On Sunday 26 August new train timetables come into effect. The biggest change is the introduction of long overdue improvements to weekend frequencies. Although they’re still not frequent enough to meet Auckland Transports definition of frequent services as part of the new network which is crazy given rail is considered a backbone of our PT network.

AT have been including details of the timetable change in their board reports for many months, here’s what the latest one said:

The proposed train timetable upgrade has been approved by KiwiRail and will be introduced on Sunday 26 August. The new timetable includes:

  • Improved journey times across the Southern, Eastern and Western Lines, including further reduced dwell times
  • An increase to three trains per hour, from 7am to 7pm, across the Southern, Eastern and Western Lines at weekends, up from two trains per hour
  • Weekend services will largely follow the same weekday inter-peak timetable
  • Weekday afternoon and evening services will transition from the ten minute frequency in the PM peak to a 20-minute frequency from 7pm until 8pm, and to a 30-minute frequency thereafter
  • Services to Parnell station increased to include all Western Line services, throughout the day. Currently, Western Line services only operate to Parnell after 7pm, and at weekends
  • Pukekohe shuttle services continue to operate three trains per hour during the morning and afternoon peaks, with an increase to two trains per hour during inter-peak periods and at weekends, up from one train per hour
  • Later night services on Friday evenings, with an additional two service operating over the current timetable.

These changes have in part been enabled by the completion of the Cowie St bridge which has enabled the Sarawia St level crossing to be removed

Looking through the timetables in detail there are some interesting, and not all positive things to note.

Western Line

  • As mentioned above, all services will now stop at Parnell. Despite this, services are now scheduled to be one minute faster between Swanson and Britomart compared to the current timetable. That means services are now scheduled to take 54 minutes, but sadly that’s still one minute slower than the old diesel timetable.
  • Currently there are a number of services that start or end their run at Henderson. This includes the first two services of the day (starting there) and at the end of the day the last service (ending there). In the new timetable all services will start or end at Swanson. This is good and will make it easier for some customers but the downside is that AT have dropped the first service of the day.
  • For me personally, this change looks to make my commute longer and more annoying. Trains are due to arrive at Britomart a few minutes later than trains currently do, which means I’ll most likely just miss a quick connection to a Northern Express. So it effectively adds another 10 minutes to my journey.
  • Disappointingly there are no new later night services on weeknights other than on Friday and so the last service departs Britomart at 10:12pm which is too early. The two extra Friday night services will be useful though.

Southern Line

  • The current timetable for the Southern Line alternates between taking 51 and 53 minutes. The new timetable settles on 52 minutes for the journey. Like the current timetable, there are no clockface departures from Papakura so if you just miss a train, you could be waiting for somewhere between 8 and 12 minutes for the next service.
  • The Southern line currently also has a few services that start at or end before Papakura (terminating at Puhinui). Like the Western Line, the new timetable will see all services travel to and from the end of the line but it also means the first service won’t reach Britomart till after 6am.
  • The Southern Line does a little bit better on the night services with the last one at 10:30pm but interestingly there will be two buses after that stopping at all stations between Britomart and Otahuhu.
  • AT have dropped the Onehunga line services from the Southern Line timetable. This does make the new version tidier and easier to read but does mean people using it may have to consult two documents, which isn’t ideal.

Eastern Line

  • The Eastern is the only line that will retain a pre-6am service to Britomart.
  • Most services are scheduled to take 38 minutes (same as now) but a couple of services will take 39 minutes, 1 minute faster than the current time some take.

It will be interesting to see what impact, this timetable has, especially on the usage of trains on weekends.

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65 comments

  1. “In the new timetable all services will start or end at Swanson.”

    Not the last Sunday service outbound though! They should of fixed that one too. Nobody expects it! Very bad customer experience having those services, especially as the last service…

    The lack of service after 10PM Sunday-Thursday and removal of earliest service on the Western Line really sucks big time. Especially after they essentially promised to fix the early finishes on weekdays this time!

      1. I’ll fix it for you:

        “should’ve”

        Agree, it grates. Just like the erroneous but ubiquitous usage of “your” for “you’re”.

        Come on guys. Need to do better.

    1. There are no more slots available at Britomart. Auckland has made a decision to have 10 min frequencies on the main lines during the peak, which makes sense given the new network now means bus/train connections are important.

      Wellington has chosen a system where about half the passengers get a quicker trip and almost all passengers get lower frequencies (20 mins at peak).

      1. I wasn’t aware that Britomart was organised into time slots and there were no more available. Just change the 10 minute frequency to 9 minutes or 8.5 or 8 minutes to permit express services to ‘slot in’
        The rail infra and signalling is already capable of managing several expresses or at least limited stops services in peak hours

        1. “I wasn’t aware that Britomart was organised into time slots and there were no more available”
          Well it is. 18 in and 18 out.

          The current rail infrastructure is not capable of handling multiple expresses without massive trade offs.

          As has been explained to you before. Multiple times.

          1. Sorry, I must have missed that explanation. I have seen plenty of opinion but never a real business or technical reason to make expresses impossible.
            I agree that multiple expresses may present some issues but just one or two at peak times? The current infra could easily cope. My experience with the western line and seeing the extensive bi directional signalling on each track and running capability with existing crossovers, makes limited stops or express trains very possible.

          2. The problem is getting more paths in/out of Britomart. Departures out-of and arrivals into Britomart are generally 2 minutes apart. Currently every 10 minutes we have a Western, a Southern, and Eastern and a possible Onehunga. That’s 4 paths out of the potential 5, and the final path is generally not viable because it would require a conflicting crossing move of an inbound and an outbound which will hold up one or the other. Maybe it would be possible squeeze the frequencies to less-than 10 minutes and alter the whole timetable pattern but I don’t think anyone is game to try that. It would upset a nicely-behaving apple cart.

            It might be possible to use the two empty “Onehunga slots” every half hour as express slots and depart the express 2 min before the stopper on the same route (or 2 min after in the case of the Western, and “overtake” it by skipping Newmarket). The aim would be for the express to arrive at the destination just after the previous stopper, thereby saving perhaps 6-8 minutes (more on the Western).

            Other than that the only scope for expresses is skip-stopping by existing services without adding any new ones. This would compromise the Holy Grail of a 10 minute frequency at every wayside station and no one seems game to try that either.

            But political pressure for faster services is likely to grow. This will be what tips AT into action.

          3. It’s more than just ‘compromising the Holy Grail of a 10 minute frequency at every wayside station’. It also compromises 10 minute frequencies at other stations as well. As the express catches up with the all stopper you end up with a 13/7 or a 15/5 frequency pattern at the places the express still stops.

            This is not a great pattern on a network that is being built around bus/train transfers, as it increases the chance of a longer wait.

        2. Britomart can handle 20tph in each direction, this is the number currently using the station during peak hour. Anymore will start to see a significant breakdown in punctuality.

          1. ‘Any more will start to see a significant breakdown in punctuality’
            Has AT or KR or Train operator made this assertion? Can you provide reference…

          2. The 20tph is in here. There isn’t a specific reference to punctuality, but common sense will tell you that if something is over-capacity then punctuality will suffer.

            https://www.cityraillink.co.nz/crls-benefits/

            I’ve given you a perfectly good explanation of why there can’t be express services without significantly impacting on 10 minute frequencies in a previous post.

          3. Yes you did provide an explanation. I have had time to analyse the various points you raised and my considered opinion is that you misunderstood my original suggestion on how express services can ‘fit’ into a schedule of all station stoppers.
            An example on Western line of city bound train:

            You quickly rejected my real life observation of a city bound train overtaking a stationary broken down train by runnning ‘wrong’ line past the stationary train which was blocking the ‘right’ line at Morningside station. You said this wouldn’t work as an overtaking scheme because it involved just one station and the stopper would be delayed waiting on the express to pass.
            What actually happened was that the relief train crossed over to wrong line at crossover west of Mornngside then stayed on that track through Kingsland without stopping there then used crossover towards Mt Eden to cross back to the ‘right’ track.
            If this was an express then overtaking a stopper is more feasible since the stopper will stop at Mornngside AND Kingsland thereby creating a larger timing window for overtaking.
            Note that all the appropriate crossovers and signalling is in situ to permit this
            ,

          4. I don’t think that would be long enough. Trains can’t follow much closer than two minutes in Auckland, if you allow 90 secs for a stop the express won’t have caught up by Morningside, will be about 90 secs ahead at Kingsland, and will finally be far enough ahead after Mt Eden. This is of course in a perfect world where the trains are on time, a bigger buffer would have to be built in for late running services.

            This is far too long to be running on the ‘wrong track’ at peak hour.

            Do you know of any other examples of suburban metro rail networks in the world that use your proposed pattern? I can’t think of any, and that is usually a good indication that it is a proposal that sounds good in theory but simply doesn’t work in practice.

          5. Scheduling “wrong line” moves in the peak would be a bit like a car trying to overtake on the wrong side of the road into a continual stream of on-coming traffic. I don’t mean safety-wise – railway signalling takes care of that, if necessary by stopping the opposing traffic. I mean trying to find an opportunity to do it and then get back on your own side in a very limited window.

            The logical way to enable expresses to overtake is to fit key stations with additional platforms, so the express overtakes while the stopper is stopped. That could mean either that the express skips that stop, or that it also stops but the stopper dwells for longer. The ‘key’ stations then become transfer-points between stopper and express and also receive the combined intensity of both services. It is done all over the world.

            Once the CRL is opened and the constraint of Britomart is gone then this should be possible.

          6. Dave B – as I described above, I think you would need more than just one station to pass the stopper. Trains in Auckland are typically spaced at least two minutes apart to maintain speed, for the express to go from two minutes behind to two minutes ahead the stopper would have to dwell for four minutes, which is not viable or acceptable on a busy metro network.

            With the frequencies proposed in Auckland the only real viable option for expresses is a third track on the inner part of the network. I’m not sure this is the best use of funds given we are currently spending $3 billion dollars bringing all stations on the Western line 10 minutes closer to the CBD. Anything else is a work around solution that will impact on an existing system that has been very effective at growing patronage.

          7. If our dwells can somehow be reduced to ~30 sec’s in Auckland, we don’t’ really need expresses if you ask me. The skipping station express is perhaps more psychological than anything, that Onehunga line ride in when it works is quite nice alongside the motorway…less start stop movement a bonus too I guess.

          8. @ Jezza, “. . .for the express to go from two minutes behind to two minutes ahead the stopper would have to dwell for four minutes. . .”

            The way around this is closer permitted headways in the vicinity of the ‘overtaking’ stations. Closer signal-spacings in effect. This allows the express to tuck in close-behind the stopper on arrival, and the stopper close-behind the express on departure. Once away from the overtaking station the signal-spacing can revert to standard.

          9. In the future if regional trains are operating into Britomart then some sort of infrastructure will be required to express these trains through the suburban network. I imagine this will either be a third/fourth track on either the NAL Otahuhu-Newmarket or NIMT Otahuhu-Quay Park. This could also be used to express some Southern Line services.

          10. Dave – Do you know of any rail systems around the world that use what you are proposing?

            It sounds to me like it would need trains to run perfectly on time and also the kind of advanced signalling that exists on busy metro lines. I imagine it would be very expensive for something that would still cause issues if one of the trains wasn’t perfectly on time.

          11. Sam – agree. We will see express trains on the Southern line in the future as there are plans for extra tracks for a variety of reasons. Pukekohe is quite a lot further from the CBD than Swanson will be once the CRL opens so will benefit from express services more.

            I think it is hard to justify a third main when Swanson will be 44 mins from the CBD once CRL opens, hopefully less if they can speed the trains up. There isn’t the volume of freight and proposed Regional Rail to help justify extra tracks either.

          12. Jezza – “Dave – Do you know of any rail systems around the world that use what you are proposing?”

            It is standard practice to have closer signal spacings on approaches to significant stations, to allow trains to bunch closer together. We do it at Britomart (approach+depart signals are 250-500m apart). Although trains are timetabled 2 minutes apart they can physically get much closer if needed.

            I would have to search for examples of express/stopper overtaking on double-track-only routes. There are sure to be plenty in Europe, particularly Switzerland, but I cannot rattle any off the top of my head. Yes – timekeeping needs to be good for it to work properly. But then in Switzerland it is! Usually recovery-time will be built in at main stations, and so longer dwells at these points are not unusual.

            Overtaking can be done and is done. If I can confirm some examples I will post them.

          13. Dave – that would certainly allow them to follow quite a bit closer, although they don’t really approach Britomart with much speed!

            My guess is the examples you find will more likely be on regional or inter-city networks rather than suburban or metro systems. Longer dwell times are more likely to be accepted on these.

            Having listened to your description I certainly agree it is possible, however I don’t think the longer dwell times and risk to the existing schedule is really worth it, especially as the CRL will see a further increase in Western line frequencies and also will bring Swanson to 44 mins or less of the CBD anyway.

          14. Hi Jezza. I have had no time to go trawling for examples. And I concur, that such examples are likely to be on regional routes where service intensities are lower than Auckland’s metro. I would be interested to explore the possibility I alluded to above of using a vacant “Onehunga slot” for a possible ½-hourly Western Line express skipping Newmarket. I believe it could be inserted between existing services without upsetting the 10 minute pattern, and potentially shave 10 minutes off the stopper-run time. I doubt it would find favour with AT at the moment, but if pressure continues to mount for a quick answer to long journey times (particularly on the Western Line), then this could be a short term answer to keep up the sleeve. Agree that once the CRL is open the advantage of this diminishes, but if/when we get Western Line regional services then we may have to consider ‘overtaking stations’. Hopefully 3rd/4th mains will solve this for the Southern route.

          15. Dave B – I think that an Western Line express to Britomart would be ideal. I think that your idea of using the extra Onehunga slots is a good one, although I have not seen any evidence that this would actually be feasible.

            Alternatively 3 Western Line trains could operate to Otahuhu via Newmarket (the purple line post-CRL) freeing up 3 slots at Britomart for new Western Line express services. I would suggest that these express trains skip both Grafton and Newmarket. This would probably only need 3 or 4 more EMU’s to operate because the services to Otahuhu would only need to be 3 car.

            The benefits of this pattern would be:
            -Increased capacity on the Western Line
            -A significantly faster service to Britomart 3 times per hour
            -Direct services from the west to the Southern Line stations between Newmarket and Otahuhu 3 times per hour.
            -Direct services from the inner part of the Southern Line to Grafton and the Western Line stations.

            The biggest issues with this pattern are:
            -More trains through Newmarket Junction (although 3 less trains would be reversing out of Newmarket so this may actually balance out)
            -More trains through the level crossings on the Western Line (this will happen post-CRL anyway)
            -More trains required (they will be needed post-CRL anyway)
            -Increased opex (This could be reduced by only operating this pattern during peak hours)
            -A less legible network
            -Maintaining clock face timetables would be very difficult

          16. SamW, I like your suggestions to implement a purple line cross town service. As it now appears there are 3tph slots svailable at Britomart (the empty Onehunga slots) and with 17 new emus due to arrive next year then it would seem the resources sre available for western 3tph expresses toBritomart, 3tph all station stoppers plus 3tph crosstown. Given that the new emus are also for emu service to Pukekohe and that electrification is at least 4 years away then spare emus may be available.
            I think the benfits far outweigh the issues you listed.

    2. The Onehunga line does have a “minor express service” skipping Greenlane & Remuera during weekdays, AND with the new timetable with NOW be on the weekend as well interestingly. I guess they figured the 20 min frequency of the southern line on weekends is good enough for doing transfers up or back from Newmarket or Ellerslie.

  2. Looks like the majority of eastern line services inbound will be down to 37 mins, from their current 38 mins. Interestingly they have shaved two minutes off the time from Panmure to Britomart, it will be just 16 mins. Hopefully, that will mean they have found a way of reducing the delays at Quay Park.

    I assume we will have the usual circus in the first few weeks as they put three car trains where there needs to be six and vice-versa.

    1. Yes I had noticed the end bit of that the Eastern line is faster than the 1 min faster overall which is great, which means some more southern bits must be slower?! Good thing is clock face 10 mins from Middlemore north at peak, used to be 8, 9, 11, 10,12 etc mins sort of thing making it hard to remember times exactly & extra waits if you just miss sometimes.

      1. It only used to be perfectly clock face from Panmure north…..related to the 3rd main I understand…which is interesting as they haven’t done that yet, but maybe some improvements around there in the meantime or changed going south runs to fit?

    1. I note that the last train to connect for Pukekohe at Papakura from Britomart is at 0000, will the Pukekohe service wait at Papakura if there’s a delay?

  3. This seems totally bizarre and arbitrary, but I suppose there is a reason for it. Can someone please enlighten us why these two lines would swap platforms at 8pm?

    Western and Onehunga Lines will both use platforms 2 & 5 at different times of the day

    The Western line will use platform 5 until 8pm and then use platform 2 after 8pm.
    The Onehunga line will use platform 2 until 8pm and then use platform 5 after 8pm.

    1. One thought is that once they are all on lower frequencies at night & the crossing over tracks by the trains is not bound by some tight time related issue, it’s more easy for peds to access the more popular west service from the escalators? Oh potentially longer west trains so reduce wear tear of crossing over more…. now I’m really guessing.

    2. Was getting tired last night & somewhat said what I meant, I reckon it’s to do with main passenger flows, if all 3 main lines together on the left during day and/or peak. Also if you board a limited stops Onehunga one you can quickly jump to the Southern if realise after boarding. This is not an issue for either of these two points above after peak/day frequencies so for some operational reason (track crossover & point wear? – maybe staff numbers, cleaning or something?) they ideally want the Onehunga on the far side. I’m guessing Western line busier at night that the extra “southern” Onehunga one.
      Hardly seems worth the complication and confusion for passengers though.

  4. To add to the fun, the new footbridge at Pukekohe was fully opened today, which helps people getting to
    the station by bus.

    Only 87 carparks, though – 287 or 387 would have been useful. No sign of any gates, either.

      1. There is no charge for parking at Pukekohe, in either the new carpark or surrounding streets.

        At a guess, the new carpark would be full on weekdays by 6.30 or 7.00 am. There is 2 slots
        for disabled folk, but nothing for seniors.

        1. You wouldn’t want to ruin the place with more parking, but I’m sure there’s a solution to be had amongst feeder services, parking on the outskirts with a shuttle, and paid parking for those who really value being able to park in the prime spots. Have a look at the AT Parking Strategy and you’ll probably find something useful there.

          🙂 And you’ll probably have fun trying…

          1. I don’t see the logic in charging for parking, in a situation like this. Most of the people
            who park here would probably otherwise resort to using State Highway 1, if they were
            driven away from using the trains. I thought the idea was to encourage people on to
            public transport, not push them away.

            There is more land available – the people who own the Z Zone shopping area have a
            parking area already which is next to the railway, and is not being used. Perhaps AT
            could lease this ?

            Auckland Council has a large property close by, which they are selling soon, and
            this could be utilised.

            A parking building could have been built on the railway site, but with a design such
            that it could be converted in later decades into apartments, or retail. That’s thinking
            outside the square though, which of course is not done in this country.

          2. If they want to induce car-users onto the train, they would do better to charge for parking but lower the train fares. That way park-n-riders pay no more, but non-park-n-riders pay less. The incentivising should be away from any form of car-use as much as possible.

            Expensive car parks provided free to Park-n-riders represent a massive subsidy.

          3. Encourage yes, but not at any cost. The city needs to get a good return on every dollar it spends on encouragement.

            The logic for charging for parking is that it costs somewhere between 10 to 20 thousand dollars per parking space for a simple open lot car park. That works out to the equivalent of $6 per space per weekday, which is the same as the price of three or four local zone bus trips. But the data shows that around half of park and ride users formerly just took public transport for their whole trip. So in terms of a new user who isnt driving on the highway, that “encouragement” is actually more like $12 subsidy per person per day.

            Is that the best way to spend that money?

            Buying or leasing land is expensive, but parking takes up a lot of land yet isn’t actually very good at getting more people onto public transport. Not letting AC sell the land and saying it should be used for parking, or buying that land of AC, is a very large cash subsidy for a small amount of people.

        2. Better to add another feeder bus route or expand the span of time they operate or double the frequency at peak or all the day long or something than carparks. Yes a “blank carpark” is more expensive than they probably first appear to a casual user.

    1. 1. Sterilising acres of valuable land for carparking right next to a major regional centre and public transport node is not a good use of land. If you want a big park and ride, build it at a wayside stop somewhere down the line (Drury?) where it’s equally accessible by car but the land has little value for other uses.

      2. I’ve never understood why many people regard ‘free park and ride’ as a motherhood statement. The facility costs money to build, money which could have other good uses. Park and riders don’t deserve a freebie any more than riders on a connecting bus. What an appropriate charge is will depend on facts about elasticity of demand, case by case. In some cases the answer may be ‘little or nothing’, but that’s very different from saying that it should be free as a matter of principle.

  5. Seriously, that Onehunga/Southern Line combo was a nightmare… especially with those damn Puhinui only services in there.

    Hmm… interesting, they’ve pulled the Papakura trains forward and pushed the Britomart ones back. I suspect the 15:20 from Britomart will be getting pretty busy. I haven’t caught the 15:16 for some months now, but the St Peters boys and other schools tend to arrive in two lots: those who make the train and those who miss it. With the train arriving later, it’s quite possible this bisection won’t be as pronounced, meaning more on the earlier one (the 15:20). Good chance that it persists because everyone walks slower, though.

    Also, I would have thought you’d mention the clockface departures from Britiomart, Jesus it’s weird looking at a train timetable without 6’s and 8’s everywhere.

    1. The main reason for not getting faster is customers. In case you hadn’t noticed there are “trainloads” more of them than there were in 2005. No matter the improvements to door times, a growing number of customers makes it hard to reduce dwell.

      1. Melbourne also has a number of these pesky customers using their trains as well and they have no trouble maintaining much faster dwell times. Customers are not the reason we have slow dwell times.

  6. This is all pretty underwhelming.

    – Trains are still slow
    – Inter-peak is still not frequent enough (they could have atleast widen the peak time)
    – 10:30pm for last train on a weekday is still too early. Make it atleast 11:30pm-12:00am.

      1. And even Wellington’s last trains are early compared to what they were once. Was until midnight(ish) most nights until 2004 when GW screwed things over (cut service span and frequency in the evenings which has never been fully restored).

        Auckland does better on buses than Wellington though with main routes like Dom Rd & Mt Eden Rd having 15min or better service 6am-midnight. Something to aspire to for main city routes in Wellington (at least 1, 2 & 3).

    1. +1 Yes I meant to mention that too, somthing that seemed missing:

      “– Inter-peak is still not frequent enough (they could have atleast widen the peak time)”

      ..even by one extra service.

  7. The thing I have noticed in all these comments nobody has factor in the 5th set of trains that also run on the tracks i.e freight and nothing will come right until they add the 3rd & 4th lines between Wiri and Westfield . And then they should be able to run the express services going south and if or when they build the track between Avondale and Onehunga that could also free up the western line

    1. Probably about the same as the previous timetable, the trains don’t go slower just because there are less of them.

      I assume from your comment the sets from the derailment are not back in service yet?

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