On an average weekday, around 70,000 trips (and growing) are made on Auckland’s rail network. A number that has risen substantially in recent years. If, like me, you rely on a train as part of your commute you need to be aware that trains won’t be running due to workers striking.
People who usually travel by train should plan ahead and make alternative travel arrangements on Friday, 8 December.
No trains will be operating from 2am on Friday until 2am on Saturday because of industrial action.
Due to the short notice of the industrial action Auckland Transport will not be able to put on extra buses in place of train services.
AT is seeking limited additional buses to support some bus routes.
Ferry and bus services will operate as normal.
Auckland Transport’s Chief Transport Services Officer, Mark Lambert says: “We are sorry but with no trains operating, the roads will be busy and there will be delays. People should consider options such as travelling outside peak times, sharing rides, cycling or walking. People should also talk to their employer about their work situation.”
Mr Lambert says AT staff will be on duty at some busy locations to assist customers with information and advice. Updates will be provided on the AT website, Twitter and Facebook.
More than 30,000 people travel by train around Auckland on an average weekday.
This is going to be really frustrating for those who rely on trains, more so given the new bus network has been implemented in the West and South and it pushes more people to use the train. However, given the strike is on a Friday I can see many choosing to take a long weekend, a silver lining for those that can do so.
Unlike the strike a few weeks ago in Wellington over pay conditions, in Auckland’s case the Union say it is all about safety. This stems from plans to move to driver-only operation.
“Despite going into mediated negotiations, Transdev is refusing to budge,” says John Kerr, RMTU advocate for the rail workers. “They’re determined to reduce crew numbers and introduce driver-only trains.
“This plan put passengers and drivers at risk, and the only reason we can see for it is cutting costs and increasing profit.”
Transdev’s proposal would make train drivers have responsibility for monitoring door operation and passengers, dividing their attention and significantly increasing the risk of accident.
The union’s reasoning is what I really struggle with. Cities all over the world run trains with driver-only operation, without drivers at all, or have train managers locked away with no view of what’s happening inside a train. Even with our trains today, if something were to happen, the train manager is just as likely to be at the other end of the train or even in a different set entirely and so not be able to provide assistance. For instance, in my 50 minute train ride today I didn’t see a train manager at all. Do we really need train managers on every train?
This isn’t to say I’m advocating for no staff on trains and we absolutely need more security on some services. But we’re likely to get a lot better results for customers with staff more focused on the services that need them.
Alternate travel options
Of some concern is that there will be no additional bus services. Many parts of the rail network have good access to alternate bus services to get around, however there are also a few gaps, especially off-peak. Below I will give a quick overview of what the alternate transport options are.
Below is the bus network map for West Auckland.
From Henderson there are several direct all day bus services to the city which operate via the North Western motorway. These are the 133, 133x (peak only) and 134. Timetable available here. These services combine to give buses every 5-10 minutes at peak, plus every 15 minutes all day. For station beyond Henderson your best bet is to get to Henderson on one of the local buses.
For the area between Henderson and New Lynn your best bet generally is to catch a local bus to New Lynn. From here the Route 18 runs into the City Centre via Avondale and Great North Road every 6 minutes at peak and every 12 minutes all day. These buses will take you to Albert St by Victoria Street.
From Mount Albert inwards (covering Baldwin Avenue, Morningside and Kingsland) buses along New North Road (though do divert to St Lukes) run every few minutes at peak, and every minutes all day. These buses will drop you off along Wellesley Street.
To get to Grafton or Newmarket from the West, the best bet is to take 133 or 134 (from Henderson) or the Route 18 (New Lynn and Avondale) to Karangahape Road overbridge, then transfer to the Inner Link.
Southern Line (including Manukau)
If you’re commuting into the city from Pukekohe, you’re out of luck. No bus services operate between Papakura and Pukekohe. Good luck!
Better news from Papakura and other stations along the Southern Line near Great South Road. Route 33 operates every 15 minutes along Great South Road from Papakura to Otahuhu station, including via Manurewa and Manukau. From Otahuhu you can change to the 322 which continues along Great South Road to Britomart via Newmarket and Ellerslie. This runs every 20-30 minutes from 5.25am and 8.50am. Beware that this is a long trip, with a journey times around 2 hours if you take this at peak! The better option at peak is to take the 360x which runs from Papakura to City via Great South Road, but gets on the motorway just before Manukau station. However the departures are rather limited.
During the day your only option is the 321. This runs every 30 minutes from Otahuhu to Britomart, but runs via Greenlane Hospital so doesn’t go past Newmarket. Timetable here. Note this service also runs to Middlemore, so changing to this service at Middlemore is the best bet of getting there.
From Ellerslie to the city the options are good, and you can take any of the 500 series buses. These buses run along Great South Road between Ellerslie and Newmarket, then go onto Brtitomart via Grafton and Symonds Street. They operate every few minutes at peak and about every 10 minutes all day.
Inner Eastern Line
From Panmure, things are easy with any of the 500/501/550/551 buses continuing into the city from the Eastern suburbs. Are also some expresses at peak times which should give a more reasonable journey time.
From Sylvia Park the 505 and 525 will take you into the city via Ellerslie-Panmure Highway and Great South Road. Though again this is a long trip, with scheduled times of around an hour. Timetable here.
From Glen Innes you can take a range of 700 series buses to the city, including the 715, 719, 745 and 757. This combine to give a fairly frequent service all day, though the journey time would is 40-50 minutes.
From Meadowbank the only option is the 655, which runs into the city via Remuera Road and Newmarket. This runs every 30 minutes at peak, and every hour all day. Timetable here.
From Orakei you can take the 605/606, though you’ll have to walk up to Manawa Road to catch this. Timetable here.
This has highlighted there are some real gaps in service provision tomorrow. The biggest issue appear to be the total lack of PT to Pukekohe tomorrow, and very slow journey times of buses from the south. Clearly it is difficult to source buses and drivers at late notice, but some targeted extra services could have gone a long way to filling the worst gaps.