I’ve criticised Auckland Transport in the past for having so many items on their closed agenda. For example this was from their meeting on Tuesday:
Items for Approval / Decision
i. Rail Deep Dive
ii. Pitt Street Lease Expiry
iii. Relocation and Disposal of AMETI Property
iv. Investment Framework
v. Draft Election Policy
Items for noting
i. RLTP/LTP Update
ii. Internal Management Audit
iii. Health and Safety – May Report
iv. CRL Update
v. AMETI Communications & Engagement StrategyUpdate
vi. Glen Innes Tamaki Cycleway
I still stand by that criticism however I also have noticed that AT have been pro-actively releasing papers from the closed sessions after they are no longer considered confidential. This is a good thing and I think more council and government agencies should take this approach.
One of the papers that has been released from the April meeting is a fascinating comparison of a wide range of metrics between the Auckland and Wellington rail networks. The authors note that it can be very difficult to do a proper comparison due to issues like
- the length, layout and topography of the two networks
- how the services are operated
- the differences in the age and types of rolling stock
- the maturity of the Wellington network vs the rapid change being experienced by the Auckland network.
As such it is far from a complete comparison but does provide some useful bits of information about the two networks.
First up is a comparison of some key statistics.
The metrics show that Wellington rail commuters are generally travelling a lot longer than those who use trains in Auckland (23.7km per trips in Wellington vs 13.7km in Auckland). On a cost basis Wellington commuters also pay more however that reverses when you compare the average fares to the average distance travelled. On a per KM basis users in Wellington pay about 15c per km compared to 21c per km in Auckland.
Perhaps the most important difference is the operational costs. On a per km basis the difference will be even far more pronounced however we don’t have the number of service km’s that were run to do that comparison properly. Further on the report does break down the operational costs further though.
There are a number of significant differences between the two cities. Some of these are explained as:
- Fuel costs are obviously a lot higher in Auckland due to running diesel trains. The diesel cost was $3.86 per service km compared with an equivalent energy consumption of $1.22 per service km in Wellington. These should come much closer together once electric trains are rolled out across Auckland.
- Labour costs are considerably higher in Auckland. The authors aren’t able to give a definitive answer for this but suggest a combination of factors might be at play.
- The mixed fleet meaning Auckland had two separate driver rosters (Loco drivers and DMU drivers) combined with now former situation where some drivers were hired from Kiwirail at a premium rate (it changed in January this year). This is also thought to have led to an increase in driver training costs.
- Slower trains which means increased trip times for services and therefore more crew hours are needed.
- Auckland’s costs include all of those incurred by Transdev whereas it is suspected that in Wellington some support roles and corporate overheads are effectively absorbed by Kiwirail.
- Different fare collection staffing models. They note that it wouldn’t be possible to replicate Wellington’s fare collection model without potentially a lot more staff and/or fare leakage.
- Station expenditure is higher in Auckland. Britomart alone costs about $3.5 million per year to run and all stations in Auckland have more extensive use of CCTV and security patrols.
- Higher rolling stock maintenance costs due to the aging diesel fleet including approximately $5.7 million to Kiwirail for facilities, management overheads and hiring the diesel locomotives. The cost per km to service Auckland’s trains is $7.32 per service km vs 2.71 per service km in Wellington. The Auckland costs are expected drop significantly after electrification.
The one area Auckland does seem to exceed in is with the customer satisfaction scores which are significantly higher than those in Wellington. I suspect there’s a heap of reasons behind this and perhaps one is Aucklander’s are more accepting of crappy infrastructure/services as we don’t have the history of high quality to look back on.
All up a fairly fascinating report and while Auckland doesn’t look good in many of the metrics the good news is that improvement are on the way. The Auckland network should move much closer to that of Wellington from an expenditure point of view in coming years as the electric trains are rolled out and the savings they provide. That is likely to also be influenced by the re-tendering of the rail services which I suspect will attract a number of bidders from international rail operators as well as Kiwirail.
Transdev is hoping to secure a longer contract from 2016 following the transition to electrification, although Scott expects to face competition. Auckland Transport is asking prospective operators to attend a market sounding event on July 2 where it is seeking interest for the city’s passenger rail services for mid-2016