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Rail network shutdown to begin

Today is the last day this year you can catch a train in Auckland with the two network shut for Christmas tomorrow and then into the note annual Christmas shutdown. The full rail network will be closed till January 5th with partial closures depending on the line from then onwards.

The eastern line north of Westfield will suffer the most this year by being shut completely all the way through till January 20th. This is a bit of a change from the last few years where the western and southern lines have been the ones most affected. It’s also with noting that while the other lines return return earlier, they will be running on a reduced timetable. The details are below

Train services in Auckland will be replaced with rail buses over the Christmas-New Year period as preparation work steps-up ahead of the launch of Auckland’s electric trains.

Over the holidays the lines will be closed so vital work can be done to get the rail network ready for Auckland’s new state of the art trains. This work includes electrification preparations on the lines between Newmarket and Britomart; various platform extensions needed for the longer new trains; work at Ellerslie needed because of motorway widening being undertaken by NZTA; finishing touches on the new Panmure Transport Interchange and general maintenance work on the network.

Up to Tuesday 24 December 2013

Evening rail network closure between Otahuhu and Manukau/Papakura/Pukekohe. Buses will replace trains.

Christmas Day

No train or rail-bus services.

Thursday 26 December to Sunday 5 January 2014

Rail replacement buses will operate across the rail network.

Monday 6 January to Sunday 12 January 2014

There will be a partial shutdown with buses replacing trains.

The Western Line will be closed between Newmarket and Britomart, shuttle buses will operate between Grafton and Britomart.

The Southern and Onehunga Lines will be closed between Newmarket and Britomart with shuttle buses operating.

The Eastern and Manukau Lines will be closed between Sylvia Park and Britomart. All Eastern Line train services will be diverted to/from Newmarket. A train service will operate between Manukau and Sylvia Park. Bus replacements will operate between Otahuhu and Britomart via the Eastern Line.

Monday 13 January to Sunday 19 January 2014

The Western, Southern and Onehunga Lines will be open with a special timetable.

The Eastern and Manukau Lines will be closed between Sylvia Park and Britomart. All Eastern Line train services will be diverted to/from Britomart via Newmarket. A train service will operate between Manukau and Sylvia Park. Bus replacements will be used between Otahuhu and Britomart via the Eastern Line.

Monday 20 January 2014

Full train services resume on all lines.

Saturday, 25 January to Monday, 27 January 2014 (Anniversary Weekend)

Buses replace all trains

From Tuesday, 28 January 2014 until further notice

Monday to Friday from 9pm all Eastern/Manukau Line services will be diverted via Newmarket – Bus replacements between Britomart-Otahuhu via Eastern Line.

Once the trains are back up and running we should see the wires finally extended into Britomart and with the eastern line shutdown a substantial amount of the wiring up on that section too.

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The other interesting thing is that after Auckland anniversary weekend we will be seeing the eastern line closed earlier at nights, again so that the writes can be installed.

Rail users in Auckland have been putting up with network shutdowns for years now. I can’t remember the last time the network wasn’t shut at Christmas. As a result of them – and other the shutdowns throughout the years – we are getting a substantially upgraded rail network which will soon be running modern electric trains. Something that seemed impossible 10-15 years ago.

However while we have accepted the shutdowns up until now. My big concern is that Kiwirail have become too accustomed to them and that after the upgrades have been completed we will continue to see large shutdowns occurring for network maintenance. Kiwirail need to be moving towards  maintaining the network like other overseas cities do by doing that work at night, not closing the network every long weekend and Christmas/New Year. It is something I’ll be keeping a close eye on going forward.

21 comments to Rail network shutdown to begin

  • Steve D

    Well, hopefully we’ll go from having long shutdowns for electrification to having long shutdowns for City Rail Link work. The Western line in particular will need serious changes…

    • Connecting the western line to the CRL should be able to be managed to avoid too much disruption. It will have to be as by then the city will be so relying on the heavy lifting that the new electric network will be doing as the core of the Rapid Transit Network.

      Anyway I’ll personally piggy-back people round the works if that’ll help: there’s a disruption worth suffering!

  • Hopefully the CRL shutdowns will only apply to the sections of the network that is being affectected. The electric wiring project has had to happen all across the network so the shutdowns has been more disruptive.

  • Anthony McBride

    I am very annoyed that Wellington’s Hutt Line is also shutting down until the 3rd of January…I was going to use them to tour around on Boxing Day.

    • lcmortensen

      They’re resignalling Petone and the Melling branch – Petone signal box with its 1950s relay interlocking is closing and all the signalling is moving to the National Train Control Centre in central Wellington.

  • Waspman

    I seriously don’t think KiwiRail want full closures either as its bad for revenue but the combo of electrification and the hangover of privatisation and how incredibly run down the network was, is the reason.

    Having said that AT really need to look at dedicated track crews and maintenance machinery for Auckland’s metro network to ensure track faults and other issues are sorted as soon as they are identified thereby negating the need for these big closures. Otherwise they are reliant on KiwiRail and when they can get on to it and remember they had to lay track workers off a couple of years back to save money.

    And the way things are going in the Auckland Council at the moment with Len Brown and the infighting from his opponents how safe is the CRL? They have already missed some kind of deadline with a vote been defeated this week as a result

  • Simon C

    Yes, Matt, since there’s a large increase in track fees being charged by Kiwirail it is very important that AT get their money’s worth and that should mean trains at any time of the year including Xmas and most of January so I certainly hope this blog will keep an eye on Kiwirail and up the ante if need be. I’ll be very annoyed if AT just cave in and are passive around this issue though at a fairly recent council transport committee meeting before the local body elections when kiwirail staff were doing a presentation on the electrification project progess Mike Lee was very vocal in telling the KR staff that he expected this year would be the last big shutdown which brought a surprised look to the faces of the KR staff who hadn’t seen that comment coming from the committee chair!

    One bouquet for AT is that they are still running a service between Manukau & Sylvia Park from early January whereas in the past they would’ve just shut down the whole thing for the whole time.

  • Eric D

    What happens to the freight during these shutdowns?
    Speaking from Northland where I see a basic conflict between the needs of Auckland commuter transport and the North Auckland freight line.
    And the Auckland port traffic for that matter.

    In Northland we are on the wrong side of the agglomeration argument.

    • Hi Eric you have our sympathies.

      It is clear that if the NAL had been maintained properly and the extension to the Marsden port carried out as planned then the freight volumes on this route would have been maintained and its needs would have to have been met in the recent upgrade of the western line, especially with the provision for a third line through the New Lynn trench, and earlier at least four tracks through Newmarket. As it is the revival of passenger rail within Auckland, with insufficient care taken to future proof for freight [Look at what they've just built at Panmure- a criminally short term outcome], is indeed coming at the cost of the NAL. Which sadly suits some just fine. Like the MP for Helensville who would love to rip it up and replace it with recreational cycleways…. Because so many in government only look backwards and also have a childishly lineal view of history and progress they conclude that rail freight is in terminal decline and has no use compared to trucking. Furthermore they are determined to use a tax on the driving public to fund the extremely expensive construction of long distance trucking routes to make it so…. I don’t have a good answer. An inland port for Marsden west of Swanson in the new western industrial area like Tauranga’s metro port, could that be viable? Of course we need a better Ports strategy first too.

      More views?

      • Luke E

        How feasible would a new branch for freight from Kaukapakapa, north of Helensville, down to the edge of Albany be? That would avoid potential future conflicts with passenger services to Helensville (if that ever restarted), and it would save widening tunnels around Kumeu. The land to the north there is fairly flat, so it shouldn’t be much if an issue to build a double tracked line, right? Then a new inland port somewhere like Dairy Flat could serve the north of Auckland, and would have good motorway links to the City and the West (and make decent use of the silly SH 1 to 18 ramps).

        Just a thought.

  • Luke C

    Think there is one Northland train that goes through the Western Line during the day. Will be difficult to make it through with 10 minute peak frequencies, especially at Newmarket. However not sure this is a biggie. Whangarei too close for rail line to compete in highly time sensitive products, however plenty of export products available, and they aren’t really in much of a hurry. Could still survive fine if need 7am to 7pm curfew for freights.
    As for Kaukapakapa branch Hellensvile would need to grow significantly for any trains to be viable, and by a factor of 10-20 before started interfering with freights.
    Somewhere around Huapai would work well for a inland port for Northport to serve the Auckland region, but most freight could wait until the evening to make it through the urban area.

    • Yes one each way during the day, and another each way at night currently. I’m not sure if ten minute frequencies are that much of a problem, especially beyond Newmarket. A freight would just have to slot in between services within an eight minute window, then maintain a speed of about 35km/h until it had cleared the suburban network.

    • Mike

      Nick R – since NAL freights follow both the Western and Southern lines, they would have to fit within two separate eight-minute windows, a rather more difficult problem (particularly for down (southbound) trains, which would have to fit into both up and down Southern service patterns). That’s basically the reason for the Avondale-Southdown designation still existing, to avoid these difficult-to-avoid problems at Newmarket.

      Simon C – trains ran between Manukau and Sylvia Park during last year’s shutdown, running wrong line northbound when I travelled. (All electronic passenger information on the train and platforms said that the train was continuing to Britomart – hope that that glitch is fixed for this year).

      Eric D – freights (and the Northern Explorer), being few and far between, often run through blocks of line, with just suburban trains affected.

      Luke C/Luke E – let’s reopen the original NAL to the Waitemata at Riverhead! (And no, can’t see it ever happening).

      • Bryce P

        The NAL went to Riverhead?

        • Mike

          Bryce P: The Kaipara-Riverhead Railway opened Helensville South-Riverhead in 1875; Kumeu-Riverhead closed in 1881, a few days after the Auckland-Henderson stretch of the NAL line was extended to Kumeu. The Riverhead line followed Old Railway Road (amazingly!).

          • Luke E

            Fascinating; you learn something new every day! For some reason though I don’t think Riverhead’s residents would want a reintroduction of freight services… Maybe passenger services though? One day in the very distant future perhaps.

            Just to clarify, I was thinking of a Dairy Flat port as complimentary to an expanded Northport, in a situation where Auckland’s port was shut/shifted away from the CBD. Obviously there’s no need for it in the current situation.

  • With the increased speed, service frequency, and weight (they’ll be heavier than the diesels, no?) of the EMUs, would it even be safe to not be carrying out ongoing maintenance? Surely KR cannot be under the illusion at the highest levels that they’ll be able to get away with maintenance every few months when they can shut down the whole network for a long weekend?

    • Mike

      KR have 150 years’ experience of track maintenance and 90 years of overhead line maintenance (25 years with AC), so I think that they may have some idea of what they’re doing. Blocks of line are international best practice for major rebuilds, and in no way do they replace regular maintenance, which will of course continue.

      Haven’t checked, but I’d be surprised if the electrics MUs were heavier than diesels.

  • Dan C

    Why do they shut down the rail network on the day that nzta says ” is one of our busiest times of the year – the time when Aucklanders traditionally head north and south for their holidays and the city’s Christmas sales start”

    Imagine the southern motorway with if all the silvia park traffic was on trains.

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