Our electric trains have been fantastic and successful addition to the city.

More successful than officials predicted, helping to drive ridership on trains to double in four years to 20 million trips annually. They’ve been so successful that many services now have capacity constraints.

Last year the council approved funding to buy 15 more trains to help cope with the growth we’ve seen and enable more. When combined with the 57 trains we already have they will enable all services, with the exception of the Onehunga Line, to run as 6-car trains.

While our electric trains have been a vast improvement on what we had before, they’re far from perfect. For example, our trains have horrendous dwell times. Some of that is how they’re operated but some is to do with the trains themselves. It takes about 7 seconds from the time the train stops for the doors to open, even longer in the middle trailer car where there is a wait for the step to extend. There are similar issues at the other end of the process too after all doors are closed before the train can start moving off.

Months ago, when I’d asked Auckland Transport if these new trains would see any improvements they told me they were still going through a design review process. So I asked again and below is the response I got.

We have reviewed many possible changes but at the end of the process there will be very few changes.

A key driver has been to maintain fleet standardisation – across 72 EMUs if possible. So, any changes really need to be retrofitable (if there is such a word)

  • Improving station dwells is top of the list – we aim for approx. 1 minute saving per trip.
  • Reducing brake squeal when coming to stop is also a priority.
  • For the CRL – to improve fire rating as reasonably practicable, we are removing the soft / carpet flooring from the M-cars in favour of hard / lino – like the T-car.
  • The traction converter and main circuit breaker control will be upgraded for post CRL operations.
  • Train to ground communications and passenger WiFi will be latest technology.
  • USB charging is not on the list – not cheap to install or maintain, and journey lengths on average are not long.

I’m surprised they’re only aiming for 1 minute of saving per trip. My observations, which includes timing stops, are that there appears to be 20-30 seconds of fat in the dwell times that could be cut. Even saving 10 seconds per station would speed journeys by 1.5 to 2.5 minutes depending on the line (not including Onehunga).

I had specifically asked about USB charging as I know some are interested in them and so I’m also surprised that it is not on the list. That’s because AT have made it a requirement for new buses to improve the customer experience. It especially seems odd given bus journeys are generally a lot shorter than rail journeys and yet I now commonly see people using the chargers on buses. This appears to be another case where one team are working in a silo and not looking at what other parts of the organisation are doing.

Finally, I wonder what the actual value of standardisation is over incremental improvement. We know that we we’ll need another batch of trains in 5-10 years following the opening of the CRL. Will those trains havqe to follow the design of the current ones too? AT also we’re planning on major changes by adding batteries so the standardisation argument feels a little hollow.

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  1. If it’s 5-10 years before more trains are needed, I’d be surprised, my guess is 2-3.

    The concept of not retracting the step fully at each stop should theoretically be a software patch, so is this being considered?

    1. To play devils advocate – Yeah, it should be a software patch but how is that patch loaded?

      Is the controller in question capable of taking that update via USB, or does it require a tech with a JTAG adapter. In the case of the later you’re not just patching existing software, you’re overwriting the system with no backup.

      That’s assuming that the doors are isolated systems that receive a command (door open/close) and take whatever steps/actions are required. JTAG would be much cheaper to implement than FW updates, but may require a lot of work to gain access and upgrades are not without risk (think bricking the controller).

      If the doors use dumbed down controllers and all the checks and steps required to open/close the door is done by the main controller (very very unlikely, due to cost and architectural issues) then yeah, probably an easy-ish upgrade…

      I’d be amazed if there was no upgrade capability for the door controllers, but I’d also expect that the vendor would ensure that they get more than their pound of flesh to make the changes…

  2. “Reducing brake squeal when coming to stop is also a priority.”

    Great. I know it’s a little thing and not really consequential, but brake squeal is my biggest bugbear for some reason.

    One minute per trip seems pretty unambitious, that’s what, only 3 seconds saved per station?

    With three main lines running every ten minutes, a five minute saving each way would equate to 30 vehicle-minutes per hour saved… that equals three extra units spare that could mean upgrading an extra three three-car units to six-car per hour at peak, or six more arriving across the two hours of the peak.

    1. Yesterday as I was walking along New North Road I noticed how loud it was when the train was slowing for Morningside. Part of it could have been as a result of both breaking and making a shallow turn but it exceptionally loud.

    2. Nick if brake squeal is bad for you think of the people living next to railway stations who have to put up with this every few minutes at peak.

  3. After years of slow progress, I am losing patience with AT rail department.

    To me, their management lack ambition and they just tries to do minimum and get away with it.

    Prehaps their status of quo management need a big shakeup and replace by more progressive, energetic and ambitious management.

      1. Yeah right. This guy is all talk and no action and is just riding the ‘gravy train’ – just remember how long he has been the chairman of Auckland Transport now and how many other directorships does he hold?

        This guy from South Africa is just milking the NZ public purse and his legacy to date speaks for itself – just look at the state of our hospitals in Auckland as has come to light recently with Middlemore, where he is chairman on three of the district health boards in Auckland. Now all these issues come to light and he has decided it is time to resign from these health boards – well compensated for his efforts though. I bet he doesn’t have to work and live in mouldy run down facilities..

        1. Not racist. Nationalist maybe but not racist. As you should know, there are many races that make up the modern day South Africa. 11 different official languages as well.

          Anyway, I digress. I agree with the point. Lester Levy has been a disaster at AT. These new goals of 1 minute improvements are a joke. If it is customer-focus they are after, then they need to actually get some real targets instead of the “do-nothing” targets they are providing for themselves. If they cannot do it, resign and get another management team in there to do a better job.

      2. Interesting article. Several references by the man himself of trying to get his message through to Govt but failing each time. Hmm..

    1. Agreed. The new Government needs to undertake a major restructure of Auckland Council and in particular Auckland Transport, and make the council and it’s functions more accountable to the public.

      Rail services in Auckland should be transferred to KiwiRail to own and operate. Simplify the structure and layers of organisations and management so that public money which funds the rail operation goes into tangible things which benefit the end user and the money stays in New Zealand.

    2. There has been no major or noticeable changes with Auckland Transport since the appointment of their much heralded new CEO Shane Ellison last year.

      He used to be the manager in charge of Tranz Metro Auckland when Tranz Rail owned and operated the Auckland rail system.

      Staff morale across all of Auckland Transport is at an all time low with redundancies started last year, and as publicly seen with the industrial action by train staff and now the Bus Drivers.

      1. Neither the train managers or bus drivers are staff of AT, I don’t see how their morale would have any impact on wider staff morale at AT.

  4. Very disappointing to read that no real improvements are going to be made to the next batch of EMUs – but not surprising with Auckland Transport.

    The hard flat uncomfortable seats in the EMUs really need replacing with something more comfortable e.g. the same as the seating in the SA trains and DMUs, particularly if EMU services are to run through to Pukekohe and possibly Kumeu in the future.

    The Drivers have complained similar about their seats being hard and uncomfortable as well, along with the headlights on the EMUs being woefully inadequate and too dim compared to the diesel locomotives and DMUs. The braking and wheelslip issues with the EMUs in the wet need addressing too. Cruise control had been requested as well which would help make journeys smoother with less jerking with the very sensitive braking and acceleration of the EMUs compared to the diesel fleet.

    1. Don’t be concerned about the ‘bone-arse’ seats because the speedier times mean less sitting time, yay!

  5. Onehunga should be 6 car but only if a second platform is added and curved and heads toward the Neilson St rail overbridge, the one they inexplicably tore down.

    Additionally there really should be a platform installed at Maurice St for functions at Mt Smart as well and that section between Penrose and Te Papapa at least double tracked

    This line has great potential but is hampered by its many underdone features.

    1. AT were convinced that the Onehunga Line was a waste of time and resources so that only did the bear minimum to get it opened.
      Remember the platform was only ever designed to handle the 2 car DMUs and they were forced to extend it to handle the 3 car EMUs.

      1. Why would you have delayed the opening of this line to get consent to build platforms that were longer than needed with the passenger volumes on this line?

    2. Agreed there are a few things which could be done in the short term to improve capacity on the Onehunga Line such as building a 6 car platform at Onehunga along the original port line alignment running west from Neilson Street back around the curve towards the apartments on Princes Street.

      Penrose station needs a complete rebuild with perhaps rebuilding the platforms up near the Great South Road overbridge to be new joint shared platforms for the Southern Line and Onehunga Line, and have the Onehunga Branch line, branch off (double tracked) further south than where it currently does, south of the new platforms.

      The Onehunga Branch line could be double tracked to Maurice Road where a new twin side facing 6 car platform station for Mt Smart could be built on the northern side of the road crossing for better direct access to the stadium and local businesses and industry in this area.

      Penrose platform 3 would be removed.

      Te Papapa platform would probably have to be rebuilt on the north side of Mays Road if it were to be upgraded with a 6 car platform (and remove the disused loop and sidings).

      1. Darn lost my reply, but they have just upgraded the platform 3 at Penrose to handle 6 car lengths.

        If you were really going to double track the OBL, best to do the proper stadium station one: “A new line would begin just south of Penrose Station
        grade separated from the North Island Main Trunk
        (NIMT) line and crosses over O’rorke Road to pass
        through the Mt Smart Stadium grounds. The new line
        then joins the Onehunga Line just north of Te Papapa

        1. There used to be a siding going right up to the gates of Mt Smart stadium until only a few years ago. Many moons ago when the stadium was a quarry it had a siding going all the way

        2. I agree, if we’re after a PT network, a shared Penrose station is important – connection between the lines doesn’t work at present.

          And pedestrian and cycling amenity for passengers using the station – perhaps AT could use the area as the “poster child” area. How a new CEO, a new AT structure, a new direction can change a suburb with walkability into something really good?

  6. The downgrade of passenger comfort from the SA cars to the EMUs (inferior seating, loud clanking doors, bright white lights that strain the eyes) was already a disappointment. Changing from carpet to lino will be the final stage to creating a completely uninviting and sterile environment. The people behind this move must be absolutely gobsmacked at all those comfortable carpeted soft-seated carriages running through tunnels dozens of km long in Europe.

    1. Not where in live in Norway which is in Europe btw, it’s full of tunnels, I’ve never been on a train here with carpet on the floors, what a dumb and I bet expensive idea. Carpet gets old quickly, it needs replacing frequently, it would be a maintenance nightmare.

      1. Carpet appears to be a British affectation tied to intercity trains, but not tellingly, the tube or other mass transit.

        I’m struggling to think of a continental urban rail system that has carpet on the floors.

        It seems crazy to me, shall we carpet Britomart for comfort also?

        1. NZers also took ages to consider having carpet-less floors in houses, and I think that was British too. Came from damp, cold uninsulated houses needing something underfoot, and has changed in both places only as houses have become warmer. But both places therefore have a legacy preference for carpet underfoot.

        2. Maybe taking out the carpet is to reduce the fire hazard. If or when the TMs go I
          suspect the addicts will smoke in the EMU’s.

          I understand there has recently been cases of smoking in the DMU’s going out to

        3. NZ houses have become warmer over time or are warmer than British houses?!

          Not in my experience!

          Carpet is all over the world. Germans, French etc all like to use carpet too. Europe’s carpet tradition comes from Ancient Persia via ancient Greece.

        4. After wall-to-wall carpeting came in here, people wouldn’t consider anything else until the 90’s or even 2000’s. Meanwhile Finland and the Nordic countries had warm bare floors with occasional rugs back in the 60s – they never adopted the wall-to-wall thing with such enthusiasm. Persia and Greece’s carpets could be taken outside to wash and to be sanitised in the sun; quite different to wall-to-wall. Britain moved to warmer houses before we did, whereas Ireland was slower (anecdotally). The coldest houses I’ve ever been in were in Ireland.

          In the 90’s I pulled about 3000 m2 of old woollen carpet out of carpet layers’ rubbish bins, sorting through much more synthetic stuff to do so. I used it as weedmat around 1000s of trees I was planting, one 800 x 800 square around each. Despite my descriptions of its rich ‘ecology’, and how foul it was that people had had it underfoot in their homes, not one of my friends could understand our wanting a house without wall-to-wall carpet. Carpet underfoot became, in my experience, a standard expected presence of comfort. It’s just a supposition of mine that this might transfer to an expectation in public and transport places too.

        5. Carpet in semi-warm damp badly ventilated houses, has contributed to high cases of asthma in NZ due to more dust mites I think (especially around south Auckland areas) as you would probably know. Perfect breeding conditions IIRC.

        6. But Grant:
          Is that the fault of the carpet or of the houses being damp and poorly-ventilated?

        7. “I’m struggling to think of a continental urban rail system that has carpet on the floors.”

          I’m not. The Dutch trains come immediately to mind.

          Usually what determines whether carpet or linolinium is used is whether there will be a lot of passengers standing and walking. If they’re expected to be almost all seated; carpet is used.

  7. AT do not want to admit it but the move to passenger operated doors has been the biggest backward step flop of the EMU’s, by far. (Well that and the Nana like conservative ETCS).

    They had passenger operated doors on the DMU’s for a short time after arriving from Perth and it was a fail. But in AT’s enthusiasm to cut a wage and dispose of TM’s aligned with their ignorance of history, they shackled the EMU’s with mega dwell times and cannot bring themselves to change it for the better!

    What the F will it take for this organisation to do something about it??? One minute per trip suggests fiddling with existing settings to extract a second here and there.

      1. I’m on a Matangi now. The door button goes green as soon as the train stops and we move off the moment it closes. The timing difference between Wellington and Auckland id very noticeable.

      2. To help you out Jezza, Wellington are not operating the same trains or the same safety system as per Aucklands or the same door system, so what a load of rubbish you talk. Nor is Melboune.

        It was predicted during the specifying of the EMU’s that passenger operated doors would be like this. They were warned but I’m guessing you werent there!

        1. Passenger operated doors are common on commuter rail systems worldwide. It’s not some new, never before tried concept using Auckland trains as a guinea pig system. The problem is the absurdly long delay between the train stopping and the green light “litting”. People are standing at the door waiting to get out and nothing’s happening! I can only assume AT have specified a uniquely Auckland software package in the name of safety that no other rail network considers necessary.

        2. I believe it is 5 seconds from the time the driver gives release, to allow the valve radio computer to confirm the train is immobile.

          Then the green button illuminates.
          Then the passenger reacts to that, at different speeds.
          Then the door mechanismactivates
          And finally it opens.

          By now two opposing forces of passengers, impatient to get off/on collide, so to speak, more delay.

          Add about twice that for the trailer car steps to move into place before those door opens.

          Eventually the TM closes the doors, checks one more time then closes their local door.

          Then the 1940’s North Korean computer checks everything is closed

          Then the driver can move off but really slowly at any platform that has some form of level crossing ahead until the trains sensor passes over the sensor on the track that shows the previously red signal has cleared, to allow the driver to control the train again.

          It is that painful!

        3. By far the most obvious way to reduce that delay is to allow pre-ordering of doors. At any time between stations, if someone presses the button, the doors should open at the next stop.

        4. I frequently use Southwest trains from Waterloo to Southampton Central, the dwell time on those is also very long, you stand there like an idiots prodding the button and nothign happens, this absolutely isn’t a unique to Auckland problem.

        5. So it’s got nothing to do with passenger operated doors as you first claimed, it’s all about the particular settings used on Auckland’s trains.

          If that is the case then I agree with you, however it is quite different to what you initially stated.

        6. Travelled the Manukau line today. The worst dwell time was 60 seconds, exactly. 27 seconds of that was after the doors closed and waiting to pull off. Simply bullshit! Imagine motorists at lights if after a phase in one direction it took 27 seconds for the next phase to activate.

          And the train stopped twice coming into Britomart with the last stop being a minute. If this persists I am inclined to make a complaint under the Fair Trading Act of “misleading and deceptive conduct” that it is called a RTN.

          AT needs a massive shake up. I know that internal change is afoot, but as others have suggested the Board needs a refresh. Let’s have some people who have a passion for public transport and are brave enough to drive the change that Auckland needs and most want.

    1. The train stops, the seconds tick by and finally the green light is lit. The button is pushed and more seconds tick by, then finally the door starts to open. Even when the driver is opening the doors, there’s still this ridiculous delay between the train stopping and the doors starting to open. I can’t understand why, everywhere else in the world, the doors begin to open as soon as the train stops, but in Auckland it takes 5 or 6 seconds before anything starts to happen. Why, why, why??

        1. The new Moscow Metro trains are surprisingly nice and stylish. They even have USB ports.

      1. This has been explained so so so many times but here we go again.

        Train stops
        Driver presses door release / all doors open
        Windows XP computer checks that the train is at a standstill
        Windows XP computer opens doors
        Trailer car doors open after the Windows XP computer proves the steps are correct
        Train manager presses door close
        Windows XP computer retracts steps and closes doors
        Windows XP proves all doors closed
        TM gives right away to driver
        Driver applies power hoping that it works

        At places like Papatoetoe the up line signal is held at red to protect the crossing until the countdown timer (which is activated as the train enters the station) does it’s thing. As a result ETCS restricts the speed of the unit (I think it is 20kph) until after the unit has passed the signal. I believe this also happens at Morningside

        1. Even if they are using Win XP, there’s multiple versions of XP including WinXP Embedded (XPe), aimed at embedded systems like ATMs, POS units and trains. Personally, I’d use an RTOS like FreeRTOS or ROS, but there’s nothing wrong with XPe.

          Also, I doubt that you’d have just one computer running a train anymore. It’s often cheaper to use a separate controller for each door, networked via TCN or CANopen buses to a main controller which does little other than interact with the human and send high level commands to the various sub-systems. The subsystems would actually do the “heavy lifting” on how to open a door, etc. This means that the main controller may introduce a delay for “safety reasons”, but the controller may also have it’s own “safety” delays in place too…

        2. “This means that the main controller may introduce a delay for “safety reasons”, but the controller may also have it’s own “safety” delays in place too…”

          But why do these controllers only have a delay when they operate in Auckland? CAF trains are used the world over.

        3. @Dan C – Because everything here gets “Aucklandised” 😉

          My point was that blaming the tech isn’t the right answer, as there’s nothing wrong with the tech but we need to consider that making changes may not be as simple as one would initially expect.

          If the doors have their own controller per door (not unexpected), how are those controllers reprogrammed? More correctly, where are the delays and whose bright idea was it to even have them in the first place?

          As you asked, why the delay (ignoring where the delays reside)?

    2. Push button door opening is extremely common around the world. It saves on wear and tear and heating/air-conditioning costs and improves passenger comfort at low use times – no need for everyone sitting nearby to get a blast of cold air at every stop when all the doors open unnecessarily.

      It causes no problem once people have got used to it and it does not add to dwell time *providing* the train can register your push before it stops, which obviously should be the default design. What do Auckland’s trains do in this regard?

      1. They may work well overseas but in Auckland, they undergo Aucklandisation – just like what happens with the Blues (where players who perform well elsewhere perform like poodles in Auckland), train doors that perform well elsewhere perform like complete dogs in Auckland.

      2. “To open the door, press the green button when lit.”

        Nothing in any advisory that I’ve seen to indicate that you can press the button while the train is still moving to register that you want to get off. So, like sheep, we obey and don’t press until the green light appears. That can be around 10 seconds after stopping, and I regularly experience up to 15.

        To add more confusion, AT said last year that it was no longer necessary to press the button at all, since all doors would now open automatically. That seems to be the case, so why does the recorded announcement keep parroting the message? But there seem to be exceptions – doors that simply don’t open, and if you’re not an experienced traveller, you get stuck on the train. I’ve seen this happen twice, with passengers having to double back from the next stop.

        1. I noticed the doors have reverted to individual opening again. So unless the passenger pushed the button in a timely manner, especially the trailer car, its real slow.

        2. Well, that’s stupid, isn’t it. What are they going to do about it? Surely it’s just a matter of computer programming.

        3. That’s a huge safety issue for children. Children need resilience in the face of so many things, but why should train door problems load more onto them?

  8. I was on an off-peak service on Monday evening and the TM closed all the doors at once (including ‘their’ door). Saved approx 10 seconds on the dwell time.

    10 seconds off the current 40ish per stop is a 100% realistic and achievable target for AT to set. That would actually make a difference to a commute time from papakura – britomart & swanson-britomart.

  9. Dwell time: I’ll continue saying this at every opportunity: a competently managed urban rail service should have an off peak minor station dwell of no more than 20-25 seconds.

    In Sydney, with 2-person crews and large plug doors (1.8m wide), this is normal: train stops, delay 1 second, doors opening 4 seconds, handling passengers 10-15 seconds, doors closing 4 seconds, delay 3 seconds, total 22-27 seconds.

    The retracting step business might add 2 seconds at each end (as I judge from this video at 1:18 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OejJf5TujMY – can anyone confirm that?)

    I’ve been on urban metros where the doors start their unlocking routine a second or two *before* the train has completely stopped. The idea is that it takes a few seconds for the door to open far enough for someone to get out, and that time should not be wasted. The first alighting passenger can have their foot on the platform within two seconds of the train stopping. [note 1]

    The idea of programming a 7-second delay after the train stops before the door can *start* opening is quite bizarre. Is that what the top post is saying? Or does the seven seconds include the door opening time?.

    [note 1] Obviously in this case there needs to be some sort of interlocking so that once the doors have unlocked the last two seconds of the train stopping is preset and can’t be countermanded by the driver.

  10. So much to say no time, wouldn’t die over the USB charging, but dwell time 1 min??! Seats I find good for my bad back if no one next to you and you can sit straight, but do get a sore butt on a longer trip, so perhaps should be softer but not too much.

    1. Maybe when they scrap those pukekohe dmus they could take the seats and transplant them into a few of the emus.

      1. Latest word is consideration is again being made to refurbish the ADLs to keep services going until electrification is completed to Pukekohe.

        1. Just this morning on train from New Lynn to NM we passed several of the DMUs heading west at Morningside. Grubby and unwashed so looked like scrapping or for storage somewhere, Henderson perhaps.
          At pukekohe only four in sidings plus one in use so are other five gone for good?

        2. Having seen the business case for this service recently I’d be very surprised if it ever happened, the BCRs were very poor.

        3. That Herald item with NW 6200 new houses is probably several years away unless fast-track really means fast then the Huapai train looks like a possibility. So it would seem that ADLs at Henderson preparing for this now might be wishful thinking. Wish this was the case though as any hope of a NW busway looks remote and an NW light rail is likely a 20 year away dream.

  11. The thing that most needs addressing in my opinion is the station dwell time. I see good no reason why is it so lengthy on the Auckland network.

    One thing that continues to surprise me is how AT don’t put any network maps nor consumer advertisements on the barren & sterile interiors of the units. Allowing advertisements above the windows would be a good little money-spinner for AT and make the units less like a hospital ward.

    As a sidetone: That rail network ridership graph certainly shows the “sparks effect”. I can remember back in 2013 a few people out there in internet land tried to tell me that theres no logical reason why introducing EMU’s over the old ADl’s would result in higher ridership….

  12. Mediocre expansion plans all round really.

    So timid, what a joke.

    Ordering too few trains for the known/forecast demand – even this side of the CRL opening/operation, and will soon be shown to be massively fewer than is required when we are post-CRL opening.

    Hell if these extra EMUs were kms of extra lanes on the motorway [and those EMUs each will be about the same price money wise as a extra km of motorway lane costs], AT and NZTA would be doubling down on that investment – on the simple basis that they’ll never be cheaper to procure than now, and even if its more than we need, we’ll use them up eventually. So why buy just 15? Why not more? Why not now?

    72 EMU sets, allowing for regular maintenance and other “issues” [like tagging or other operational damage] will see barely more than 60 EMU sets in regular fleet service or no more than 30 6 car sets. and we’ll wait how long for those additional 15 EMUs? 2+ years? before they are all in service. and by then demand will have swamped supply, yet again.

    As for stripping out the carpets, why did they bother in the first place to have them if they’re suddenly a fire/smoke hazard? I can think of there must be a lot of dangerous materials in those EMUs already that are going to smoulder or smoke even they never catch alight. All of which is surely a danger now to the passengers in any fire, let alone in the CRL tunnels.

    So why are AT suddenly getting all fire-conscious? Next thing the trains will be confirmed as having ACP [flammable cladding ala Greenfell tower block fire in the UK] panels in them so our EMUs are suddenly a much bigger fire risk than first thought so maybe they cannot use the CRL at all.

    I’m sure CAF is building “safe enough” EMUs for most of Europe and beyond, so why are we so different that our trains are so special as regards fire risks? Scraremongering? Or did AT and MoT/NZTA etc overrule CAFs fire safety advice when they finalised the specs of/ordered the current EMUs?

    Or is MBIE having a sudden attack of the wobblies about how dangerous, you know, tunnel fires can be. After all electricity and people [and/or water] don’t mix very safely. Maybe another “being too conservative for their own good” slowly unfolding disaster ala ETCS in the making here perhaps?

    And lack of USB outlets on EMUs is probably more to do with AT having to keep these USB ports operational and clear of chewing gum, glue and other crap that kids and the like are prone to shove in them,

    So as AT bears that cost. Whereas no doubt that damage is borne by the bus operators when that happens in the bus fleet. So AT is trying to minimise its costs, while making the bus operators wear the cost.

    And all cases this all amounts to nothing short of AT giving the fingers from both hands to their customers, and suppliers.

  13. Very disappointed.

    Should be aiming to save 5 minutes per trip (which is enough time saved over a day for another trip per train – greater productivity).
    USB should be installed (maybe not every seat but should be put on like the buses have which as you mentioned are usually shorter journeys than trains).

    No mention of increasing capacity by way of having permanent 6-car EMUs??
    Not only would permanent 6-car EMUs be cheaper to purchase (saving on 2x driver cabs with controls etc) they would be more aerodynamic (not that our trains go particularly fast).
    They would be a very simple win – adding around 10% or more additional capacity to a 6-car EMU with a cheaper cost = win!
    While they are called permanent they can still be broken in half to allow maintenance etc and quite simply too (especially if they were designed with that in mind).
    No issue having them as 6-car units either as the existing EMUs can be used for any routes that might need 3-car units (which there probably shouldn’t be going forward as patronage increases).

    As you can tell the permanent 6-car EMU is a biggie for me. London has been busy replacing its 6-9 car EMUs with permanent units over the past 5 years for precisely this reason – they provide more capacity, are more efficient for cooling and passenger comfort all for less cost.

    1. The redesign and Safety Assurance costs of moving to permanent 6 car sets probably outweighs any savings from less cab equipment

    2. AKLDUDE, I’m an aircraft LAE for one of the worlds largest airlines (UK based) and on a daily basis across each of the 5 aircraft that I am required to turn around I will replace between 1 and 5 usb ports (read 5-25ish per day). These are long haul flights to Asia, North America etc where only one customer will use this port over a 5-14 hour period.

      I would expect that on a metro/suburban train where passengers are on and off frequently, thus the number requiring maintenance/replacement would balloon out significantly so I’m not surprised at all that this decision has been made.

      Rail like aviation has higher standards to adhere to (quality and safety as highlighted by the change in flooring), so everything costs significantly more.

      It’s a nice to have on a full service product ala Tranz Scenic’s fleet where the cost of wear and tear is covered by the customer, instead of the rate/tax payer as is the case for Auckland/Wellington/New York/Paris/London etc

      1. Yet not an issue for our new buses?
        Aircraft also have people sitting in them for hours on end where the majority probably use the USB ports vs not that many on a bus/train. Aircraft most certainly have much higher standards as you know due to dangers of fire and electrical interference etc.

        1. Aircraft trips are longer with same passenger vs bus/train multiple people plugging in out throughout the day. I suspect most flight pax would not put chewing gum in them or tamper with them vs on a train with unattended school children say.

  14. The biggest issue behind the timetables and running times of EMU services being so slow is the computer software system with the door operation and the (KiwiRail programmed) ETCS system being used. The timetables also have ‘fat’ built into them to allow for temporary speed restrictions.

    The on-going poor design of timetables with having conflicting trains timed to converge with each other at junctions and ‘limited stop’ services running directly behind all stopping services, along with insufficient time allowed for connections between Southern Line and Pukekohe services at Papakura station, which then get delayed – all combined ensure services are no faster.

    Note when the EMUs were launched Auckland Transport did not promote them as being ‘faster’. There were faster timetables in the 1990s when services were run with ADL and ADK DMUs compared to the EMU timetables of today. Even when the mixed fleet was still running on the Auckland network, SA trains used to get delayed behind EMUs.


    1. Another reason timetables have probably not been sped up with the EMUs is because Transdev get performance bonuses for On Time Performance as part of their contract. Transdev also happen to put together the timetables. If part of their income is based on performance, they are not going to create faster timetables which are going to be harder to maintain on time.

      1. You may well be correct. However, the real reason for not improving the dwell times or journey times is because of the growing popularity of trains. Already there will soon be insufficient emus to cater for existing services. God forbid they become faster, improved etcs, more efficient with faster dwells, more comfortable seating and features such as decent wifi and USB charging. That would only overload the trains sooner as more ppl are attracted to them.
        Thats why there is no express metro services and why rail infra never gets taken seriously. Why the CRL finish date keeps extending, the 3rd and 4th mains and westfield flyover will beyears and years away.
        This is New Zealand.

        1. Except if they can speed them up by 5 minutes on each line they effectively get a free set of EMUs each day.

  15. It would be good if they provided more to hold on to in the door areas, a central column, or overhead grabrails. It can be tricky to keep your balance in there when it’s busy…metros overseas seem to accept that there will be people standing.

  16. With the subject of LED lighting the other day, is it possible to have a different colour temperature setting on the internal lights of the trains so at night, say they could be a warmer colour? At night it’s especially weird how you can only pretty much see reflections of the inside at night but can’t do much about that one I guess.

  17. From my reading a range of the speed issues are around ETCS and temporary speed restrictions.

    ETCS is setup to keep things safe, which is great, the real speed improvements here will be realised when the level crossings that impose the delay start to close, making the rail a grade separated system.

    Temporary speed restrictions are most likely due to inadequate maintenance over an extended period, so I’m interested in what the plans are for removing each of the current speed restrictions, I’d hope that someone knows where they are and what is needed to fix each issue.

    My conceptual plan would be to start at one point (Britomart) and resolve each issue based on the distance from this point, so that once you got past point x on each line, you would have the highest speed possible to the origin point. It also stops people complaining about one line being favored over another.

    1. Grade separation will partially help address the ETCS issue (and make the road and rail transport network safer) but it still won’t deal with the other main problem which is actually the timetabling.

      The closer trains are timed to follow each other, the slower the following trains run because the ETCS is affected by what the signals each display. If the ETCS on the train thinks the next signal is red (even though it might be at proceed), it pulls the speed of the train down considerably to crawling speed in some places. The ETCS has also been very conservatively programmed by KiwiRail, again pulling the speed of trains down well in advance of where it needs to before curves, signals, ends of lines / platforms etc.

      Temporary speed restrictions are not really an issue as ETCS is not affected by them and trains can brake later approaching them and accelerate quickly moving away from them, as the Driver makes the decisions on the braking and acceleration, not the ETCS.

      If ETP, such as what was fitted in the DMUs and SA train locomotives, had been fitted in the EMUs instead, the EMUs and timetables would be MUCH faster. Auckland Transport obviously didn’t trust the skill and abilities of Train Drivers, so now everyone, passengers and Drivers, have to suffer with frustrating slow trains and timetables.

      Everything which is wrong with Auckland’s EMUs, Auckland’s rail system and transport system is due to the decision making of Auckland Transport. If the Government and Auckland Council want to fix Auckland’s transport woes, they need to fix Auckland Transport first.

      1. ‘Everything which is wrong with Auckland’s EMUs, Auckland’s rail system and transport system is due to the decision making of Auckland Transport’

        ‘The ETCS has also been very conservatively programmed by KiwiRail, again pulling the speed of trains down well in advance of where it needs to before curves, signals, ends of lines / platforms etc.’

        That’s somewhat of a contradiction there! I would tend to agree the Kiwirail’s conservative use of ETCS system is the biggest problem. There is nothing per se wrong with ETCS, it is used in many parts of the world, however there is no reason to loose speed so far before a red signal.

        1. “If ETCS is to blame, why aren’t all the trains in Europe slow?”

          Because they use level 2 when we have level 1

  18. Surely its safe for doors to start opening when the train has slowed to running or walking pace, and that way be fully open just as the train has stopped.
    7 seconds times 15 stations saves 1 min 45sec.

    Similarly get rid of the delay between doors closed and train starts accelerating.

  19. Why is everybody so hung up about dwell times?

    Writing a timetable that will allow the EMUs to run at higher speeds between stations will save, on the Southern at least, about 5-8 mins per journey if not more. Papakura in 40 minutes should be a reasonably achievable goal.

    Too often we are ambling along at about 70-80 and still arriving about a minute early.

    1. Why not both then?

      Everybody is hung up on dwell times because they are very visible, obvious source of delay. Anyone can see they dwells are about double what they are in other cities.

  20. Is it absolutely impossible to upgrade the computers to take less than 5 seconds to check the train has stopped?

    That seems like a really long time for an electronic process.

    If there’s some mechanical check which is slow, perhaps it could be replaced with computer vision-based stop detection? That should take milliseconds.

    5 s per stop shaved off would work out to be over a minute just from that.

  21. The quickest way to see improved journey times would be to introduce skip stopping. With a well designed timetable and only calling at every second station minutes could be saved, without highly expensive and problematic reconfiguring of the existing equipment.

    1. Nice way to reduce the frequency of trains, and introduce delay to your journey when the next train doesn’t stop at your station. Plus introduce a transfer penalty and delay if the station you wan’t to stop at is skipped.

      1. Or if there’s a door issue as mentioned elsewhere, and you miss being able to get off, then have to come back from the next station. Two stations further then back would be very frustrating, and scary for kids.

    2. Please don’t halve the frequency of service at my station. Especially not if you’re going to skip my destination and make me transfer to another half frequency service too.

  22. As a current Auckland driver who has also driven for Metro Trains Melbourne, I can tell you the number one frustration and most vital element that is keeping services slow, is dwell times.

    The trains are slow to allow doors to release, and the Train Manager control and processes only worsens the delays in door operation.

    Soon, driver door operation will come into effect, but there is not yet any scope to change the trains own management and checks before the driver is even able to open the doors.

    So, there will only be a marginal improvement.

    Also, a large part of the reason KiwiRail has manipulated the ETCS to be so conservative, is because they’ve let the rail infrastructure degrade to a point it’s borderline dangerous. And in some spots, there’s nothing borderline about it.

      1. Low quality, cheap rail needs to be replaced. There are signs of metal fatigue EVERYWHERE – this is what led to the derailment in Britomart.

        Sleepers are rotten EVERYWHERE.

        There are mudspots all over the place due to poor drainage and maintenance.

        IMHO there also needs to be a localised train control. An evacuation of Wellington Railway Station should not bring Aucklands trains to a stop. It is positively embarrassing.

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