Last Friday, Auckland Transport announced a raft of upcoming changes to public transport services, primarily in a bid to save $10 million as a result of the Council’s emergency budget. But sometimes budgetary pressures can be a positive thing if it makes you address long standing issues and that seems to be at least some of what’s happening here.

Auckland Transport (AT) is regrettably changing some public transport services across Auckland in response to Auckland Council’s emergency budget and customer demand.

The reworked budget requires a $10m cost reduction in public transport operating expenditure compared to the pre-COVID budget.

Mark Lambert, AT’s Executive General Manager of Integrated Networks, says by making changes to existing services and unfortunately deferring some improvements, AT will achieve the necessary savings and support Council’s budget reductions.

This will mean being able to make much-needed improvements to areas where there is increased customer demand for services, without the need for additional public funding.

Mr Lambert says AT looked at services which have been in place for some time but where patronage was low – in some cases as few as 3 customers per day.

In other areas, such as the rural north and south, patronage is low on some bus routes – but communities have limited other public transport options so these have been kept.

Across the network, less than 0.5% of passengers will be affected by the changes, with the vast majority having good alternatives. This is not taking into account the people who will benefit from service improvements.

A full list of all the changes coming can be found here.

Cutting services is never great but as hinted at, there are also some positive changes coming too and so overall things balance out somewhat. AT say they’re focused the changes on services where they duplicate existing all-day services and therefore there are already good alternative options.

This is highlighted in what is likely the biggest headline change, the removal of ferries to Stanley Bay ferry service in return for more services to Hobsonville Point.

Ferry service resources will be reallocated from the Stanley Bay service, which will cease on Christmas Eve, to the Hobsonville Point service from late January 2021. This will allow much-needed investment in the ferry service network, while recognising that Stanley Bay has low patronage and Hobsonville demand is growing significantly, often leaving customers behind.

AT understands this will be disappointing for Stanley Bay ferry users, but recognises that alternative options exist. With limited availability of vessels and budget constraints, it allows AT to meet growing demand at Hobsonville Point. This will increase overall use of the ferry network, without increasing Council and central government public subsidy expenditure.

Two new additional services each morning and afternoon will be added to the Hobsonville ferry.

The Stanley Bay ferry terminal is less than 2km from the Devonport terminal. That’s a fairly easy bike or bus ride to a service that runs with more frequency and all day. What’s more, with ferry fares now integrated, it makes the bus free.

There is of course still AT’s subsidised taxi service though AT are said to have some upcoming consultation around this and these local routes.

The addition of more services to Hobsonville Point are very much welcomed by residents in that fast growing suburb. As AT mention, those services were already often leaving people behind.

Most of the changes are to bus routes though. These changes primarily means the removal of some peak only services that were largely hangovers from before the new network where AT were too afraid to remove them, probably in response to some feedback at the time. Like with the ferries, things aren’t all clear cut here either.

For example, in the west there are three routes, the 151X, the 171X and the 172X that weave through the back of Glen Eden, Langholm and Titirangi before getting to New Lynn and then running express to town. The latter two of these are just an express version to the city of an all-day route that normally terminates at New Lynn for people to transfer to a train or the 18 frequent service. By no longer sending those buses all the way to the city, AT say they’ll be able to run some more trips on the regular route. For the 151X it will become the 151 and just do the Glen Eden to New Lynn leg of the route.

The current network map. The 151X, 171X and 172X will change

Likewise the New North and Sandringham Rd express services, the 221X, 223X, 243X and 248X, are all being cut but there will be more regular all-day, all-stop services. This means that for some parts of these routes there will now actually be more services available for people to catch.

Other services being impacted by changes of some description include: NX2, 50A, 95G, 97V, 114, 313, 355, 378, 728, 729, 774, 842, 890, 987

One positive change will be the splitting up of the existing 380 in preparation for the opening of the upgraded Puhinui station. The existing Onehunga to Airport section will have a small change to it and be renamed the 38. The Airport to Manukau section will be called the Airport Link with AT saying:

  • A new bus service, the Airport Link, will begin operating between Manukau Bus Station and Auckland International Airport with a full fleet of electric buses.
  • Will run via Papatoetoe, until Puhinui station is open in May 2021 every 15 minutes from 4:35am to 12:15am, 7 days a week.
  • From May 2021, the Airport Link will run between the Airport and Manukau via Puhinui every 10 minutes from 4:30am to 12:40am, 7 days a week.

I like that they’re making it clear now about how the service will change and increase in frequency once Puhinui is complete

Most of these changes come into effect in late January.

There are no changes to train services, after all they’ve already been cut while the rail network is repaired, but AT have delayed the introduction of the 15 new trains that we’re getting.

Overall the changes appear fairly neutral which is surprising given they’re had to cut $10 million from the budget.

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  1. Morena, does anyone know where I can get info on the changes (longer journey time) that’s coming for the eastern train line? I had heard that the journey from Manukau will be over 50 minutes.

      1. It’s all to avoid timetable changes being made every few weeks as they fix each section here there and everywhere. I can see the sense in that but they are having new timetables for each time frame anyway, so maybe it’s just so easier, oh and I guess as Southern & Eastern combine it’s whole route for now bar the Manukau spur, you get a 10 min frequency. Freight would have to fit into this also so perhaps it’s near impossible to run reliably with our current signaling system etc any faster.

        1. I could understand if it were something more trivial. However, at the moment every southern and eastern line passenger is sitting there crawling along at 40kmh between Westfield and Britomart for no other reason than Kiwirail’s timetabling team is finding putting together timetables a bit hard.

        2. If it’s not then then I assume the 40kmh speed limit will stay on well past February, it would certainly be odd to increase it if it’s not fixed.

    1. It’s in the journey planner.

      It applies until the new year or when all the tracks are relaid whichever is earlier

  2. There were plans for a direct bus between Manukau and Onehunga after the 380 is changed to run to Puhinui Station. This would travel via Papatoetoe Station and Buckland Road. Has this being dropped. This would leave Carruth Road and St George Street without a service.

    1. The RPTP calls it “non-discretionary”, so hopefully its omission was an error. It’s slated to operate every 15 min for the whole service span, sop it’s a significant loss if it is indeed a loss.

  3. I’m actually surprised that the cuts weren’t more severe, particularly in the area of peak-hour services on main isthmus routes. Loads on route 27 have been pretty hard hit by Covid, and in particular there are often parades of completely empty Three Kings-terminating 27T buses trundling up Symonds Street at peak hours, directly shadowing half-full 27H or 27W services. By cutting some of the 27Ts there would be virtually no impact on passenger convenience, and these buses could be “liberated” for use on other routes. Flattening out the peak service offerings and reallocating resources would in my view be one of the most positive outcomes for PT in Auckland.

    1. That could soon change if we go to level 1 in Auckland. A lot of students and office workers staying at home from these areas I can imagine.

      I think the big savings are actually coming from delaying the otherwise planned increase in train services not able to be used for a while with the track repairs and perhaps COVID-19 dampening.

      1. Even before Covid the 27Ts in particular were very empty. There are lots of people now who are not working full weeks in the city, but coming in only two or three days, continuing to work at home the rest of the time, management having discovered that productivity was better that way. And there are a lot of job losses and businesses closed if you look around. And the foreign students who used to top up many of the isthmus bus routes are not here, and are unlikely to return for a couple of years. Yes, traffic will eventually recover, but not any time soon, in my view.

  4. Discontinuing those express buses is the right thing to do. All three routes stop at New Lynn where there is a very easy connection to the Western Line from there. Allowing more services on the local routes will actually connect more people, more frequently.

    Also with so few people using the airport for travel at this point there is no reason why the 380 couldn’t have been split up sooner.

  5. Two questions on AT Local:

    1) Why is it necessary to consult on the removal of a trial service?

    2) Given results the trial has recorded so far, wouldn’t a minimum statistically valid consultation represent about ten times as many people who have actually used the service to date?

    1. It’s necessary to consult so that they can say they consulted on the change(s); thereby avoiding any complaints that they failed to consult.
      Because someone would complain.

  6. I looked at most of all these changes yesterday. Quite interesting what has been cut.

    About 3 small little loops services or ones that have a loop for example:
    Arkles Bay (under Whangaparaoa) Loop which is probably pretty much useless being only 6 services a day every 2hrs, sometimes 3hrs M-F only.
    Another tiny little loop, the 890 from the Albany Station also axed.
    Extra loop around Herald Island (“Removing the 114 from Herald Island will reduce the time it takes to travel between Whenuapai and Hobsonville Point by 5 to 10 minutes, and therefore provide a better experience for people travelling between these two suburbs.”)

    Other services I had noticed pretty under used as they is not much point to them with congestion during the AMETI works: “Removing 728 and 729 express bus services between Howick Village, Lloyd Elsmore Park and Panmure Station.”

    Other ones are like dropping the peak 95G & 97V are just short runners of other routes.
    Couple of other routes are the opposite & getting extended to cover new suburb developments. Like the 378 to cover the Karaka Lakes one & 355 to cover Donegal Park south of Flat Bush.
    The 774 change just drops the end of it’s route, a 500m section of Crossfield Rd in Glendowie.

    Good to see all the electric buses starting to kick in and those airport/Puhinui related changes are great. Just spiting the 380 up in itself means there should be more reliability, let alone the extra bus priority & avoiding the Papatoetoe dog leg. The way finding should be a lot easier too with the current 380 being slightly confusing when boarding at the airport as to which direction it’s going (same number, colour & both say “Airport” as part of the cycling display).

    1. Another change announced on 14th Sept (not sure if covered before) is the (trial) route 714 between Bucklands Beach and Half Moon Bay Marina will be discontinued from Sunday 11 October. A new school bus route will be introduced to cover most of this old route.

      1. Uh no, I think you are thinking of the central ones Dan.

        The western ones will be running from out west and terminating in New Lynn.

  7. I’m confused about the delaying if the new trains into service. I[ve already seen about 5 of the second batch out in service. Do they mean the others that have since arrived?

    1. They have been testing them then some are actually in service but that would mean other older ones are not getting used at present. The point is some extra trains are sitting around and not getting run. This would be saving on running costs that they had budgeted for previously. Remember that pre COVID-19 and track repairs etc that at peak there wasn’t enough to run 6 car sets on all runs at peak times.

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