Here’s the weekly roundup for this week.

Train Disruption

The big news this week has been the train disruption caused by an unprecedented fire at a Kiwirail signal box in Newmarket. The surprising thing is the scale of the disruption and that it took till Thursday Morning to fix.

The fire in switching equipment near Auckland’s Newmarket Station is thought to have been caused by a fault in the power supply.

What would normally have been a simple fix has been disruptive because of its location on a critical part of the Auckland rail network.

KiwiRail said there were hundreds of similar switching boxes across Auckland and this was only the second such incident in more than a decade.

I know not everyone will agree with me but while certainly far from perfect, I do feel AT/Kiwirail/Transdev have handled the impact of this better than they have in the past. That they managed to get some services running, even if at a reduced timetable or via the Eastern Line, feels like more than we would have had in the past. In saying this I recognise my view on this is biased from only experienced relatively minor delays.

One area they certainly could have done better with was that it took till about Wednesday to finally find out what happened and the scale of the fire.

City Rail Link Ground-breaking

Yesterday officials celebrated the official ground-breaking ceremony, because there are no sods to turn in an urban environment like this, to kick off the works at Mt Eden to build the City Rail Link.

Demolition work is still continuing on the massive site but has progressed enough that they can start building the portal to launch the TBM from.

Spades in the ground at the sod-turning ceremony clears the way for work to start on driving 66 concrete piles between 38 metres and eight metres long into the ground to support the curved-shaped retaining wall 127 metres long and 25 metres high.

The portal will take 10 months to build. When completed, it will be the launching pad for the TBM and the two separate journeys it will make under Auckland from Mt Eden to the Aotea station in the central city.

A German company, Herrenknecht, will build the $13.5 million TBM. The machine will be built at the company’s factory in China and shipped to New Zealand in sections next spring where it will be reassembled in front of the portal. The TBM will start tunnelling in February 2021.

With much of the site now cleared you now get a better sense of the scale of the works in this area and also how much opportunity there is for redevelopment once the project is completed.

As commonly happens with projects like this, a naming competition will be held

Tunnelling tradition dictates that a TBM cannot start work until it has a woman’s name to honour St Barbara, the patron saint of underground workers, as a sign of good luck for the project ahead.

The City Rail Link TBM will be named after a ground-breaking New Zealand woman identified by New Zealanders.

Go here for more details.

Huntly Bypass opens today

While CRL is just kicking off, the second to last section of the Waikato expressway is officially being opened today. As the name implies, it will see Huntly (and Taupiri) bypassed and will link in with the Ngaruawahia section that was completed in 2013. Overall the project is $15km long and has cost $409 million and involved about 3 million cubic metres of earthworks, including a 60m cut through the back of Taupiri Mountain.

There’s a public open day tomorrow.

Here is the most recent video from the NZTA about construction progress.

The last remaining section to complete is the Hamilton section and that is underway with it expected to be completed next year.

It seems the expressway is already having an impact though with reports of new sprawl suburbs popping up

A building boom at the southern end of the Waikato Expressway is expected to shift into high gear when the final sections of highway slot into place, building industry leaders believe.

Satellite towns such as Morrinsville, Te Awamutu, Cambridge and others further south are set to be the big winners, Certified Builders Waikato Regional Spokesperson Mike Hayward said.


Hayward said it reflected a regional trend where the Waikato was “in a really good bubble” at the moment.

“That’s due to the Waikato Expressway going in and once it’s completed all the way through to Auckland, it’ll really open up Cambridge and a whole lot of other towns further down the road.

Better Buses

A great episode of 99% invisible last week on making buses better.

If you heard that there was a piece of technology that could do away with traffic jams, make cities more equitable, and help us solve climate change, you might think about driverless cars, or hyperloops or any of the other new transportation technologies that get lots of hype these days. But there is a much older, much less sexy piece of machinery that could be the key to making our cities more sustainable, more liveable, and more fair: the humble bus. Steven Higashide is a transit expert, bus champion, and author of a new book called Better Buses Better Cities. And the central thesis of the book is that buses have the power to remake our cities for the better. But he says that if we want the bus to reach its potential, we’re going to have to make the experience riding one, a lot more pleasant.

The episode is just under 36 minutes long but well worth a listen – and if you work in Auckland Transport it should be mandatory.

Nelson St Phase 3

Things move slowly in Auckland Transport and there’s no better proof than ‘Phase 3’ of the Nelson St cycleway. All the way back in 2017 Auckland Transport twice consulted on how to get the cycleway from the bottom of Nelson St to Quay St but the project went silent. Now in 2020 they’re back and consulting again on a cycleway on Market Pl. The proposal will see a cycleway added to Market Pl which will also be changed to a one-way street.

It’s about time but also leaves a lot to be desired as the project now is only for the 150m length of Market Pl and leaves the connection to Quay St for some unknown future date. It also creates the weird situation where the cycleway is a two-way cycleway on the western side of Nelson St for most of its length. It then splits in two with each direction on different sides of the road between Victoria St and Market Pl but then combines back together at Market Pl.

Consultation is open till 8 March

Henderson Road Safety

In recent years AT have started wider area scale safety improvements. Examples include at Te Atatu South and Papakura and now’s it’s the turn for Henderson North in the areas surrounding Rathgar Rd and covers six schools. Over the last few years a number of speed tables have already been added to Rathgar Rd and as a route I ride down as part of my commute I know they’ve made a difference in slowing cars down.

Consultation is open till 8 March.

Our most dangerous industry

On the topic of safety, unsurprisingly it’s been revealed that being on the roads is the most dangerous profession in the country.

New data has revealed New Zealand’s most dangerous industry to work in is Transport, Postal and Warehousing.

Worksafe is now asking for new research to figure out how to reduce workers dying on the road.

ACC research has shown many people are chronically overworked to the point it’s unsafe.

As we and many others have long said, if we took the same approach to road safety as we did with every other profession, we’d be seeing very different outcomes.

Old habits die hard

Last week the High St footpath trial was damaged by a truck but as Cam’s follow up tweet highlights, many engineers still don’t get it.

Google Maps Hack

The impact of tools like Google Maps has increasingly become noticeable with drivers increasingly using them to try and bypass traffic. But it seems it can be hacked relatively easily. There are quite a few places I can imagine this idea being useful and would be even more so if we ever see true autonomous vehicles.

Finally, something I think many of us who ride bikes will understand

Have a great weekend.

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  1. There is a silver lining in every cloud. For the first time in years I could get a train
    service direct from Papakura to Sylvia Park. More, please.

    1. Yes and some users could get from out west to Britomart direct some of the times, I think counter peak, rather than via Newmarket. It like post CRL will be.

  2. +1 Cam Perkins.
    Good to see someone working on the inside fighting the good fight and sending a good message. There are alot of us in the Council family that feel this way.

    1. The way our political establishment works means that the experts (civil servants) ride in the back of the bus while the elected officials (non-experts) who are scared of not having a job in 3 years drive. Not rocket science that you wont get the best outcomes. Politics is populist whereas expertise is specialised.

  3. Re the “Train Disruptions” this week. Is it possible for AT to text HOP users when there are major network faults/delays & suggest other choices/solutions for travel? The database of HOP surely would identify the travellers using the train services on a regular basis. Save a lot hassle getting a text.

      1. Yes getting AT Notifications and Prosbably 3x as many TransDev txts for three+ days. I could of turned the notifications off but couldn’t be bothered. They improved the legibility and details as time went on.

    1. They definitely can do that. I have a registered Hop card and got an email explaining what’s happening with Mt Eden train station during the CRL build – they could identify that I’ve used the station in the past.

    2. I was caught out in it. And I don’t have a phone. What I needed was that when I used Journey Planner on my computer before I left, that the reduced service frequency was reflected in the search result.

      I swapped to a bus for the second leg of the journey instead of the train. What would’ve been useful there – given I was going somewhere I’d never been before – was enough information available at the (rather major stop on NNR next to Mt Albert Station) for me to know where to get off – given bus stops are at fairly lengthy distances.

      1. I was caught in it, too, sand I was struck by the inaccuracy and inconsistency of in-station and on-train information.

        For instance, at Britomart on Tuesday and Wednesday the main departure screen was showing trains for “Papakura via Newmarket”, but the panel beside it said these trains were replaced by buses; and at platform level a screen said that Southern Line trains were non-stop to Otahuhu via the Eastern Line. That’s three different versions of the truth being displayed simultaneously – which one do you believe?

        On Tuesday I took a chance on the “non-stop via Eastern” scenario, but the train screens said the next station was Parnell, accompanied by the announcements about its poor access. As we left (too late for anyone wanting Parnell or other stations via Newmarket) the screen changed to show the next station as Otahuhu.

        After passing through Sylvia Park at speed, the announcement came that we were approaching Otahuhu, followed in short order by another announcement that the next station would be Middlemore (we hadn’t even reached Westfield by that stage). At Otahuhu were we told that this was Papatoetoe, change here for buses to the airport (I hope no-one followed that advice), but by Papatoetoe the system was working as it should do.

        Either AT has no way of stopping in correct information, or no-one at AT noticed: either way, it was not impressive.

  4. “One area they certainly could have done better with was that it took till about Wednesday to finally find out what happened and the scale of the fire.”

    It was known very soon after the event – it just wasn’t communicated publicly because it didn’t need to be.

  5. Improved regional bus services in the Walkato. Sorry GA wont let me post the link.There’s more if you can find it at Business Scoop Transport. Particularly interesting is the new service from Pokeno to Tuakau and Pukekohe starting later this year.

    “Improved regional transport services and free bus travel for youth and people with disabilities in Hamilton has seen patronage sky rocket on Waikato Regional Council’s BUSIT service.

    A new week day off peak service between Hamilton and Pukekohe, previously a fortnightly service, has seen patronage in January 2020 increase by 118.63 per cent compared with January 2019, and introducing free bus travel for youth and the disabled has seen patronage in urban Hamilton increase 24.84 per cent.

    Additional evening trips between Hamilton and Cambridge and Hamilton and Te Awamutu has seen patronage climb 10.83 per cent and 14.51 per cent respectively in the month of January compared to last year, while service improvements for Morrinsville has led to a 3.49 per cent increase.

    Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington says the numbers of people using BUSIT’s service has been climbing since 2016 when the council started steadily rolling out the improvements.

    “Prior to 2016 patronage was declining year on year by up to 6 per cent, but we’ve been rolling out improvements to boost passenger numbers ever since and the results speak for themselves.

    “Patronage started to grow up to 3-4 per cent year on year, and the past year has seen significant growth.”

    Overall across the network for the month of January, patronage increased 23.21 per cent for the number of unique trips compared to 7.40 per cent for the same period one year prior.

    Elsewhere, patronage on the Huntly-Hamilton service increased 27.71 per cent while patronage on the Raglan service dropped 8.54 per cent.

    “A 10 per cent increase for any bus service in New Zealand is massive, and our goal is to have a pipeline of improvements keep rolling out so we continue getting more and more people using our services.”

    “Later this year, a regular seven day week service between Pokeno, Tuakau and Pukekohe and a daily service between Tokoroa and Hamilton will begin.”

    1. So the “Beecard” is also experiencing issues along with the ongoing fiasco in Wellington. Wouldn’t it have been much simpler and cheaper to use the proven HOP card system nationwide as originally planned?

      “New Electronic Ticketing System
      The regional council has jointly procured a new ticketing system with a consortium of eight other councils in New Zealand(RITS Consortium). A contract for provision of the new system was awarded to INIT – a specialist provider of technology solutions for public transport
      systems based in Germany.
      Since the last update for committee members the project has been subject to further delays.
      The new ticketing system is live in Northland and Whanganui. During the live testing in these areas there have been issues with the performance of the website and back end payment and reconciliation systems. The ticketing project and implementation timing for the Waikato will be further discussed at the Joint Committee meeting. “

      1. The “ongoing fiasco” in Wellington has nothing to do with electronic ticketing. Snapper is one area where there have been negligible issues, and all the news has been good.

        1. You can’t use Snapper on Metlink branded rail services. That needs to be fixed. The technology is available through train crews using hand held readers to scan Snapper cards but it is currently to hard for the GWRC desk bound transport bureaucratic to work on.

        2. Of course it would be very good if Snapper were extended to train services – but it’s hard to imagine a full trainload of passengers heading to multiple exits being successfully tagged off just by hand-held readers!

          And slagging off (inaccurately and ungrammatically) GWRC staff doesn’t actually help your argument.

      2. The Hamilton/Raglan services were operated by single deck buses and replaced by a double decker bus reducing service frequencies hence the drop in ridership. The Raglan locals are not happy campers about it. I believe the WRC is looking at increasing services, as there is population growth in and around Raglan.

  6. Thought that Huntley section looked pretty finished when travelling past it a couple of weeks ago. I worry the, at least initial, travel savings with the Waikato Expressway is going to impact on the Hamilton to Auckland rail service trial.

    1. Well I drove from Ham to Akl today, around middle of the day (arrived 2:30), and it was sweet until south Akl, then I never got above 44kph till I left the m’way in the centre, much time at a standstill. So the much vaunted 35min travel time savings from Tirau to Akl are only possible around 4am…. this situation will only increase with time; seriously the rail service will come into its own, increasingly, as it improves, and as driving en-shittens further.

      As widening and duplicating (Mill Rd) creeps south and sprawl sprawls, these facts are inevitable.

      Be patient with the early version, vote for Rail investoring govts, we gonna need em.

      1. Yes agree it will get worse over time particularly south of Papakura during and until widening. The in between sections may be impacted more, say, from The Base Hamilton to Huntly.

    2. Despite the claims that the Waikato Expressway will save time, I think it will be a fallacy especially around Papakura area but also around the New Market, Waterview tunnel and accessing the Auckland central city. It there is any time saving it will be now more than 10 minutes if that unless you travel late at night or very early in the morning.

  7. I wonder if AT have done any modelling on what impact all these speed humps have on the ability of emergency vehicles to meet their expected response times, and the impact on bus patronage due to the longer journey times and reduced comfort? Or on the increased maintenance and operating costs?

    I had the misfortune to catch a bus from Henderson to the CBD that bounced it’s way around Te Atatu Sth, very slow and uncomfortable trip.

    1. Yes. If you want people to slow down why not at least try lowering the speed limit? It just seems ridiculous to have speed humps on a 50kmh road. Then maybe try enforcing the new speed limit. I imagine a speed camera costs less than a speed hump.

      1. “I imagine a speed camera costs less than a speed hump”

        It might cost less than 10 speed humps. Certainly not less than a single speed hump.

        Though I completely agree that we should be dropping speed limits before we do humps, then seeing whether physical interventions are necessary.

        1. Seems ridiculous. Just install a camera at one end of the street, another at the other, and time how long it takes them to drive that known distance. That has to cost less than digging up a road.
          Even if the speed camera costs 10x a speed hump, the revenue of a speed camera is much more than a speed hump.

        2. Skimming the surface of a road and relaying it 100mm higher vs digging a great big hole for foundations tapping into power (including dropping the voltage) and telecoms and installing a vandal proof camera and communication system. Yup, pretty much exactly 10x more per camera.

        3. @sailorboy lmao! Yes in theory a speed bump should cost all of about $300 to install but you’re forgetting that you have to have it consulted, designed, redesigned, notified, consented, have 50 million road cones, a dozen road workers standing around, traffic management plans, stop/go at each end, signage, road painting and the. The actual cost of the bump.
          Then after all that you’ve got to account for them ripping it up 6 months later because they installed it in the wrong place or they are resealing the road or replacing water pipes underneath it.
          In the meantime they are causing discomfort to bus passengers and cyclists, increasing wear and tear on all vehicles, increasing noise levels for residents and pedestrians, increasing fuel consumption and producing more CO2 emissions.

      2. Yes I was thinking this the other day. Speed humps in suburbs, yet we have 50km/hr limit sweeping corners and stupid licensing system where you can’t go below the speed limit by a certain amount for a certain amount of time or you fail. It’s very stick your eyes on the speedometer type training but then also want you to look far ahead, out for hazards & look at every mirror all the time. It’s really apparent when you are trying to teach your children how to drive knowing this doesn’t feel all that safe yet knowing they have to flipen go faster to pass!

    2. AT have made a conscious choice here to stick to the same old tools they’ve been using for road safety. Had they designed the area as a low traffic neighbourhood, you’d have your smoother, easier ride. A few speed tables could still have been used, but this number – which will of course be opposed – would not have been required.

      They’ve got their heads in the sand.

    3. I also wish AT ( and council) would look at enhancing these area with more community friendly treatments – make the place look like you should be going very slowly through because people live here and create spaces people would wish to have in their street.

  8. I came up from Hamilton on Monday and missed the new section of the expressway at Huntly and most of the orange cones seemed to been transfered to Auckland now .

    Then I got the train from Papakura to Britomart and at the Station there was nothing to say about the disruption at Newmarket . But thankfully we still have the TM on board telling us what was happening with the service , this service was a 6car train and he went through the whole train telling everyone personally what the situation was , then he on a number of occasions announced over the intercom . And AT need to check the handsets on their carriages as the one I was in did not work and he had to go to the back to use the other that did work .

    I filmed it as shown here ;-

    Looking at this what AT should do is change 1 service per hour to run this way i.e Manakau via Southern and Southern via Eastern line

    1. And Matt L missed mentioning the Eastern line being closed Wednesday morning after a vehicle hit a bridge at/around Glenn Innes .

      The AT Fb page seemed to be blaming it all on AT when everything that happened was beyond or out off their hands . And when someone said that the Box belonged to KR the bunnies could not understand that and still blamed AT .

  9. The train disruption is a joke. The whole point of having a reliable service with a good back-up is that IF these disruptions were to happen the back-up option would be able to help restore services to normal. 20 minute frequency trains into the city at peak hours in the morning is an absolute disgrace, and has been the reason I have decided to switch back to driving permanently now.

    1. Unfortunately, it’s a legacy of the decades of inaction when literally all transport funding went on roads and the rail network stagnated before being asset stripped in the 1990s. Kiwirail was still on a shoestring until the current government came along, it takes time to build up the capability to run a modern reliable train service.

      1. Time to upgrade ETCS to version that has radio comms between trains and control centre so that lineside signalling no longer required. We will need this as TPH increases beyond the ability of signal controlled line sections can deal with or limited stops/expresses are interleaved into all stopper services.

  10. With the Huntly bypass opening, has there been any talk of a road diet for the now-former SH1? By this I mean narrower traffic lanes, more pedestrian crossings, space for cycling, tree planting, hedges, etc.

    1. Any day now National will come up with the idea that we need to build resilence on the route between Auckland and Hamilton and they will propose to four lane the old SH1. Even as we talk someone is probably placing a spade somewhere along the route.

  11. All that work on Universal drive (still not finished and started in October), and still no cycle lane. There’s tonnes of room. It’s easily the worst part of my cycle commute. I’d settle for a white painted line.

  12. “Had a response from a roading engineer suggesting that we widen that corner and remove footpath to allow for bigger trucks.”

    I always keep saying, things should be designed by Urban Designers before it goes to engineer. Not the other way around.

    Unfortunately many of our transport agency are doing exactly that.

    Imagine a home design by engineers without any architects – The end result is a metal concrete jail cell which no body wants to live in.

    1. The irony being that people pay heaps for architect-designed metal/concrete box houses that looked like they were designed by engineers:)

  13. I wonder if the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway will lower the cost of ever rebuilding a passenger station at Huntly given that the road will no longer be the state highway?

  14. Not covered in the weekly roundup above is the news that the Auckland region’s first wind turbine (Awhitu) seems to be operational. There are two more turbines yet to be erected.

    The annual Sunset Coast Walk (highly recommended) takes place Sunday next weekend and I understand that tours of the turbine site (on the route of the walk) are available.

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