Plan, is not available at this time, as budgetary planning for the forthcoming Financial Year is under review, and not currently available. We therefore decline your request in accordance of section 17(e) of the LGOIMA as the information you are requesting does not exist. In providing our Timetable specification for 2018 to KiwiRail, as is required with our Track Access agreement, we have specified that we wish to run trains on the network on a 15-minute frequency, 7 Days per Week, however this request has not yet addressed the variables that ultimately dictate the times that we are able to operate our services, such as additional freight services on the NIMT, the mandatory maintenance regimes that KiwiRail undertake to ensure the safe operation of the railway, the times that this takes place, and the necessary infrastructure requirements to sustain a 15-minute timetable It is our expectation to be able to run our train services more frequently, earlier in the morning and later into the evening, seven days per week, and we will continue to work with our stakeholders to utilise all available funding streams in which to do so.
So not this year, and not even potentially next year. This is terrible for users of the New Network who have to transfer onto or between 30m frequency trains. Technically under AT’s Standards outlined in the Regional Public Transport Plan, this means far from being an RTN it technically isn’t even a part of the frequent network:
We have heard many reasons/rumours about why this has occurred ranging from
- Lack of OPEX budget.
- Conservative planning due to the 50% Farebox target set by the NZTA for 2018.
- The need for a Third Main.
- Trouble recruiting the staff needed.
If it is a legitimate reason then we will understand but just be honest with the public, you may be surprised of how understanding they are when you are just upfront about it.
The recent Board Paper also notes new projected times for the implementation of the New Network with major delays to the Central New Network which means it will now not be implemented until Q2 next year.
- West Auckland Bus: 1Q2017 contracts awarded; June 2017 services start.
- East Auckland Bus: 2Q2017 contracts awarded; December 2017 / early-2018 services start.
- Central Auckland Bus: 2Q2017 contracts awarded; 2Q2018 services start.
- North Auckland Bus: 2Q2017 contracts awarded; mid-2018 services start.
- Ferry: 2Q2017 contracts awarded; late 2018 services start.
This is also very disappointing and will mean that Auckland Transport have taken over six years to implement the new PT network from its original concept back in 2012.