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Independent RWC transport report released

Auckland Transport have just in the last hour or so released the independent report into what went wrong on opening night of the Rugby World Cup. The report was prepared by Chris Moore of Meredith Connell and is a fairly extensive document at 48 pages.

Here’s the executive summary:

┬áIt’s worth noting a number of points here, but in particular I did find myself chuckling about the point that if Britomart was a through-station it would have far more operational flexibility. An excellent point.

Further detail on what went wrong is provided throughout the rest of the report, much of which seems to have simply been the result of vast overcrowding on the rail network. The report makes some quite sensible conclusions: While this leads to the obvious question of “would things have been completely different if we’d known so many people would turn up?” the fact that the event was on a Friday, you had both a match and a huge event downtown, makes this issue somewhat questionable as well: I think generally this report seems to back up the two fundamental reasons for the problems that I identified a week or so ago:

  • ATEED didn’t communicate correctly to Auckland Transport the increase in expected numbers to the downtown area. Even though both ATEED and Auckland Transport had (independently it would seem?) both initiated contingency plans before the day, they still seemed to be operating on a “it probably won’t be that big” mindset.
  • The system, even with the best planning possible (which didn’t happen) would have struggled with the numbers of people on that Friday. Combining getting 60,000 people to Eden Park, 200,000 people into downtown and a Friday (with its own commuter and school demands) was probably too much for even the best drilled system possible to cope with. This is largely due to our historic under-investment in public transport.

I have only really glanced over the report so it would be useful to see what others think of it.

21 comments to Independent RWC transport report released

  • obi

    So a report of a single person on the tracks at Greenlane led to slowed trains, which led to overheating and distress, which led to emergency stops, which led to a complete breakdown of the system. That isn’t a resilient architecture and a CBD tunnel wouldn’t have done much to improve the situation.

    On the other hand, I didn’t see any reference to the busway in the exec summary. Were there any problems? If not, then it was stressed to the maximum (assuming it was running at 500-600% of normal capacity like the buses mentioned) and came through with flying colours.

    • Important to remember, despite the failings that rail did move a huge number of people that day and night so if other modes ran smoothly much of the credit for that can go to the capacity freed up by the rail network

      • Yes good point Patrick. What’s also interesting to point out is that while the PT system did fall over, on that Friday it carried 414,380 trips – which is simply massive for Auckland. http://www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/about-us/board-members/Documents/AT-Agenda-Item-7-CE-Report-with-attachment-1-28Sept11.pdf

        • Matt

          That’s nearly 10% of an average month from last year, no? Crazy! So very glad I was on a plane to Europe that evening, or I’d probably have been tempted to try and get a train into town to watch the fireworks.

          On the down-side of the trip, I’m now horribly spoiled from four days around Vienna and time in Berlin, Frankfurt and Paris. Our PT is truly, truly awful by comparison, and horribly expensive when one considers that a non-discounted all-services pass for urban Vienna is EUR49 for a month.

        • Matt L

          Interestingly that’s about the average number of passengers per day that the system will have to be able to handle to meet the mayors goal of 150m trips per year by 2021 as 414k * 365 = 151m. of course that includes things like weekends and days like Christmas so in reality the system will need to be able to regularly handle even more than that. It goes to show that we have a lot of work to do yet to get our system up to speed.

          • Matt

            Yes, there is a lot of work, but those trips will be spread across the city, across the day and modes, not focussed on two points (Viaduct/Britomart and Eden Park) through the afternoon and evening. The system could cope now, if the load was spread across modes and the entire day, it just wouldn’t be comfortable for passengers.

    • Matt

      Actually, a tunnel would’ve meant that Britomart-originating match trains didn’t have to pass through Newmarket and would thus have been unaffected by slow trains on another line. So, yes, it would have made a difference. Would also have allowed direct services from Eastern to Western without, again, the need to pass through Newmarket. That’s very significant operational flexibility – and a big increase in potential passenger counts – against the present situation of Eastern trains having to stop at Britomart or, at the least, change direction at the tunnel and go down through (the speed limit-impacted) Newmarket.

  • Matt

    If National are serious in their belief that NZ could tilt at hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the CRL is not optional. The Games organisers won’t look favourably on a report into transport chaos at our biggest-ever sporting event that says that the CRL would’ve made a difference if the CRL will not be open before the Games commence.

    Rail to the airport would, similarly, be nearly essential if we’re to avoid a repeat of the arrival of Tonga’s rugby team where, according to phone-ins I heard on the radio, it took people 45-plus minutes just to navigate the airport parking lot.

    Not holding my breath that Joyce will see sense (or that he’ll be subjected to some corrective “training” with a clue-by-four), but one can dream, right?

    • obi

      “If National are serious in their belief that NZ could tilt at hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games”

      I hope we don’t. I don’t see the point of the Commonwealth Games. Why compete against a subset of countries where the only thing they have in common is that they were all British colonies at one stage? It’s an idea that is dated. And was probably dated in 1950.

      • Ari

        [sarcasm] Why have any competition anywhere at all? Sport is a pointless waste of money and resources. Let’s all just sit at home and sit on facebook. [/sarcasm]

    • Matt + Obi yes it seems the only way we can get investment in AK infrastructure is if there is a big sporting event coming…. so while I couldn’t care less about the Com. Games, bring ‘em on I say. The most likely way to get the CRL and Airport Line.

      • Matt

        Second-most likely, after a change of government to Labour with a significant Greens coalition. If we get that, we’ll get the CRL with or without the Games.
        If, however, the current bunch of evidence-free clowns are returned in November we’d better pray for a serious bid for the Games because it’s the only way we’ll get the CRL before Josh’s latest familial addition starts university.

  • Graeme

    I think this is really important, and overlooked:

    - Why did the carriages overheat?

    Did the operators deliberately turn the heat up?

    I have heard stories of passenger vehicles doing that to keep passengers subdued.

    I rode an empty carriage at 2:30 that afternoon. It was incredibly hot inside.

    At the time I thought it was just one broken carriage system. Now, with all the reports from so many trains I am starting to wonder if it was no accident.

    • Matt

      Most of them have barely-functional a/c at the best of times.

      • The Trickster

        Guess that’s what happens when you keep recycling old crap.

        • Graeme

          I am sure you are right about the maintenance.

          Whatever the reason, people were locked inside carriages and cooked at 30+ degrees for an hour until they started fainting and clawing the doors open.

          That is not an exaggeration. The fainting from heat exhaustion actually happened. The report barely mentions it and offers no solution for the next time there are stoppages on the tracks.

          Shouldn’t there be a health and safety investigation?

          Can Veolia make sure overheating can’t happen again?

          Sorry for going on about it. I sound like a nutter :)

          But I am taking 3 small kids to the next Santa parade and I would like Veolia to take our safety seriously.

  • Matt L

    I think there are a few issues to address when it comes to the aircon.
    1. No matter how good the aircon, the system will struggle to cope with hundreds of people crammed in for a long period of time.
    2. The SA sets (the loco hauled ones) have their house power, the power for the lights and aircon etc, supplied by a generator behind the driving cab of the SD car. My understanding is the generator isn’t stong enough to properly power the aircon on 6 car sets. To get around this in summer in normal loading conditions the train manager will often lock off a few carriages during the off peak but leave the aircon on to cool it down. At peak time it is opened up again and over the course of the run it warms up but in general it is fine. If the trains had been having heavy loading for much of the day like suggested then there wouldn’t have been the opportunity to let the carriages on these longer trains cool down. This is very little anyone could have done to solve this with the current rolling stock we have.

    • Graeme

      Matt, appreciate your comments.

      You are referring to summer time cooling right?

      In this case the units were on “Heat” mode. It was winter and quite cool after the sun went down.

      I am adamant, crowded as they were, the bodies in the carriages did not cause the heat build up.

      I know that because at 2.30 that afternoon, my early trip home was almost empty but overpoweringly hot.

      The thermostats in the carriages were set too high. Either accidentally or due to a fault or some other reason.

      And this became a problem when passengers were left overpacked and sealed up for over an hour.

      It is a safety issue. When things start to go pear shaped, you can’t just leave people sealed up in carriages.

      They were passing out from heat exhaustion. Health and safety inspectors should be reviewing operating procedures. Veolia should tell us what they will do to avoid it in the future eg monitor temperatures.

      Sorry to rant on :) To me, people passing out from heat exhaustion is one of the worst things that happened that night.

      • Bryce

        That’s what happens when the only real rolling stock investment over the past 20 years is refurbing really old stock. Kinda like putting lipstick on a pig.
        Hopefully the new EMU’s will have modern HVAC units that can be easily, remotely controlled.

      • Matt L

        I doubt the units were seat to heat mode, more likely the train had just done a run that was fairly full and the carriage hadn’t had time to cool down. You would be surprised at how quickly they can heat up with people in them, I have been on trains where it was absolutely freezing when I get on at Britomart and with a full load it can start to get uncomfortable by about Mt Eden, and thats not in summer either. I think you underestimate how much heat a person puts off and in the sorts of cramped conditions that were reported that night things would have become toasty very quickly and as I said with those sorts of numbers I don’t think any aircon system would have coped.

        I also can’t really see what they could do in that situation to cool the carriages down, opening the doors is a safety issue as there is a risk people might get pushed out of them. The only real thing would be to hold trains at platforms where the doors could be opened until the way forward is clear but that would reduce the overall capacity of the system by slowing it down further and be an operational nightmare.

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