We’ve questioned before whether Auckland Transport have bought enough electric trains. This has been prompted by repeated experiences of myself and others of packed trains at some times of the day. At the peak of the peak this is not unexpected but at that time services are also normally run by 6-car trains. The concern has been around services just outside of the peak where only 3-car sets are run.
We are also aware that there are still a few more new trains yet to come into service which can be used to lengthen existing trains and hopefully increase frequencies on the Western Line.
Yet with the extremely strong growth in train use that Auckland is experiencing any extra capacity we have will quickly be used up. It seems that AT’s solution to this is simply hope the level of growth starts to fall.
AT Metro general manager Mark Lambert said if the slowdown in growth did not fall to near the 5 percent forecast in 2017/18, the agency would consider options.
“If there’s crowding and either we can’t afford to, or there’s a long lead-in time for additional trains, an option could be, for example, to reduce fares either side of the really congested peak period to encourage people to take the less patronised services”, said Mr Lambert.
Mr Lambert said it was too soon to consider whether occasional crowding during the peak was a problem, as additional trains were still to be added, and teething troubles with new technology can disrupt travel patterns.
The agency’s decision-making is locked into forecasts made by a planning model agreed with the Government, called APT3, which would share the cost of any extra trains.
It said so far, the growth was in line with APT3, and if the existing fleet could cope until the opening of the City Rail Link in the early-mid 2020s, that downtown loop would boost the capacity of the rail network by allowing trains to circulate more frequently.
That’s quite an extraordinary statement really for an organisation that should be doing everything it can to boost growth and of course plays right into the hands of the government and Ministry of Transport who have said something similar as a justification for not starting the CRL earlier than 2020.
We expect to see continued strong rail patronage growth until around 2017/18, as the full electric train fleet comes into service and the new bus network is rolled out. From 2017/18, we expect the rate of patronage growth to slow.
The thing I do agree with though is the suggestion that AT should be looking to ideas like cheaper off peak fares to try and spread the peak out. But that is something that should be being done anyway rather than waiting till trains are full.
Another solution I heard suggested was to run some shorter running services on the western line to pick up people in the inner west. This would be a very poor way for AT to treat long suffering western line passengers in my opinion.
In another story it also seems that AT are looking in to whether they could add batteries to some trains to allow them to travel to and from Pukekohe without actually installing wires. If feasible this seems like it has the potential to be a good solution to get electrics’ to Pukekohe sooner.
Auckland Transport general manager Mark Lambert said he was in talks with the electric train manufacturer to see if whether could put enhanced battery technology into the existing trains, so they could get to Pukekohe.
The main issue with it would be that AT have said in the past that to extend electrics to Puke they would need at least two additional trains – possibly more. Without buying more trains that means trains would have to be pulled from current services which won’t do anything to help the crowding issues.
In the please no discussion about adding extra carriages, we’ve seen that a lot already.