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Tweaking the Western Line

From Sunday April 11th there are going to be some minor changes to the timetable for the Western Line. These are explained in ARTA’s media release (which I had emailed to me but doesn’t seem to have shown up on either the MAXX website or the ARTA website):

Train timetable tweaked

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) announced today the timetable for Western Line train services will change from Sunday 11 April.

ARTA’s General Manager, Customer Services, Mark Lambert says, “Changes to the Western Line timetable are in response to a number of factors. These include the opening of ARTA’s new station at Grafton in April, completion of double tracking between Newmarket and Boston Road stations and a general tightening up of service times. Along with further improvements in service delivery in June on completion of the final section of double tracking between Avondale and New Lynn, these improvements will assist in giving greater resilience to service performance on the western line.

Mr Lambert says, “To assist with our passenger’s journey planning, we have now included an ‘arrival’ and ‘departure’ time in the timetable for Western Line services running through Newmarket. We have included this in response to customer feedback in relation to transfer times to other services at Newmarket. Customers should note most departure and arrival times at Britomart will remain unchanged.

“Most Western Line stations en route will have their times amended by a minute or two, and customers are advised to familiarise themselves with their local station’s new departure times before these changes come into effect.

Mr Lambert said, “Customers should take the time to familiarise themselves with the new timetable which is now available. For more information, or to view the train timetable, visit maxx.co.nz or call maxx on (09) 366 6400.

Looking at the new timetable, which will be operative once Grafton Station opens (just a couple of weeks away now), the main changes seem to relate to Newmarket. The first main change is that all trains now have “arrive at Newmarket” and “depart from Newmarket” times. There’s a 3 minute gap in there, which means that unless a train is already running late, it will always wait at least 3 minutes at Newmarket before continuing on its journey. To me, that seems like an utter cop-out that has been done instead of improving how quick trains get through Newmarket – through means such as having train pilots between Newmarket and Britomart, so the drivers didn’t have to change ends (which was supposedly going to happen, according Veolia and ARTA managers I have talked to).

The second major change is that the evening express train will no longer stop at Newmarket. Once again this seems like a crazily stupid decision to make. I have caught the evening express train a couple of times and TONNES of people get onto it at Newmarket.We’ve just spent tens of millions on this new station and we’re already bypassing it with one of the most popular Western Line services, stupidity. Furthermore, to just add to the confusion the AM peak express train does still stop at Newmarket, so we can expect a lot of annoyance and confusion when the PM peak passes through Newmarket without stopping to pick up the people expecting it.

Now I know that there’s a huge problem around 5.40pm at Newmarket, with about five trains converging on Newmarket at the same time. But surely the best way to fix that is to retime the trains, rather than mess with the PM express service. This seems like yet another decision made on the rail system that will put people off catching the train, and is based more about making life easier for those operating the system rather than those using the system.

Come on ARTA, haven’t you done enough already this year to put people off using the Western Line? Must you make things even worse?

12 comments to Tweaking the Western Line

  • Geoff

    The three minute stop at Newmarket is not new, it’s been included in schedules for many years, if not decades. It’s just the first time it’s shown up in a public timetable. No time has been added.

    The issue with the bypass of Newmarket won’t so much be passengers waiting to board it (they’ll have options a few minutes either side of it), but rather with people travelling from Britomart to Newmarket, having to walk back from Grafton.

  • rtc

    I don’t see the problem with a 3 minute pause at Newmarket, esp. if it has in fact it’s alwys been there. However, swapping Grafton with Newmarket for the evening express seems like a ridiculous decison, and as you say seems merely to help them manage congestion at Newmarket than providing a better service.

  • Matt L

    I think the whole thing is a complete cop out to make the punculity figures look better and all they are really doing is shifting the goal posts rather than actually addressing the problems. It isn’t going to make the trains get to or from town quicker but rather just give them more time to get there. In a month or so when the performance results are released this will probably result in figures back in the 80’s or 90’s and ARTA will say how wonderful it is they have resolved the issues but the reality is nothing will have changed.

    I think they would be better focusing on fixing things that delay trains like slow TM’s. This morning on the express we had one who would hold up the train for an extra min or so at each station to walk back down the carriage and make an announcement that it was an express train , he would then have to walk back again to close the doors before we could leave. One announcement at New Lynn would have been enough

    On a more positive note there is a story this morning in the herald saying they are going to use relay drivers during peak times, if that is the case then why still give a 3 min stop?

  • Yes good news about the relay drivers. About time too I might add!

  • If there are tonnes of people getting on at Newmarket at the pm peak for western destinations, a South to West service would work quite well I think.

  • Jeremy Harris

    A campaign for a trial perhaps Cam..?

  • GOP

    I think that the 3 minutes thing … apart from “cosmetically” improve the punctuality of the services also makes for a more reliable information … however, I’d ask for the same to be on EVERY “node” (like New Lynn, Henderson, Britomart, Westfield, Middlemore, etc … on every station that has linked bus or train services.

    About the western line express I honestly think that it is a great plan as the intent of that service is to move people quickly to the west and having it stopping at Newmarket and NOT at Grafton adds to the time unnecessarily. It is true that people’s habits will have to adjust but the easternmost entrance to the Grafton station is not that far away.

  • GOP

    Too quick to post … I now read the timetable and it actually doesn’t make any sense about the express and Grafton. It doesn’t stop there in the morning but it does in the evening!
    I’d prefer stop at Grafton at both times but could live with Newmarket … having it swap in the day will be confusing!

  • Kegan

    @Matt L
    So you would prefer that they keep the current fictional timetable rather than changing it to some achievable and (hopefully) reliable?

  • max

    Public transport tends to have some extra time built in to catch up delays, so I have no problem with a 3min stop at Newmarket. Punctuality on the bad days is more important (at least until we get 10min frequencies) than a few minutes longer travel on those days when everything goes well.

  • Matt L

    Kegan – The trains can keep to the current schedule (it has even happend this year) The reason they are delayed has not normally been due to Newmarket but other factors like trains breaking down, points failures or more commonly things like slow TM’s or stupid use of rescources etc (got plenty of good examples for these). Looking at some of the trains I usally catch the timetable hasn’t moved much (if at all) so that tells me that these times can be met.

    My understanding of why the evening express isn’t stopping at Newmarket the same as Josh’s, that is there are to many trains going through the junction at the same time causing delays. This could be solved by moving the schedules of the conflicting trains rather than what has happened.

    Cam & Jeremy – Please no. Lets just get the services we have reliable, the timetables built in a way that allows for easy transfers and or increased frequency on the lines to remove the long wait between trains rather than adding south/west services. It seems confusing enough for passengers as it is with express trains without adding more special services into the mix. Lets keep things simple. (I used to change trains when I worked in Ellerslie and did the walk through Newmarket, even then I would have rathered the transfer than having to time my schedule for a special service)

  • Christopher Thompson

    As a regular user of Western line services I’m not agin a west-south service in the future when there are proper, ie real time, platform PIDs. Anecdotally, there are a lot of people who work in the east but live in the west and if there was some way in which that market could be tapped and satisfied then all well and good. I mean, at most railway stations around the world one encounters multiple destinations from one platform, but there has to be accurate and timely passenger information, something, it seems, ARTA/Veolia are currently unable to provide. I noticed today at Grafton that the PIDs are disappointingly marked something along the lines of timetable time, so nothing new there.

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