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

New Bus Network May 2013

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I ask for any relevant documentation/minutes/presentations (Those that are superseded do not need to be released, I understand these requests take time, and do not want to be needlessly taxing.)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

  1. Lack of OPEX budget.
  2. Conservative planning due to the 50% Farebox target set by the NZTA for 2018.
  3. The need for a Third Main.
  4. 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.

  1. West Auckland Bus: 1Q2017 contracts awarded; June 2017 services start.
  2. East Auckland Bus: 2Q2017 contracts awarded; December 2017 / early-2018 services start.
  3. Central Auckland Bus: 2Q2017 contracts awarded; 2Q2018 services start.
  4. North Auckland Bus: 2Q2017 contracts awarded; mid-2018 services start.
  5. 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.

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42 comments

  1. We received a brochure for the West Auckland NN yesterday. I was really disappointed with the lack of frequent connector services outside of peak. There’s only the 14t/14w that looks like a good feeder from Westgate to Henderson and New Lynn train stations and runs at 15 minute frequencies. The other ‘frequent’ services (18,221/223,243/249) all run to the city just about parallel with the trains, not really feeding anything. Where did all the frequent feeder buses end up? Maybe the frequencies of the feeder will be 30 minutes to match the trains until that gets increased.

    1. One part of the problem is that the interchange that was supposed to have been built at Te Atatu along with the motorway works was cancelled and seems to have dropped off the radar. A lot of the buses that were supposed to have been frequent and feeding into the interchange were chopped back to infrequent long routes into the city.

  2. Great post again Harriet, from what I’ve heard the problems are a combination of the four reasons/rumours.
    Last year there were two drivers schools cancelled due to lack of funding and now there is such a driver shortage that it would be difficult to increase the timetable.

    1. ” now there is such a driver shortage that it would be difficult to increase the timetable.”

      Especially with the slipping of drivers at Newmarket for the Western Line

      1. The shortage has been made worse by the drop back at Newmarket that hasn’t saved the time that was expected. Even without the Newmarket drop backs there is not enough drivers currently to double the weekend frequency (in my opinion). Had there not been drivers schools cancelled last year due to lack of funding there could be enough driver now.

  3. Maybe greater auckland should start a petition to Phil Goff asking for the AT board to be held accountable for their lack of action. Almost every ‘major’ project is 2 years or more late. If you consider re routing a few buses as a major project.

    1. “Rerouting a few buses” Designing, testing, consulting, retesting, contracting and implementing an enitre regional network of hundreds of routes and over 1000 buses across half a dozen operators serving a city of 1.5m people is an enormous job!

      A network redesign of this scale has seldom been attempted anywhere in the world, let alone in the middle of a change of the service delivery model and contracting law. I’m as upset by delays as anyone, but lets not kid ourselves this is easy!

      1. They managed to pull it off in Christchurch considerably quicker. While it is a smaller city, there were still three operators involved and there were two councils who don’t particularly like each other working together on this.

        This seems to be a developing trend as it happened with smart cards as well. Christchurch gets on and solves the problem, Auckland takes ages but does eventually solve the problem, Wellington just does nothing and continues to claim it is the PT capital of NZ.

        1. The scale of the Christchurch network is equivalent to only one of our four areas, it stands to reason that Auckland takes considerably longer! For example, Christchurch rolled out five frequent routes and twenty seven other routes. Auckland is rolling out, by my count, twenty eight frequent routes and a hundred and twenty other routes.

          Note that we have had the southern network in place for six months already, its simply the fact they are doing it in four stages to spread the load and demands on resources.

          Again with the smart card, the scale of the task is four or five times larger.

          1. I agree, but six years is taking the piss. Christchurch rolled out it’s NN in 2014 and has had a smart card with integrated fares since 2003.

          2. How long did CHCH take then, two years? For a network a fraction of the size?

            By the way, Christchurch doesn’t have a smart card, it has a simple stored value card. It doesn’t calculate trips, lowest fares, zones etc. You still just stick the card in and tell the driver where you are going to deduct the right stage fare.

            Auckland had those since the 1990s (although they weren’t accepted by all operators, true).

          3. The Metrocards are not just a simple stored value card, they calculate a two-hourly and a daily travel cap on them. You are correct that the bus driver has to press a button for Zone 2 trips to places like Lincoln and Rangiora though.

            I think it was about two years for Chch, certainly shorter than it took to roll out the Southern NN. Hurdles were present for both networks, earthquakes dramatically changing travel patterns, battling the CCC to get suburban interchanges built.

            The major difference was the approach to those hurdles, jump over them or use them as an excuse to delay.

      2. Although technically they have divided the city up into smaller chunks so it’s not as if the whole network needs to be changed on day XYZ. I’m not saying it isn’t a complex task but 6 years is taking the mickey.

      3. You must be the guy who reports to the AT board 😉 Isn’t the central network (the one taking the longest) just the existing network with some new cross town routes?

  4. AT are truly taking the piss here.

    I agree with Harriet though. AT need to be upfront about it.

    If they need more OPEX then say they need more OPEX and then they are more likely to be given it.
    If they need the third main then say they need the third main and they are more likely to be given it.
    If they are having difficulties getting staff then say so and they may get the budget to do that.

      1. How do you think AT get new OPEX? They ask council yearly within their budget. Asking AC for OPEX is literally the only way that AT can get any OPEX.

        1. Sorry I’ll revise. Of course AT can *ask* for more opex, whether they get any more or not is a different story!

  5. On a different note, is there any chance AT will extend its last train service on the weekdays? Its really inconvenient to have the last train in each line leave Britomart before 10:30pm. Atleast extend this to around 11:30

    1. agree, it is mad. i went to a concert at tuning fork a few weeks ago on a wednesday and to have to go all the way home out west, get the car, drive back to town, pay through nose for parking, and then not be able to have a drink at the gig, was mad. would much preferred to have stayed in town, biked there, have two or three beers, then got on a train round 11.

      and 30 min frequencies from around 8 are crazy too. i regularly teach a class that finishes at 8.30 and because of the timetable have to wait till 8.59 to get a train from morningside. not having frequent evening services just makes it incredibly difficult to genuinely operate without a car through the week, if you ever want to do something beyond just getting to work and back.

  6. One thing we do know is there are a number of improvements possible without the third main. 20 minute frequencies on weekends, improved evening services and 15-min off peak on the Western Line.

  7. Stephen Joyce’s, bozo, unscientific, arbitrary “50% Farebox” recovery model was only ever implemented to hold back PT because it was certainly never going to encourage it, especially on routes that needed incentives to get things going.

    And he should be proud, its doing a fine job too!

    1. Yes my gut feel is that the 50% farebox recovery is the real reason we are not having increased frequencies yet. I think they will inch forward ever so slowly the frequency improvements on trains as we get more patronage.

      1. Agree, it effectively means AT need to get to something like 52 % farebox recovery before they can implement new services as they need a bit of a buffer for the inevitability that costs are immediate but revenue growth from these services takes time.

  8. Has anyone else noticed that at have started running 3 car trains on the western line during the evening peak? I board at Mt Eden and have had a 3-car turn up for 5:30, and 6 that I’ve noticed, which usually means there’s not enough room for all passengers to board, which then spills on to the next service.

    Queried At and Transdev basically said that there aren’t enough trains, and they’ve had to reallocate services to busier lines.

    Does anyone know if there’s any action to order more yet?

    1. Same on the Eastern line service leaving Britomart at 5:14, it’s been routinely leaving people behind on the platform at Britomart.

      1. Can somebody upload some video footage of the crowding and inability to get on to youtube, both from inside and outside the train?

    2. I don’t buy the response they have given you one bit, it’s got more than a whiff of being unable to organise a piss-up in a brewery.

    3. Yep the train crams are great fun on the Western line.

      Would be better if we went back to the days of the Kingsland Bunnies. Before the Hipster muppets took over the suburb the Kingsland stop was like a catwalk as the finest girls in Auckland lined up to catch the train. These days all that gets on are the beard strokers. No fun cramming with them.

  9. Without syncing, even 15 minutes frequency is not ideal.

    It means if there is a transfer, the worst case wait time is 15 minutes sitting on the station.

    For short journey, having them to waste 15 minutes waiting for transfer is just discouraging and will put people back to cars.

    So, either the frequency need to improved, or there is a way to sync the transfer.

    For example bus and trains should be timetabled to arrive in sync and wait until all passengers has been transferred. (In practise, bus should arrive 2 minutes before train arrives and wait until 2 minutes after train leaves)

    1. Yeah I think 10 minute frequency is the absolute maximum for transfer and to be called frequent. Seems unlikely that transferring is going to save you much time if you have to wait on average 7.5 minutes (and you have to actually allow 15 minutes if you have an arrival deadline). And there is also the time taken to transfer (e.g. Walk). And twice the chance of cancelled service, delays, etc.

  10. I have said it before and I will say it again that AT’s performance is inept. I do not accept Nick R’s, no doubt considered opinion, that implementation of the new networks all take time.
    Another example of that ineptitude has been that for years AT have accepted the feedback from their service deliverers that timeliness of services was great. Anyone who regularly rides the service can tell these numbers are pure fantasy.
    I have also suggested previously that there is a guy who has a great track record of running transport systems (Rob Fyfe -ex Air NZ who seems to have all the credentials to fix this. I see also that he has now moved on from his current role and is potentially available.)
    Other posters are right that transport users should email Mayor Goff and tell him, “enough is enough -fix it.”

  11. Does AT even comprehend that they can induce demand; that for example by running more regular services that more passengers in total might use the service? Do they understand that those extra passengers will have the effect of off-setting against the increased opex costs?
    Let us look back to the implementation of integrated ticketing AT said that it would reduce their revenue and from memory at that stage fare box recovery was below 50%. Essentially they implemented integrated ticketing either because they wanted to or had to.
    And if AT had a mind to I am sure that they could introduce some more regular services, somewhere. And of course this is against a background of train passenger numbers growing by about 20% per year. There will be plenty of extra cash washing about.
    Let me give an example of induced demand. I regularly catch a bus from Parnell to the city. These link services run at 15 minute intervals; except by around 5pm when they only seem to appear if you are lucky. It is not unusual when such an occurrence occurs that half of the bus queue will walk down the hill and take the train because there is an excellent chance that it is running to a more regular schedule.
    Simple stuff really

  12. Are there any plans to have the Onehunga Train Line on a 15 minute frequency? Waiting 30 minutes for the next train is far too long. I get envious watching the other 3 lines having the 10 -15 minute wait times. I’m sure this would increase patronage on the O-Line greatly.

  13. I’d settle for 20 min Onehunga train, does this work off peak when there are more train sets available? Next step in frequency for all the lines if they are going to be incremental about it, should be current weekend/night 1/2 hr freq put to 20min, shoulder week daytime 20 mins put to 15min. Perhaps at the same time one service earlier and later, even if just Sunday to Thurs to match with Fri/Sat night more

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