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An electric network, one year on

It seems like only yesterday and at the same time forever ago that Auckland finally rolled out electric trains across the region (except for Pukekohe). Yesterday marked one full year since electric trains rolled out to all lines. Electrification was the result of a strategy a decade in the making but the originated in dreams and discussion going back to at least the 1920’s.

Coming to the western line soon

Since going all electric the results have been fantastic and the constant increases in train use have been both impressive and staggering. In the last year alone patronage has gone up by 2.9 million trips and AT say that over the last 12 months just under 17 million trips have been made, an increase of over 20%. The sparks effect in action. The growth has been so strong that we’ve surpassed usage predictions originally set a decade earlier despite implementation occurring two years after initially planned. Those predictions expected us to hit about 15.7 million by the end of the June 2016 (rounded up to 16m). Instead we surpassed that mark in April and as of 30 June hit 16.8 million trips in one year.

2016-06 - Rail Patronage

Shortly after all services went electric, the final of the 57 trains we ordered arrived in the country but it definitely won’t be the last. With growth exceeding expectations and a lot more expected, even before the CRL is complete, we’ll soon need some more.

AT are also keen to having electric trains run all the way to Pukekohe but doing isn’t cheap and estimated at over $100 million just for the infrastructure. As such, AT have been working with supplier of the trains to investigate the option of battery powered versions. As I understand it they would be exactly the same trains as we have with about 10 fewer seats in the middle/trailer car which is where the four-tonne battery along with associated equipment would go. By being otherwise identical it means that in the future if we ever did install wires the batteries could be removed and the trains would be identical to what we already have. As the services would go all the way through to the city, buying a batch of them would then free up some of the current trains to add capacity to services. One of the biggest issues is that even if the government approved funding for the trains tomorrow they would take at least two years to get here.

Below are some figures from AT.

  • Patronage has risen by 2.9 million trips
  • Trains have travelled 3.8 million kilometres over the last year
  • There are now 158,000 rail services operated a year
  • The busiest time on the network is between 7.30 and 8 on weekday mornings
  • Britomart is the busiest station and at peak in the morning there are 6,500 passengers using the station an hour
  • Punctuality for services has improved from 82 to 96 percent – although some of that is due to lengthened timetables
  • For the year to April (the last data available at the time of writing), farebox recovery has increased from 30.4% to 37.7%. The cost per passenger km travelled has decreased 27% from $0.469 to $0.343.

But while there has been some great news as a result of the move to electrification, we still haven’t yet seen much in the way of speed improvements and the train timetables are slower today than they were with diesel trains. This has been due to a combination of factors including dwell times, line speeds, signalling issues etc. Last year Auckland Transport started working on a big list of initiatives to improve the trains including making them faster and more reliable. Some of those tasks have been completed and are contributing to the improved performance figures but others, such as improving dwell times remain a distant dream.

I understand the next timetable change, which is likely to be in February, will finally incorporate the benefits from some of the initiatives into improving performance. Whether that will include any changes to dwell times remains to be seen.

EMU + Rail improvement action plan 1 - Jun - Sep

Overall the improvements to rail services and the network have been considerable and very welcome. AT’s target for this year is for rail patronage to hit 19.5 million trips. With the growth we’re seeing and what can be expected in the next few years following integrated fares and the new network we should see that mark easily reached.

124 comments to An electric network, one year on

  • Jeff T

    Just one year? It’s been such needed infrastructure it seems like part of the furniture. The CRL will add to that.

  • ‘Since going all electric the results have been fantastic and the constant increases in train use have been both impressive and staggering’

    And entirely expected. Which makes the anaemic pax predictions in the CRL business case all the more baffling.

    Capacity constraints at peak, and at Britomart because of the works, will likely slow this growth in the years ahead, but that will simply lead to a constantly growing latent demand likely to make the post CRL numbers even more impressive.

    Can it really not be delivered any earlier than 2023?

    FYI TfL’s new station design guide: http://www.londonreconnections.com/2015/the-dna-of-a-london-underground-station/

  • John

    Only in NZ: brand new trains that are slower than the old ones. What a pathetic joke.

    • David B

      On the other hand I think it makes sense to get these new trains as reliable as possible before trying to get the maximum speed out of them. That gives a much more solid base from which to build incremental speed improvements, which is what they are now looking at.

      96% punctuality is outstanding so be happy!

    • James C

      The trains themselves are faster – plenty faster. It’s the timetable that is slower, and not by much, and not for much longer. Maintaining high reliability is much more important than a few minutes here and there in the long run. The key with getting those few minutes is to do it without losing the reliability. As it stands, there are big chunks of time in reserve on most trips that need only to be bumped up to a round figure before they can be built back into the timetable. Then you get your speed and a capacity boost.

      • Simon

        Reliability is important but it isn’t the be all and end all. Speed is factor in choosing to use the train as much as reliability is. In a lot of cases more so.

    • JBM

      I still don’t understand why the Auckland trains are limited to 110kmh as a maximum speed (even in the foreseeable future). I got told that the rail lines in Auckland are too old and they weave around too much for trains to get up to full speed. Yet in Perth, which also had old rail lines which weaved around (eg: the Fremantle line), the trains were allowed to go at 130kmh.

      • Trundler

        Where you can get upto 110km/h between stations, you only stay at that speed for a couple of seconds before having to start decelerating, so higher speed is of no real use and the gearing might compromise acceleration rates. The trains can be upgraded to 130km/h which might be useful to Pukekohe, but again possibly not if intermediate stations are built.

        If we ran express services, there might be an argument for 130km/h.

        PS: Some of the curves on western line are only good for 50km/h. You really wouldn’t want to go round them at 130km/h, even if they were in Perth.

        • JBM

          You’re right of course regarding the tight curves and safe speeds; especially on the western line. I guess running express services is the answer. Yet I am told that it is impossible to do so in Auckland as we only have 2 tracks per line. We needed a 3rd track. Yet (and I’m sorry to bring it up again) Perth’s joondalup line has 2 track lines and they had express services starting in the mid 1990s from memory. Are our tracks so completely ancient that it would be unsafe to have trains speeding along at up to 130kmh?

          • Jezza

            I don’t know Perth that well but looking at this there are no express services, just some that don’t run all the way. It’s not possible to run expresses with train 10 mins apart as the expresses catch up with the all-stops services.

          • James C

            It’s not really a matter of ancientness, just a choice that’s made along with many other technical choices about what is worth paying for and what is not. Maintaining and certifying sections of track to run at 130km/h is significantly more expensive than the 90, 100 and 110km/h line speeds we have in Auckland, and considering, as mentioned above, that it would all be for just a few seconds running at the top speed, it’s just not worth it. The only places that see 110km/h on the Auckland network are about a 30 second stretch between Papakura and Takanini, about 20 seconds between Manurewa and Homai, and about 5 seconds between Papatoetoe and Middlemore. It’s hard enough to keep those locations free of temporary speed restrictions as it is! PS – rumour has it, one of the early trains was tested at 142km/h, so they could easily do it if the need arose.

          • JBM

            Yeah I’m out of the loop as well. I haven’t been back in Perth for a while. The Joondalup line seems to have stopped it’s express services this year. However, the other lines have various express services. It appears to be a combination of express services to a certain station and then all-stops to another destination. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Perth_railway_stopping_patterns It was certainly a joy to ride on back in my day. Perhaps Auckland could run some experiments over summer (in preparation for Mad March). Perhaps something along the lines of All stops from Papakura to Middlemore and then express straight to Britomart (southern line). All stops from Henderson to New Lynn and then express to Britomart (western line). All stops to Panmure and then express to Manukau (eastern line). Try out various combinations that doesn’t throw all the other services out of time.

          • So I found this which goes along with what you were saying, it looks like they have two patterns, which means some stations only have 20 min frequencies, while others (presumably busier) have ten minute frequencies. It looks like to don’t have too many stops in a row as express to make sure trains don’t catch up with each other.

            http://www.transperth.wa.gov.au/timetablepdfs/Midland%20Line%2020160131.pdf

            In Wellington they run what you have described – a train leaves Waikanae and goes all stops to Porirua and then runs express from there, while another train leaves Porirua soon after and runs all stops to town. However, these trains only run every 20 mins, it would not be possible to run this pattern every 10 mins. This would be an issue in Auckland as the 10 minute turn up and go frequency is a key plank in the new network.

            They used to have these patterns in Auckland too, but they disappeared one the frequencies were increased.

  • jjay

    Surely some of the dwell time issue is to do with safety concerns ? Having been trapped in train doors with my baby in her pram on the other side because the guard failed to notice us getting off and shut the doors on me (pre-electric days) I am always mindful of the getting out/into the train as fast as possible. In terms of passenger end too, having spent a lot of my life travelling on PT with a vision impaired person and small people I am mindful that the hit the button when it is lit up green to open the doors causes issues for some people and that can delay things a little too – case in point guy inside the train the other day pushing button (train stopped button not lit) guard saw him made some comment in passing but did not help him the guy was obviously trying to get off but could not and the train left with the guy still on it and guard said basically oh well you have to get off at the next stop won’t you. I think in practical sense in terms of getting people on/off efficiently (from what can be dealt with on a passenger behaviour end anyway) then a bit of work around the lit-up button thing would be helpful. But in terms of dwell times I would expect you are always going to have to allow a safe enough margin for those that are not as fast to safely get on/off. Other aspects in terms of train practicalities might be able to be addressed. Though of course the more people using trains the longer dwell times will be from a getting people on/off perspective.

    • Jeff T

      Yep but dwell times are less on many operations around the world so it can be done without compromising safety.

      I can’t believe unions have such a presence in this operation. Weren’t inefficiencies one of the reasons the railways were downsized in the ’80s? We don’t want to go back to those days. Lose the TM’s I say. I thought Transdev had international operating experience?

      • James C

        If it’s all the TM’s fault, then how do Wellington trains manage 20 second lower dwell times with train managers operating under the same rules as Auckland?

        • Dave B (Wellington)

          No retracting door-steps for starters. And less delay I believe between when the TM presses the door-close button and the closure sequence actually starts. Matangi doors beep as they start to close, rather than before closure, thereby delaying it.
          During quiet periods when there are not many passengers, wheels-stop to wheels-start time can be as little as 15 sec!

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            But we still have issues in Wellington with drivers approaching platform stopping-points VERY conservatively, and creeping slowly to a halt. This does not count as dwell-time but certainly adds to overall trip time. Following a couple of buffer-stop collisions on the Melling Branch, drivers seem to have got more cautious. The real reason behind these collisions has never fully been revealed, so it may be that this caution is unnecessary. However no driver wants to push things and risk getting his butt kicked.

            As an aside, we are also experiencing cases where timetables for the new trains are slower than the old. For decades Wellington-Johnsonville was timetabled at 21 minutes (24 minutes counter-peak). Now it is 23 minutes (28 minutes counter-peak). However this was seen as an acceptable trade-off for greater reliability which now sits in the high 90’s%. But the 60-year old English Electric units generally seemed to manage the faster timings ok! In this respect we have gone backwards.

          • James C

            Correct, Dave. There is an array of built in delays in the AM control system that defy resolution for (so far) mysterious reasons. Some have been tweaked, others not yet. I would love to know why and when. The fastest off-peak dwell time I’ve observed on an AM was 24 seconds. Not much door-open time in that case and no passengers, so a fairly irrelevant figure.

          • gks

            The increase in counter-peak J’ville line timings is largely due to increased frequency rather than the change in rolling stock. The Wadestown Loop is not really ideally located operationally, so the decision was made to delay counter-peak services to allow a clockface 4tph service in the peak direction (an improvement on the previous uneven 13/13/26 min peak service).
            The more frequent service has increased J’ville line passenger numbers.

        • Waspman

          Re dwell times. If I recall correctly the train stops, the driver gives door release and then the trains computers goes through self checking that it is safely stopped, 5 seconds, then passengers self operate the doors, indefinite time, doors closed after passengers on/off, time dependent on loading, doors closed a few seconds, train self checks all doors closed, 5 seconds, then the driver gets the power to move. The old trains doors were controlled by the driver who gave release then the train manager. But clearly AT would like to do away with them or that was the idea but someone has to ensure everything is safe before leaving so the TM remains. And by running this system it is slower and it comes with time penalties but it is safer for sure. So either use the old less safe system or the dwells remain!

          • James C

            Yeah, that’s about right. It takes about two seconds for the train to cross-check and confirm that it truly has stopped. Apparently none of the usual sensors are sufficiently fool-proof on their own. The driver holds the door release button down until this relay latches and the doors unlock. From wheels stopped until doors fully open is around 10 seconds. The closing period was the same, but is a bit less on most units now. The whole process is more or less 20 second plus door-open time. I hope/suspect that half of that 20 seconds can be disappeared by the next timetable shrink, but it will take someone authorising a compromise that could have ramifications if something goes wrong. Who wants to put their name at the bottom of that order?

      • Ian

        Lose the TMs and presumably the unions as well? I’d rather lose the Jeff T’s of this world.

        • Stuart Donovan

          I disagree. The Unions and TMs bullied AT into this position.

          The long dwell time are *not* about safety. They are a TM make-work scheme devised by the Unions solely for the benefit of their members. One which costs Auckland rail users a whole lot of lost time, reduces rail patronage (arguably making it harder to justify further investment), and costing rate-payers and tax-payers a bundle of extra money.

          Nothing personal, but I look forward to the day the TMs aren’t required; we should not be in this position in the first place.

          • James C

            You’re dreaming. The bulk of the excess dwell time is purely a technical matter. The difference between a TM operated system and a driver operated one is only about 3 seconds.

          • Stuart Donovan

            Nope. Systems without TMs achieve much faster dwell times. Melbourne being the prime local example, where 20-25 second dwell times are common-place at all but the busiest stations. There’s many systems overseas to pick from. Singapore, Copenhagen etc, which achieve dwell times faster that are faster than Auckland’s and faster than any TM operated system.

            Auckland is also significantly slower even than other TM operated systems, such as Brisbane. I suspect the latter is faster because the system was designed to have TMs from the outset. In contrast, Auckland’s EMUs were apparently designed to be operated without TMs, but the latter was added at the last minute, hence why Auckland’s systems are particularly slow.

            All in all the TMs on Auckland’s rail services are a cock-up of massive proportions, and I look forward to the day when they’re gone burger.

            Again nothing personal; they’re just an incredibly inefficient way to operate rail services.

          • Bigted

            Sorry Stuart I have to agree with James on this one, the dwell issues on the Auckland network are nothing to do with the TM and everything to do with ATs choice of trains. The driver does have to option to force open all the doors instead of just give a release but then even if no one uses the doors on the middle car the ramps still have to deploy and retract slowing the process.

          • “All in all the TMs on Auckland’s rail services are a cock-up of massive proportions”

            Hey, remember when each train had several staff members, then they got rid of all but one of them and suddenly we had security issues that required security staff to be contracted at greater cost than the former train staff? Now that was the cock-up of massive proportions.

            The weird thing is, the voices calling for removal of rail staff are often the same voices calling for transit police. I regard the argument as disingenuous, and rooted in a dislike of the fact that New Zealand stuck with the old tried and tested system long after most first world networks abandoned theirs. The security issues that have appeared in Auckland appeared in those other countries decades ago, but not here. Not until they dumped the onboard staff.

            Wellington still has onboard staff, and their security issues are still under control. Proof is in the pudding.

            The 20-25 dwell time in Melbourne is not achievable here due to reasons that have nothing to do with the TM’s. It takes 20 seconds from the time the train stops to when the ramp is extended, then at least another 20 seconds until it begins to retract, as you have to allow users enough time to get their prams and wheelchairs over it before it retracts.

          • Ian

            There are too many stations and with the current timetable what hope is there for ever running express services? Cheap shots at onboard staff and the RMTU are way wide of the mark.

      • Waspman

        It’s about safety Jeff. Why union bash, that tired old millionaires chestnut has really advanced mankind, not! Drivers have enough to do when leaving a stop, Signal’s what’s going on in front, what the train is doing without watching TVs in the cab also. TMs have probably saved more lives by their vigilance that most passengers could ever know.

        • Dave B (Wellington)

          But many urban railways the world over do not have train managers! Let’s keep the perspective.

          • Bigted

            Most urban railways throughout the world have far better/safer infrastructure than we could ever hope for in Auckland too.

          • Dave B (Wellington)

            Bigted
            Not quite sure what you mean here. Apart from the relatively few situations that have platform screen-doors, you simply get on or off the train at a platform when the train doors open, same as in Auckland or Wellington.
            What “better/safer infrastructure” are you referring to, that “most urban railways throughout the world have”?

          • Bigted

            Start with the state of the rail corridor, rails and platforms. Most proper metro rail networks around the world have manned and gated stations that make it safer due to only rail patrons are on the stations.
            I’m sure even you could add to the list.

          • Mike (the longstanding one)

            Bigted: could you provide some evidence that gated stations make a railway safer?

            But your over-generalize from a mistaken starting point. Auckland’s railway is a suburban general-purpose one with a future inner-city section: it’s not a metro, which are passenger-only railways generally (if not always) segregated from mainline railways (think London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Rome, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Frankfurt, Boston, Munich, Hamburg, Montreal, Toronto, Glasgow, Milan etc etc); and many such metros in Europe, and suburban ralways elsewhere, aren’t fully (or even largely) gated.

            So what “far better/safer infrastucture” are you thinking of? To me, Auckland seems very similar to other suburban railways around the world, and with 100% new or upgraded rail corridor, rails, platforms and signalling (inc. ETCS) making it safer than most.

          • Bruce

            Mike (TLSO) By their very nature fare evaders are breaking the law so if they break the law in that instance they are far more likely to break the law in other ways (damage to property, anti-social behaviour, theft etc). Do we want safe railways that people are comfortable using or do we want one where free-loaders a) take up space on the train, and b) cause damage/act in anti-social manner?

          • Nick R

            Aucklands urban rail is already better equipped and run than much of the networks across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, they are more extensive and have city rail tunnels for the most part, but the trains and stations are quite bad actually, and have poor service frequencies at most suburban stations.

            Auckland is also better equipped than most of the S Bahn systems in Germany (although not as good on frequency and span), not to mention legacy urban rail systems in the states. Many of those are old and crumbly..

          • Mike (the longstanding one)

            Bruce, I don’t know whether there’s a link between fare evasion and overall passenger safety – have you any evidence on that? And gating is just one (fairly expensive) way of reducing evasion.

            Bigted, very interested in the “far better/safer infrastructure” that apparently exists elsewhere – could you enlighten us?

  • 01anthony

    Yep, speed and dwell time improvements would be great to see from AT as a ‘see we’re still improving things’ gesture. Painted markings on the platforms for middle cars (with bike/push chair markings) would be great. Drivers not crawling at a turtle’s pace into stations (not sure if it’s the driver or signaling).

    I still think the timetables can be re-structured to allow quicker transfer times between the southern/western/eastern lines.

    • James C

      Crawling along platforms is usually a result of the ETCS rules regarding proximity to level crossings. It is always worst on downhill platforms approaching a red or recently red signal with a pedestrian or level crossing behind it. one of the parameters that makes this so obvious is likely to be reduced or removed in due course, so the crawl will probably become a much less frequent occurrence. Other times it will be a matter of the drive taking caution or waiting for a signal further up the line to clear to a more favourable aspect for the run to the next platform.

  • Alex B.

    Anyone got any timeline to when Parnell will be operational? Its just sad how that station has been sitting idle without used for a year now. Plus it will help ease constrait in Britomart during the built as many passengers will use this station instead.

    • James C

      When Sarawia St level crossing is gone/bridged. Might be next year.

      • Grant

        Is the closing of the crossing actually necessary for technical reasons, or are they just not wanting to loose time on the timetable? Surely it could be opened earlier, that crossing could really drag out like most projects it seems.

        • James C

          I suspect that the newmarket to Britomart time we have now will remain the same when Parnell opens. There’s loads of leeway on that section now. Waiting for the crossing to close is due to the series of critical features along that stretch. Newmarket junction, a diamond crossover, a level crossing, a tunnel a platform and then two bridges. Stopping a loaded passenger train over a level crossing, in a tunnel or on a bridge is generally a no-no, and avoided wherever possible. That’s why trains often sit inexplicably at Newmarket for two minutes longer than they’re scheduled to (and also why some are allowed to leave early) – that’s how long it takes to clear the crossing and tunnel. If trains stop at Parnell, there’s nowhere to put another train between there and Newmarket without risking one of the no-no scenarios. Not dispatching that train in the first place makes the two minute gap into a five minute gap – disaster for the timetable. Get rid of the level crossing and suddenly you have space for another train between Newmarket and Parnell. Coming the other way it may also enable faster crossovers to be fitted before the junction, which would get things flowing more smoothly/swiftly.

  • Sailor Boy

    Can they at least change the doors to allow people to ‘pre order’ them. That way they at least open as soon as possible.

    • Bruce

      Good idea Sailor Boy…. Surprised this isn’t standard. Actually I’m just surprised they don’t have automatic doors like most modern urban train systems have. Get people on and off as quick as possible. Provides some fresh air into the train too if they all open.

    • Rob Mayo

      Door pre-order doesnt save any time at all. The EMU still goes through a hard-coded 4-second safety verification sequence on wheel stop.

      • Nick R

        So you are saying the doors should be opening exactly four seconds after the wheels stop?

        And does it really take four seconds for the system to check itself, surely that sort of thing is almost instantaneous?

      • Sailor Boy

        It may not save time, but not being able to pre-order them is as annoying as can be. I don’t want to have to stand there staring at the button when I could just press it as soon as I stand up and it will open.

      • Simon

        That’s not true Rob. Pre order saves the time between the order being available and the order being made – at the worst door for the dwell, which admittedly may not be the worst for order delay.

        The major reason for requiring pressing a door opening button is to save electricity on air conditioning. I can’t imagine this being a significant saving in Auckland.

        I’m told European system generally have doors commencing opening before the carriage is completely stopped, which will save some time.

        • Bruce

          Air Conditioning shouldn’t be a problem in Auckland as it doesn’t get that cold here in winter (and trains tend to have plenty of heat from braking and body heat) and in Summer it doesn’t get too hot… and on those few hot humid days the air conditioner would probably be overwhelmed during peak services anyway so open the doors and let some heat out and fresh air in.

          As for the 4 seconds from wheel stop to door open… what is that about? Highly unnecessary! Only time I have seen that overseas is on intercity trains that don’t stop very often and which are crowded full so you can see why they would do that.
          So in Auckland pre-ordering/automatic doors + no pause once stopped would save about 1 minute on each journey.

          • Bryan

            There might only be a few frosty evenings/mornings each year, and a few really hot days (actually, a lot more out west than elsewhere), but not having every door open each time the train stops makes life much more comfortable for those inside the train. I speak from experience…

          • Simon

            That’s my point Bruce. There’s not much reason to have selective door opening. They don’t have it in Sydney generally.

      • Bevan

        Door pre-ordering would definitely save time! If you press the button when you stand up to pre-order, then when the system allows the doors to open, they will open immediately. As opposed to the system saying ok, turning the buttons green, then the pax having to press the button after a half second if they’re onto it, or perhaps a few seconds if they’re not quite sure what’s going on. All these delays add up and are quite frustrating.

  • mfwic

    With patronage increasing it might be time to order a few more units.

  • Trundler

    Does anybody know if the proposed BEMUs for Pukekohe will be able to accelerate at same rate as the EMUs off the wire and what their max speed off the wire will be?

    • Bigted

      DMUs will be on the Puke run for a long time yet.

      • mfwic

        I agree. I will probably never make any sense to electrify and fitting batteries to trains makes no more sense than fitting a diesel engine. So expect the DMUs as a permanent solution. The good thing about DMUs is it would be very easy to extend the service south of Pukekohe.

        • Except with batteries they just take out a few seats for the space and nothing else changes, with diesel they have to work out where to put and deal with the generator which means redesigning the trains. Plan is that the Puke trains could then run all the way through to Britomart but under wires north of Papakura and recharge batteries while doing so. Battery trains could also be extended past Puke which is another reason they’re being considered

          • Mike (the longstanding one)

            I find it a bit difficult to believe that nothing else would have to change with the addition of some significant battery capacity – at the very least the extra weight would surely require changes to the suspension, plus perhaps a redistribution of equipment within or between the cars.

            Similarly, performance would be reduced by the extra weight unless there were changes to the motors to retain the same power/weight ratio.

          • James C

            The battery weight amounts to just 2.5% of the weight of a full train. It’s not really a great burden to lug around. The enormous power surplus of the AM traction system is heavily suppressed under most conditions, being managed by the traction control computers on the fly to maintain a standard performance level regardless of loading. Only when the trains get seriously full is the performance noticeably affected. Chucking a 4 tonne battery into the T-car is going to make no discernable difference to performance.

        • A recent OIA request to KiwiRail basically confirmed that battery trains capable of a Pukekohe run are not likely within the foreseeable future. It’s really just a PR exercise to downplay the complaints about changing trains. Just like Light Rail is a PR exercise to downplay the dumping of heavy rail to the airport and North Shore, when buses are the true intention.

          • Nick R

            Could you provide a link to that OIA request, i’d be very interested to see it. I don’t agree with you that LRT is a smokescreen, AT is investing a lot of time and effort into planning and design of LRT and are pushing hard to get it happening quickly. The simple fact is AT want to build more rail and soon but have realised the cost of doing heavy rail is prohibitive to that goal.

          • Oooo, do show us this evidence Geoff, or is it like so many of your other claims, always hinting at special inside knowledge, but that turn out to be untrue and based on conspiracy theorising….

          • I too would be interested in seeing this as I’m not sure how involved Kiwirail have been. For example I know that AT & CAF have already done all the detailed design needed

    • Bruce

      EMUs are artificially acceleration limited (for comfort/marginal safety benefits) so yes they should be able to accelerate at the same speed both on power and on battery.

      • Trundler

        I agree in theory they “should”, but has anybody asked AT to confirm what their spec is, as it might be weighted more on cheap rather than performance?

        • They will perform the same as the current trains. But there is one interesting aspect. They haven’t decided which type of battery they’ll get yet. They either get the cheaper version that lasts 5 years or the more expensive version that lasts 8. Debate is that in 5 years battery tech likely to have advanced, especially with the likes of Tesla putting a heap of investment in so cheap now might be a better choice overall.

          • Trundler

            Where have they stated they will perform the same off-wire?

          • Greg N

            Its a no brainer – they should buy the more expensive/8 year life batteries.

            Why? well if the government changes next year, AT can change the BEMU order to normal EMUs and then ensure KR electrifies Papakura to Puke before they come (and eventually ensures its done all the way to Hamilton).

            If it doesn’t change then we then have 3-6 years of the same old, same old crap we get now with not investing in proper rail infrastructure, so the BEMUs will be up for a new battery before we safely see off the current “trains are dead tech” thinking in the MoT etc.

            So betting on 5 year horizon for an amazing level or battery performance improvement seems to be penny pinching, go for the 8 year option, it gives more time to get the proper job of electrifying to Puke and beyond done and dusted.

            Also gives us 3 more years to show up the driverless [roads] future as the great saviour of the planet for what it is – empty promises, from empty headed prognosticators and believers.
            And by them CRL will be opening and we’ll need every train we can get our hands on at that point.

            .

  • David N

    This is great news. Patronage will continue to increase because modern electric trains are fundamentally a more pleasant mode of transport than single occupant motor vehicles. In contrast buses are not. I’d always take my car in preference to a bus if I had a park available. I’m living in Albany and working in the city and hate the busway commute. Cattle trucks are not a solution to congested motorways. I plan to move flats to be closer to a station serviced by modern electric trains.

    • Sailor Boy

      I completely disagree regarding buses. The NEX is infinitely more pleasant than a drive in on the Northern Motorway.

      • Bryan

        My DINKY relatives agree, generally allows 20 minutes to drink coffee in peace… 🙂

      • David N

        My point is not that the NEX is worse than nothing, but that it is way inferior to a rail service. There are many commuters who will not leave their cars at home for a bus service but would for a rail service. I see bus services as being promoted by a.) bus companies and b.) people who do not use public transport and see it as nothing more than an expense to be minimised.

        Specific issues with the NEX service:

        1.) Noisey, sooty, high-sulfur diesel engines.
        2.) Buses moving slower than the congested motorway between Sunnynook & Constellation stations. Saving gas going up the hill?
        3.) Too many stops on the town side.
        4.) Not complete i.e. weaving through the Constellation Drive / Upper Harbour Hwy intersection at peak times
        5.) Albany station on the wrong side of the motorway.
        6.) Capacity. Auckland is growing and there’s heaps of apartment building in Albany. No NIMBYs in sight. There’s more the enough demand for a decent rail service.

        • Bruce

          One thing that could be changed with the NEX is the speed limit. I’m not sure why it is only 80km/h when it is a limited access road (no other vehicles or pedestrians) that is pretty much straight? At the very least it should be 90km/h if not 100 or even 110km/h (since it is effectively a private road with limited access). Big buses overseas go faster than 90km/h.
          That would save a couple of minutes of each trip.

          • David N

            That would be cool but I’d settle for 50km/hr between Sunnynook and Constellation Drive. Most of the time they go around 30km/hr. It’s like the bus company is using the fact that they’ve got a private road to go slow to save gas.

          • Grant

            Yes that speed sucks in this situation.

          • Nick R

            That’s due to the steep grade of the hill, listen to the engine next time any you’ll see they’re going flat out.

        • Stuart Donovan

          How do you measure inferior David N?

          The NEX is faster and more frequent than any of Auckland’s rail services, and carries about the same number of passengers, which are collected from only a small number of stations.

          Moreover, the Northern Busway was very cost-effective to build (so we can build more of them), and requires very low subsidies to operate.

          Sounds to me like it’s superior to rail on at least a couple of dimensions!

          • David N

            It’s not faster than a train would be because it’s incomplete. It has been built over the least congested sections of the Northern Motorway. From Akoranga to Albert Street you’re still stuck in traffic, and from Constellation Drive to Albany you have to weave through a very congested intersection (northbound).

            A complete busway would be better but would be more expensive to build due to more expensive tunneling. You’d have to have some tunneling to get under the harbour. As for frequency there’s enough demand from NS commuters now and over the coming decades that train services would be need to be frequent.

            The way I see it we don’t need that many trains, but we do need a northern line to complete the network. The main role I see for buses is getting people to train stations on station specific loop services. Most networks that move things work like this. If you post a parcel to Moscow it doesn’t go on the Auckland to Moscow service, it goes to hub, gets sent between hubs, then gets delivered from a hub in Moscow. Would be cool if PT in Auckland worked like this. You’d be able to get anywhere, and you wouldn’t need to decipher a bunch of indecipherable bus timetables.

            Also, modern electric trains are just plain nicer to ride than buses. It would brighten my day.

          • Nick R

            That’s exactly how the NEX works, and it’s still faster than any of the train lines.

            The bigger question is how much train line would you have got for the $300m they spent building the busway from Albany to the city. Well you wouldn’t even get from Queen St to Victoria Park for that money, let alone under the harbour, up to Akoranga and off to Albany.

            A heavy rail line from Albany to the City Centre is a three or four billion dollar proposition, literally ten times the price. One busway, or a one/tenth railway. YOur call.

          • David N

            Great – what’s the number of the Albany Station loop bus that goes through the village, the Uni, and the mall?

            You say the steep grade of the hill between Sunnynook and Constellation limits bus speeds to less than 50km and that if you listen to the engine they are going flat out – yet you say they are faster than an electric train? They are certainly not faster than my ’94 Starlet! I do find it ironic that the bus can accelerate to decent speeds on steeper gradients when there’s motorway traffic to keep it moving forward (going up the hill to Albany and on to Hibiscus Coast).

            So, back in the day, if you had 300m to spend on connecting the NS to Auckand’s backbone PT network, okay, spend in on a busway – but for goodness sake build the busway with gradients and curves so that it can be fitted with rail in the future. Don’t build busways with prejudice. It was a mistake not to give more importance to future rail expansion when building the Northern Busway. It is a mistake we should not repeat.

            Non rail proof busways are the leaky homes of public transport. They will need extensive remedial work to be fitted for rail. In contrast the three to four billion you quote for a rail link to the NS would be an investment that would pay dividends to Northshorians for centuries. It’s better value in the long run.

          • Nick R

            Yes, it is still faster than any of our train lines. You realise the southern line only averages 31km/h right?

            “but for goodness sake build the busway with gradients and curves so that it can be fitted with rail in the future.” Then it would have cost $600m, not $300m. So you are back to getting half the busway for your money.

          • David N

            Well, I have recently ridden the southern line (+380 to get to the Airport) and found it to be very quick. Yes the dwell times, etc. could be improved but it’s quick way to move because it’s a train and in goes in a straight line at a steady pace regardless of traffic. What matters is the total trip time, and that you know the departure time and arrival times beforehand, and comfort levels. It’s not a drag race.

            So, going by your figures the Northern Busway could be upgraded for 300m to be rail ready! That means we could build a rail only tunnel linking Aotea Station to the NS. The savings of building a rail only tunnel over a motorway tunnel would be in the billions. The need for a motorway tunnel would be delayed more or less indefinitely. As JK says, by and large the motorways work very well, it’s only during peak times congestion is a problem. Rail solves this. So, yeah, that’s what I’m saying we should do.

        • Grant

          New network bus standards and also eventually electric buses will help a lot with stinky toxic fumes. Agree with speed limit could be higher too.

      • David N

        If you’re going to build a busway properly you may as well go ahead an put some tracks down and have a rail service. Any tunneling is going to be way cheaper for trains than for a busway accommodating double decker buses with diesel engines. The thing is that with rail you have to build it properly i.e. complete.

        The one thing I can do is vote with my feet. Cities have grown around their rail links and the next time I move it’s going to be somewhere near a train station. LOL: my spellchecker does not even recognise the abomination that is busway.

        • Sailor Boy

          Enjoy your slower and less frequent transit when you move.

          • David N

            Well, I will enjoy having a timetable so I don’t have to wait at all. And I will enjoy being connected to Auckland’s backbone PT network without having to transit the Harbour Bridge.

          • Sailor Boy

            ” I will enjoy having a timetable so I don’t have to wait at all”

            Are you the only person on earth who doesn’t take spontaneous trips?

          • David N

            Well, I would use a car so for spontaneous trips. PTs major justification for existence is commuting. Service based economies require assembling a large number of people in a small area to be competitive. Not saying building a world class PT network would produce magic growth in our services sector – but I do believe it’s a prerequisite for services based growth.

            The main thing the services sector require is talented staff. The best place to setup an office for a services based business is in the centre of a large city with a PT network that allows people to commute in comfort. The fact that PT provides benefits to the young, the old, the invalid and rugby fans is secondary.

  • john smith

    A competently managed urban rail service of this type should have an off-peak minor station dwell of around 20 seconds, and certainly no more than 25 – as is seen routinely in Melbourne, Perth and, I’m sure, hundreds of other cities around the world.
    Doors can be timed to start moving in the last couple of seconds before the train stops, so that the first alighting passenger has their foot on the platform within two seconds of the train stopping. I have seen this. Pre-ordering door opening before the train stops is routine.
    I’m honestly mystified by how such an expensive, long-planned project managed to achieve such poor outcomes on this important detail. Did no-one think to look for world’s best practice and order that?

  • Chris Randal

    Here is a scenario for you:

    TMs removed
    One murder or serious assault in South Auckland
    Patronage falls as a result
    TMs put back on trains – except nobody wants the job because it is too dangerous
    Patronage continues to fall
    New bus operation amended to reinstate GSR services all the way to town
    AT say – thank God for the patronage reduction, now we don’t have to buy new trains.

    If it really was a union thing people, why haven’t they pulled pin because of the danger of operating in Sout/West Auckland?

    • You want security; hire security, but why would you have them involved in running the train and not watching passengers? Seperate and alarmist issue.

      • Bigted

        They have toyed with the idea of security guards on trains (every train after 1900 has security) but it was found that the guards were not worth the space they take up and now Maori wardens are back onboard.

    • Nick R

      Here is another scenario:
      TM removed
      Trains become slightly faster as a result
      Trains become cheaper to run per hour
      Those two improvements allow better cost recovery and better service delivery from the rail budget
      Time savings allow extra capacity with more six car sets at peak times
      Opex savings allow ten minute headways all day, seven days a week
      Patronage and fare revenue grows significantly in response to more peak trains and better frequency
      Fare box recovery ratio increased markedly, fare prices not increased
      Demand for new trains and network extensions skyrockets.

      • Bigted

        “Here is another scenario:”
        “TM removed”
        “Trains become slightly faster as a result”
        The difference in time from when the TM physically checks the doors and gives bells and the time the driver checks via CCTV and drives off is such a small time it does not make any difference.

        “Trains become cheaper to run per hour”
        Removing a TM would require them to be replaced with at least one security guard and save very little.

        “Those two improvements allow better cost recovery and better service delivery from the rail budget” Not really any saving so no cost recovery.

        “Time savings allow extra capacity with more six car sets at peak times”
        It is proven that six car units are significantly slower through the network, taking longer to clear stations, crossings, curves and temp speed restrictions along with having shorter times in areas where higher speeds are possible.

        “Opex savings allow ten minute headways all day, seven days a week”
        No savings but as ten minute headways are already possible they can be extended when there is significant demand.

        “Patronage and fare revenue grows significantly in response to more peak trains and better frequency”
        Requires additional demand, nothing to do with a TM onboard or not.

        “Fare box recovery ratio increased markedly, fare prices not increased”
        This assumes that the above will happen when there is no evidence they will.

        “Demand for new trains and network extensions skyrockets.”
        Again this assumes that the above will happen when there is no evidence they will.

        • Stuart Donovan

          There is plenty of evidence that dwell times are lower on TM operated systems. Melbourne has dwell times 20-25 seconds whereas Auckland’s are about 2-3 times longer. That’s a difference of about 5-10 minutes on every trip from Papakura//Swanson to Britomart. I.e. a CRL.

          It’s also logically obvious that rail services are cheaper without TMs,so we could afford more rail services even if there was no time saving.

          • Bigted

            The TM is not the issue the train system that AT insisted on is, removing the TM would probably require security in their place while a guard is cheaper than a TM the current guards (with the exception of the Maori wardens) work in threes and three or even two guards are far more expensive than a TM.

          • James C

            As previously mentioned, Wellington demonstrates that Train Managers are not an impediment to 20-25 second dwell times. When the TM holds a train it is usually for a specific reason, of which there are a multitude. Union conspiracy is not one of them. As I said earlier, the time difference between the TM door closing procedure and the DOO door closing procedure is about 3 seconds. The trade off is a substantial decline in platform safety and certainty. The facilities provided for driver monitoring of the saloon and platform are DIRE. Harm WILL eventuate.

            When Melbourne dumped their TMs, the drivers got a big pay rise in respect of their substantially increased responsibilities and risks. Security, vandalism and disruption costs also went up. If you think dumping TMs is a short cut to $$$$$$, you’re dreaming. The only ones making a saving off crew elimination is the TOC. Everyone else pays one way or another.

    • Jeff T

      The TM’s won’t ask passengers to take their feet off seats or turn their music down, let alone prevent a murder. That’s a police/security job.

    • Bruce

      A TM is not going to do anything to stop an assault or murder. As Patrick says if you want security get security or better yet transit police. Better having manned stations than TM. People can ask them questions etc in the station or if there is a train issue the next stop is only ever just around the corner.

      • Nick R

        I’ve never seen a TM do anything to be honest. They occasionally make an announcement over the PA (usually inaudible!) but that’s something the driver could do. And there is the one guy that goes through the carriages and thanks everybody for travelling that day, but that is really unnecessary and actually a bit tiresome when you get it for the four or fifth time.

        I’ve seen ticket inspectors kick fare evaders off the train, and I’ve seen maori wardens having a ‘polite chat’ with groups of teens. Not seen the TMs do anything. Certainly not on busy commuter times, there’s nothing to do (except ignore the Avondale college kids fare evasion, but you don’t need a person on board to ignore that!) But yes, I would rather see actual transit police who could and would do something being on the trains that need it. I’d rather see a train cop on one in ten runs, on average, than a TM on every run that doesn’t do anything.

        • James C

          And I’ve seen TMs ably deal with all of those scenarios, in fact multiple times weekly. I’ve also seen TMs save two lives. Next time you see a TM apparently neglecting to do what you feel is their duty, ask them what company policy is on things like belligerent passengers, fare evaders, physical threats and the like, especially with regard to on time performance. They might even show you the glossy posters that insist they back off, let miscreants go with not so much as a discouraging frown, allow imposing people to bring their dogs onboard if they must, and best of all, thank them for travelling with us. Far from a make work scheme, the TOC is doing everything they can to make the TMs redundant – “for their own safety”, of course.

  • Chris Randal

    “If it really was a union thing people, why haven’t they pulled pin because of the danger of operating in Sout/West Auckland?”

    No answer gentlemen?

    • Nick R

      Because it’s a make work scheme, the whole point is to keep the needless jobs going on the ratepayers dollar. Why would they pull those jobs if the only point is to keep the jobs going?

    • The union is trying to protect the jobs not the actual people, why would you pull the staff from services, when it may well just demonstrate they work perfectly well without a TM.

      • Bigted

        Then what about the day that a mother and her child are stuck on opposite sides of a train door, if something ends up happening to the child the TMs will be back on the trains like a shot.

        • jjay

          The door thing was pre-electric – under old system. Guard (or ticket collector I guess) assumed no-one was getting off and signalled closeds the train doors – not sure how he missed me but he did. Doors closed and my arms were in them when they closed (pram had been in them and I had to let go of it) – my SiL and Mum were in train still waiting to get off and screamed and screamed for the train not to go …..and luckily they were heard and he eventually opened them. So in this case it was a human error I think – I am not sure how 3 people, 1 toddler, a baby in a pram and a guide dog attempting to disembark were missed. Anyway I am all for what is safest and also user friendly to me auto open doors make more sense for those who cannot see the lights or have hands full etc, also (and i am not sure if electrics have or not) an external and internal emergency button (so in the case above I could have pushed something on the outside) and I’d go for slightly slower but safer any day – it took me a very long time to brave a train again after what happened.

        • They seem to get by perfectly well in numerous cities overseas without TMs on board, every risk is weighed up against the costs of mitigating it. Anyway, wouldn’t be much use if the mother and child were in the other unit of a 6-car set. As jjay describes above it was the TM that ballsed it up in the first place anyway.

          • Bigted

            The TM physically checks from the out side before closing the local door so should see that there is someone in distress outside the train before closing the local door and giving bells.

          • jjay

            YES – you would think so ………probably works most of the time – in this case it did not (though of course with most of these things you are working on reducing the chances of the in this case did not). I could speculate as to why but thats all it could be speculation. I will say on the plus side those train doors were padded …….mean the only thing I was left with were a few scrapes.

          • Nick R

            Right, but in this case having a TM didn’t do anything and she still got trapped in the door. Not exactly evidence that they are superior to driver only operation.

          • Bigted

            Nick maybe not in this case but even on the current EMUs pulling an emergency stop even from the outside doesn’t stop a train if it is already doing 5kph.

          • Mike (the longstanding one)

            Nick/Bigted: a driver on a train with CCTV screens covering the side of the train still live as it pulls away (as happens overseas) could see something was up and stop the train, something that’s not possible with TM door operation.

            So in this respect driver control of doors would make for safer operation.

          • Bigted

            Mike once the doors are closed and they are looking forward at the signal and everything ahead, the CCTV pictures you expect them to monitor are smaller (there are multiple cameras outside on each side of the train) than the average phone screen. That is if they can see anything on the outside cameras that are more often than not covered in muck.

          • Mike (the longstanding one)

            Bigted: I would expect screens that are designed for driver control of doors to be fit for purpose in terms of size, and any operator that allowed safety-critical cameras to be “covered in muck” should have a very short contract (and would probably acquire a significant criminal record).

            The setup I’ve described works perfectly well oveseas.

          • James C

            Bigted is dead right – the platform views are absolutely useless on the AMs. In other places there are on-platform cameras, monitors and mirrors. Onboard systems are much bigger, clearer and more reliable. Even then you hear mad stories of trains being delayed by outrageous and bizarre episodes like sunstrike making it impossible for the driver to tell whether it’s safe to proceed, or people on the platform leaning on the train, meaning they’re not allowed to move. What happens then? Driver has to wait for security or transport police. If the driver has to leave the cab, they have to take out the key. That means an extra minute just to get the train set back up to run again. There are dozens of these kinds of “unforeseen” problems to look forward to when TMs are gone – and they will be gone eventually. It’s just a matter of time and the right strings being pulled behind the scenes. I hope the people clamouring for it are ready to step up with their first aid skills when another passenger has a band turn, or to stand up to abusive scumbags who will relish a free reign.

  • Chris Randal

    An example of the result of DOO operation.

    The passenger suffered “life changing injuries”.

    There are other reports of the same type of accident.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/raib-report-032016-serious-accident-at-west-wickham-station

    • Dave B (Wellington)

      Train-manager-operated doors are no guarantee that this sort of thing cannot happen. The train-manager can also fail to notice entrapment situations like this. Possibly the likelihood is lower than with DOO, but it can certainly happen.

  • Owned.

    Mike, one exception to driver only being better. The RAIB (UK) have made a recomendation that Metro services redeploy station staff the assist with train dispatch as there are so many Platform Train Incidents occurring. This is as the platforms are very often so busy you cannot see the entire platform edge. The TM system is very good when done properly. The problem is the door system and its integration into the ETCS & Zero speed detection. Additionally, AT were made aware that passenger operated doors would be slow and they should keep to the (then) current system.

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