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Rail Punctuality improving

The herald today picked up on an important trend that’s been happening without trains in recent months, much improved on time performance.

Becoming ruthless with their whistles and no longer waiting for last-minute “runners” at railway stations has helped Auckland train crews to achieve record punctuality.

Although his trains still have some way to go to catch up with buses and ferries for time-keeping, Transdev managing director Terry Scott is delighted that 91.7 per cent of the rail company’s services hit their destinations within five minutes of scheduled arrival times in January.

That was the first time they exceeded 90 per cent, setting the stage for more improvements once electric trains start running between Britomart and Onehunga in two months, with far greater acceleration and braking power than the existing diesels.

Transdev’s client Auckland Transport is also relieved after struggling to see figures rising above 80 per cent in the long years of trying to keep the city’s elderly trains running to schedule during track upgrades.

“If we can do that with 60-year-old trains, imagine what we can do with the EMUs [electric trains],” says the council body’s chairman, Lester Levy, of the latest result.

It’s great to see that the clunky of diesel trains are more reliable and that’s something that the current management team can be rightly given credit for. Of course¬†in the past there have been all sorts of excuses as to why it wasn’t being achieved so¬†now that it’s been done it does beg the question of why it’s taken so long to get above 90%. As Lester says, if this is possible with our current trains then what can we expect with brand new electric trains.

One of the reasons likely behind the improved performance is that the quality of the rail network has improved. The major physical works have been completed and the new signalling system has now been in place for a few years so is bedded in. As an example, in the 12 months to March 2012 there were a massive 454 signal faults on the Auckland network, by comparison from January 2013 to October 2013 there were only 84

Here’s the last 18 months or so of performance history.

Rail network performance

I also have much greater confidence in the rail punctuality stats than I do the bus ones the herald notes which are based on when the bus starts it’s run and are self-reported by the operators.

Let’s hope the rail figures can continue above 90 for some many months to come.

20 comments to Rail Punctuality improving

  • Jennifer Ward

    Congratulations to Terry Scott and the team. Keep up the good work.

  • Fred

    Bus punctuality better than trains? Sorry just about fell off my chair reading that.

    • bbc

      Likewise, but it’s just the same old NZ Herald reporting that attempts to portray trains at expensive follies that can’t even achieve the same reliability as buses….it’s an intentional ‘mistake’.

      • Fred

        That’s Auckland Transport’s fault for continuing to publish 99.9% bullshit reliability & punctuality stats.

        • Tamaki

          I wonder if the train stats are much better. I catch the eastern line a lot and above 90% sounds optimistic. Does anyone audit these results?

        • George D

          Of all the things that AT do, this one upsets me the most – because even the most car-consumed can comprehend that 99.9% bears very little resemblance to reality.

  • alphabeta

    Punctual to within five minutes is still a big window, IMO. Five additional minutes when your train ride is only 20 minutes long is a 25% longer trip than the possible minimum. I’d like a continuous measurement; the distribution of arrivals relative to the schedule. Do the trains in Auckland have RTI?

  • Greg N

    One of the reasons quoted by Terry Scott for better reliability is no longer holding up trains for late passengers at the station.

    So if you’re late – even if you’re running for it – you miss the train. Fair enough, too,
    The schedule is there for a reason, and as was pointed out, holding up the train for 1 person who is late is unfair for the other 300 who are on time.

    Once we get proper turn up an go scheduling it won’t be such a drama to miss a train.

  • Neil

    No wonder they hit 90% in January, the weren’t running for much of the time!

    • Stu Donovan

      90% = 9/10 trains = 90/100 trains = 900/1,000 trains.
      i.e. the amount of time trains were operating does not affect the result.

      Amazing but true. Ratios are way cool.

      • lefty

        But the standard deviation decreases by the square-root of the denominator. Thus, 10 trains has 10 times the standard deviation as 1,000 trains. Anomalies (such as a higher result than the average as experienced here) will therefore be larger, so the up-tick is more likely (due to fewer trains) due to chance than it would be otherwise. Ofcourse, the relative n’s here are important – it’s nowhere near 100 fold, but should still be considered.

        Further, the change from Jan to Dec is also large due to Dec being lower than the 6-monthly average. A 6 or 12 month moving average trend would be interesting.

        Thus, great that it’s over 90%, but let’s not cheer too quickly, as Feb may well regress towards the mean.

  • Dom

    it would be interesting to know how on-time is defined? I have a feeling it is within 5 minutes on the scheduled arrival time. So once per week your train being 5 minutes late.

  • Richard

    I don’t know how they do it in Auckland, but in the UK (a couple of years back) whether a train was on time or not was measured at the final stop. To juke the stats the train companies wrote time tables that allowed plenty of time between the second to last and last stop to catch up. Airlines do it too.

  • Lance

    I’m dubious about these results. I see them plastered up in the trains all the time and scratch my head… In the past two weeks I’ve been on board 3 broken down trains. Not to mention when they are late/held up. As an experiment I took the bus instead from Takanini to Britomart during December through to two weeks ago.

    During School Holidays the bus is light years ahead of the train service, in terms of reliabilty and punctuality. Outside of that Buses win big time in terms of reliability, but punctuality becomes a problem. All in all the train service is marginally better when school is in when traveling to Britomart from Takanini. In all othertimes the train service is terrible….

    But of couse Takanini is the blind spot for everyone in Auckland as a train station should be built at Southgate (ie where all of the commercial development and residents are).

    Hopefully the EMU’s will change all of this though….

  • Barney

    My bus (Birkenhead Transport 955) is always on time as it takes twice the length of time to get anywhere. A lot of the journey is spent waiting at some depressing suburban wasteland to let the timetable catch up with the bus. It can be up to 10 minutes wait.

  • Davidm

    On the Pukekohe schedule, the time has increased by another 2 minutes per journey between Pukekohe and Papakura, so they can keep to there time tables. i have noticed that the train doors close well before the scheduled time of departure so the train can leave right on the scheduled second if not earlier than the scheduled leave time quite often.

    The next train is then 40minutes later in the morning ( 7:34 train to 8:14 train) which is a long time to wait. The trains now park / sit around at Papakura for a couple of minutes before they head off on the rest of the route, which they never use to do.

    I have not yet seen the trains at britomart close there doors before the scheduled leave time and pull out on the scheduled second or before the leave time.

    Currently the train journeys are taking 22mins per journey longer that the old express train service which were discontinued. That is 3.5 hours extra a week in journey times.

    • Luke C

      If you only have 1 track in each direction, can either have express trains or higher frequency. Ie if trains running every 10 minutes the Pukekohe Express would quickly catch up to the one in front of it. That is why expresses were withdrawn.
      Just a pity at the moment Pukekohe has not had the advantage of high frequency trains yet, but I’m sure they will in a year or 2.

  • Bryan

    My own experience is that the services I catch are very consistent for on-time performance – the 4:38 from Britomart is almost always 4 minutes late into Ranui (which doesn’t worry me), and the 7:10 and 7:25 from Ranui are usually 4-5 minutes late into Britomart (again, doesn’t worry me).

  • Jon Reeves

    Wow. I must be the person who catches the 1% of buses which either do not turn up or turn up 13 minutes late.

    Glad I trust the bus companies reporting systems.

  • Sailor Boy

    That bus stat is hilarious, I went up to catch the 880 the other day and it was 34 minutes late, not even 30% through a route that is meant to take an hour.

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