With us on the verge of finally having electric trains running around the network it’s worth remembering just how far we’ve come. Back in 1992 Auckland was reaching its lowest point ever after decades of neglect and was down to carrying only about 1 million trips a year and only heading in one direction In fact I believe there had already been suggestions of ripping out the tracks and putting roads in their place. At the same time Perth had just electrified their rail system and wanted to get rid of their old diesel trains that were no longer being used. Through some hard work and good luck (more on that story in a future post) Auckland managed to buy the trains to run on our network.
Darren Davis – who now works for AT – was advocating for PT improvements at the time and wrote this article about the upcoming introduction of these trains which helps to highlight just how far we’ve come.
A couple of the key things that stand out to me are:
- All of the stations had to have their platforms raised substantially to the height they are today – trains were definitely not for anyone who couldn’t climb up steps easily.
- Some stations had no platforms at all and others had platforms moved.
- There was talk about the need for integrated ticketing.
- That the DMU’s were about 20% more efficient than the old locomotive hauled trains they replaced and that was one of the primary reasons for buying them. Remember EMU operating costs are about half again.
- There was talk back then of a spur line to Manukau.
- There were no weekend or evening trains.
- Britomart was just a dream and plans for a casino at the old Auckland Railway Station and nearby land could have prevented it from ever happening.
And what was the result of all of this? Within a few years patronage had doubled back over 2 million trips a year. It was finally Britomart that saw patronage growth take off but I doubt we would have built the station if it hadn’t been for the increases in patronage seen from the buying of these trains. In effect they saved the rail network in Auckland and ended up kicking off a series of upgrades that have seen us substantially upgrade and improve the network to where it is today.