As mentioned this morning, at Auckland Transport’s board meeting today there is an interesting paper giving an overview of the HOP system, which AT say is the third largest financial transaction system in the country. Here are some of the figures from the paper.
- AT have sold just over 965k HOP cards while they had only anticipated selling 338k over the same period – a case of AT underestimating demand? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done that with a public transport initiative. They say they typically sell about 23.5k per month but that has increased to 26k per month due to the SuperGold card conversion that took place recently. I also wonder how many are due to people who have bought more than one due to cards being blacklisted.
- AT say that as of July, 86% of trips are made using HOP and that compares favourably with systems overseas which have taken much longer to get a similar level of use. Trains still have the highest level of HOP use with 87% of trips being on HOP compared to 85% on bus (note: the graph below is to June, HOP usage has increased since then primarily due to the SuperGold card conversion.
- AT now have 74 ticket machines at train and busway stations plus one in the Manukau Mall. There are also 73 retailers and 10 customer service centres.
- All up the project has cost just under $100 million. That’s certainly a lot of money (and time) but nowhere near what the two biggest cities across the ditch have paid.
- In the 2015-16 financial year (to end of June), the HOP system processed over $193 million in revenue. That was up 10% on the previous financial year and up 26% on two years prior. The charts below show where that revenue comes from (AT just stop with using pie charts will you).
- There is currently $11.8 million in the HOP account, 85% of which is from stored value on cards and the remaining representing monthly passes. There is also a noticeable trend in January with the values dropping, presumably as people used up their remaining balance before going on leave over summer.
- HOP costs $16.6 million to run every year which is well above the expected $9 million from the business case. The additional costs get a 57% subsidy from the NZTA. AT give the following list of reasons for why opex is higher than expected.
- Additional bus services which increased the cost of system support
- Increased AT HOP Operating Staff from the original budget of nine FTEs to 37, in order to support retailers, operators, and customers
- BT test support to provide system testing of BAU changes and system enhancements (average of 40 route changes are made each month).
- Additional finance support – providing reconciliations, settlement support and process development (recognition that the AT HOP System is a significant financial system).
- Increased banking fees, secure cash collection and retail commission due to the high uptake of the AT HOP Card
- Removal of the 25 cent transaction fee for Top-up transactions
Also included in the paper is one of the worst business diagrams you’ll see, I’m still not sure what ticking and clocks have to do with it. But still a lot better than this.
Now that integrated fares have finally been rolled out (and done so successfully), many will be interested to know what’s next for HOP. After all payment systems are undergoing rapid change right now. Here’s what AT say about it.
The development opportunity to improve customer service offerings is being actively pursued by the AT Metro, HOP and BT teams. This may include the ability to use credit cards or phone applications for payment and the potential to extend HOP to other services such as parking. Other options include online bus updates for balances, mobile top ups, use of the ATM network and account based systems. Whilst many of these are feasible to a degree, e.g. bus updates for balances is probably only available at 10-15 minute intervals, much of this technology is new, not only to Thales but other card systems as well. Generally, development is very slow and expensive which has limited the ability for AT to progress at pace these types of initiatives. Currently AT is investigating a solution to enable the HOP card to use Near Field Communications on a smart phone and the business is working with Thales on proposals for a real time top up ability via smart phone to the physical cards.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait years for some of these features which should almost be a minimum standard these days.
We’ve been getting used to seeing some fairly strong patronage results over recent years, especially on the trains which have been seeing 20% year on year growth for a couple of years now – in large part thanks to electrification. But in July, at first glance the numbers appear to have hit a snag, with much lower growth on trains and negative results on buses.
Thankfully there is a valid reason for the results: the calendar. In fact, the calendar has played a significant role in July as there were two fewer weekdays compared to July last year and weekdays are where the PT system does its heavy lifting. Adjusting for that, we continue to see good growth on trains and ferries while buses scrape into the positive – more on that shortly.
As we’ve come to expect, the Rapid Transit Network remains the star of the show with some significant growth, especially on the Northern Busway and the Western Line, both of which manged over 21% growth and that’s before adjusting for the fewer weekdays. The western line in particular was expected to do well given it the vast improvement in the number of services near the end of May. Overall trains fell only about 60k short of passing the next milestone of 17 million, something I’d be almost certain has happened in August already. Ferries also continue to tick along nicely and are likely to tip above 6 million trips before the end of 2016.
The big concern remains the buses other than those on the Northern Busway. Take the busway results out and even normalising for the fewer weekdays won’t help. AT say in their business report that there was also good growth on the Onewa Rd and Mt Eden Rd corridors – which is unsurprising as we continue to see almost daily reports of full buses leaving people behind, even in the middle of the day or late in the evening. But this suggests the results from other bus routes are even more dismal. AT say that the biggest issue is in South Auckland which will be the first area to get the new bus network rolled out and is due at the end of October.
Another area I’ve been following closely in recent months has been farebox recovery. With the rapid passenger growth we’ve seen, the level of subsidy required has reduced. One aspect of this report that is different compared to previous months is that in the past farebox figures have been two months behind, but this July paper has the results up to the end of July. A few things caught my eye:
- Train farebox stayed about the same as the previous few months which is good given the Western Line service increase at the end of May.
- There has been a significant change in the ferry numbers
While not mentioned, I suspect the August results will be challenged due to the launch of simplified fares which were expected to reduce revenue.
Other measurements like HOP are also working well but I’ll cover that off in a separate post.
Note: While July suffered from the fewer weekdays, it is August that will benefit from them with there being two more weekdays compared to August last year.
When it comes to public transport patronage, June is always important as it represents the end of the financial year and so also gives up the official annual results for the year. The June results are now available and the result was fairly similar to what we’ve been seeing for a few months now, continued strong growth on the rail network, decent growth on the ferries but with bus numbers relatively stagnant, even after some fairly great growth on the busway services.
All up patronage grew by 4.6% to 82.9 million and I’ve heard that only one other region in NZ experienced growth over the 2015/16 year, which I assume to be Wellington based on the numbers up to May. That’s the highest patronage has been since 1956 – although we obviously had a much lower population then.
The breakdown of the June results is shown below. A couple of things that stand out in particular include:
- The busway continues to show great growth, good thing we have all of those double deckers on it but perhaps more will be needed soon.
- Other buses are performing poorly, some more details of which are below.
- Rail is still performing strongly and the western line is clearly benefiting from the increased peak frequency.
For a bit more detail, here are some comments from AT’s business paper on the results
Bus patronage has grown by a modest +0.7% which is contrary to the general downward trends experienced across New Zealand where Auckland is only one of two systems (18 in total) that have experienced growth. The comparison found after allowing for population changes, the total New Zealand boardings /capita in 2015 declined by 3.2%. This may be compared with increases in 2013 (+1.0%) and in 2014 (+0.4%). The main reasons cited for the 3.2% decline include a real reduction in fuel prices impacting boardings by (-1.5%) and car ownership increase as a result of real price reduction in cars of (-0.8% reduction in boardings). Specifically in Auckland fare elasticity on a single service resulted in (-1.1%) reduction in boardings. In addition there were some unique events affecting Auckland, including disruptions as a result of CRL works and a bus strike earlier in the financial year
Train services totalled 16.8 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +20.6% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 1.5 million, an increase of +17.3% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 15.5% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Rail patronage during FY16 has continued to grow in line with extra capacity provided by way of a homogenous EMU fleet, improving passenger comfort, punctuality and reliability. An increase in western line peak frequency in May 2016 with timetable improvements in February 2017 should see continued growth in this mode.
Ferry services totalled 5.9 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +6.2% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 0.41 million, an increase of +9.6% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 9.6% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Ferry patronage growth of +6.2% has been strong, with Gulf Harbour, Hobsonville and Pine Harbour showing strong growth in line with increased residential development in these areas. Additional sailings by two competing companies on the Waiheke route also saw strong growth both in terms of service trips and patronage. Continued expansion of capacity and further development in these areas
It will be a few months before we see any results but it is going to be fascinating to see just what impact the introduction of Simplified Fares will have on the numbers. Also likely to be having an impact soon will be the introduction of the New Network to South Auckland, due on 30 October.
The recent changes to SuperGold is likely driving some of the changes with HOP usage, as of the end of June AT say 78.2% of all trips used HOP while I understand some days are now seeing well over 80% HOP usage which puts it on par with systems like Brisbane which has had integrated ticketing and fares for about a decade.
One area AT have been doing particularly well on has been farebox recovery which has now stormed above 51% to the end of May (it is always two months behind). This is a great result considering that the NZTA require AT to reach a 50% farebox recovery by the end of June 2018, so the recent results should have given them a bit of breathing space. One of the biggest factors has been the significant improvement in the rail result thanks to electrification lowering costs and encouraging more people to use the system. In the coming year a number of things will be impacting this including:
- Simplified Fares which will see a lot of trips get cheaper, the question is just how much impact it will have, perhaps it will drive enough additional people to use the system to offset some of the costs.
- The New Network in South Auckland which will considerably improve services while seeing AT also save around $3 million a year in costs.
- Additional rail service improvements, likely to come early next year should see better off peak and weekend services to tie in with the new network.
With a lot of the improvements on the way it’s going to be another interesting year ahead.
If you’ve been near Hobsonville Point recently you’ll have seen it’s going off and is currently a hive of building activity.
There was some very positive news this week about that would now be developed with twice as many homes as originally intended, especially some of the reasons as to why this has happened, which I’ve emphasised below.
The scale of one of Auckland’s newest big housing developments has now doubled, with Hobsonville Point dwelling dwelling numbers now rising from 2500 to 5000.
Demand for residences at the housing estate in Auckland’s northwest has been so strong that the numbers planned to be built there have been up-scaled.
Chris Aiken, Hobsonville Land Company chief executive, said instead of 2500 dwellings, around 5000 residences would now be built.
More land on the Waitemata Harbour had become available, the area had been prepared for greater density and demand was so strong that it was not only appropriate but also possible to vastly upscale numbers, Aiken indicated.
“Building 2500 [dwellings] was first planned about 10 years ago and there was a view of the market – Waitakere City Council and the Government said ‘we will allow for more density’ and they put in place ferry services, roads and employment zones and the market was there. The market came screaming along five years ago,” he said.
“The doubling is driven by market demand for smaller product and the capability of the master planning and infrastructure to deal with it. It was a visionary, enabling master plan,” Aiken said.
Decisions about rising numbers had been taken over a number of years, due to a combination of factors, he explained.
“The land was always capable of carrying that higher number. Five years ago, it was scaled up [from 2500] to 3000 when it became clear people would buy terraced housing. When we introduced affordable housing, it went to 3500 planned. It made sense to build more. And then with the advent of apartment typologies, that pushed it closer to 4000.”
It’s not the first and definitely won’t be the last but Hobsonville Point is a great example that many Aucklanders are quite happy to buy different types of homes, especially if they’re built and designed well. The old myth that “everyone wants a stand alone house and big section” is once again shown to be completely false.
Another big source of housing is new land that was planned to become a marine industry and then a film studio but for which neither eventuated.
However, an extra 1000 dwellings were added to the plans when a further 20ha became available due to a bureaucratic back-peddling.
After being lobbied heavily by the marine industry, a large slice of 20ha was ear-marked for those services, which failed to arrive. That land is now re-zoned for housing, which further contributed to the increasing dwelling numbers, Aiken said.
“Land which Auckland Council ear-marked for the boating industry – now we can built on it,” Aiken said.
Across most of the site, more apartments and terraced-housing would replace original plans for stand-alone housing.
This land is shown below along with the high level plan for how it will be developed.
With more houses going in, Auckland Transport are going to need to do a lot better with providing alternative options for transport in and out of the area. The ferry to the city is a good start but only runs a couple of times at the peaks on a weekday so is completely useless for anyone not working very specific hours. As an alternative, as currently planned in the new network, the main bus route through the area will link up Hobsonville Point with Westgate and Constellation Dr Busway station at which people could transfer for a bus to the city but the route is only planned to run every half hour. Further either direction is likely to have locations where the bus is subject to congestion until other projects built, such as the Northwest busway.
The public transport results for May are now available and once again there are some very impressive results on the Rapid Transit network with busway and rail network combined up 25% compared to May last year – although an extra business day in the month helped too. Ferries have also continued a good run with the only disappointment continuing to be buses (other than those on the busway) which were only up 0.1% and would’ve been down were it not for the extra day.
During May Auckland Transport finally increased the peak frequency on the Western Line and early indications are promising. It will be good to see how things go over the coming months. Also important is AT say that punctuality remains high which is good as one of the fears I’d heard was that the additional services would make the network less reliable.
It turns out that May now holds the record for the highest single month for rail after eclipsing even the March result thanks to the impact of Easter. March is shown with the orange bars. That’s seen the 12 month rolling result now surpasses 16.5 million.
While the new trains and service improvements have undoubtedly played a key role in the improvements, so too have punctuality and reliability. We now start to regularly see more than 95% of trains arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which is up dramatically from about 74% about a year ago. From memory, prior to electrification we peaked at just over 90% – but then the current timetable has been padded out in part to deal with the terribly slow dwell times we currently have.
That stellar rise in rail usage has also seen another milestone eclipsed. Now 20% of all public transport trips are by train which is up from just 5% when Britomart opened and with the speed that usage of trains is increasing, that figure could hit 25% before the City Rail Link even opens. The busway currently accounts for around 5% of all trips. To me that’s important as it highlights that rapid transit is doing an increasing share of the heavy lifting – and we’d expect that given the investment.
As I’ve liked to highlight in recent months, the farebox recovery results continue to improve. These results are always an extra month behind with the latest results being to the end of April, so on the rail network we might see a bit of a reversal once the impact of the extra western line services is felt. Still it’s worth celebrating that farebox recovery has passed the NZTA’s 2018 target of 50% and is the highest it’s been in more than a decade. It really shows just how important it has been to have electrification to simultaneously drive up patronage and reduce operational costs.
I was concerned at the results last month that HOP use was a little stagnant. I spoke a little too soon as May has recorded the highest result yet. In the business report, AT say that HOP use has risen and on 23 May it passed 85% for the first time. With all of the SuperGold card holders now having swapped or hopefully in the process of swapping to HOP, that result is likely to go higher still. As AT point out, the results are similar to Brisbane and South Australia who have had similar systems for much longer
South Queensland Go Card has 86% trip penetration after 10 years and the Adelaide Metro Card 87% after 4 years.
While talking about HOP, the business paper also says this. As yet I’ve had no indication of what this new monthly pass is.
Development of a product transition plan will result in the new monthly pass being marketed in June 2016 for 1 July 2016 launch. A discounted introduction price will be available during July.
Hopefully we’ll find out soon.
Back in March, Auckland Transport announced a special shuttle to link a Park n Ride at Lloyd Elsmore Park to the Half Moon Bay Ferry Terminal. At the time it was announced I thought it was a silly idea but said that at least AT were trying things.
A LGOIMA request from reader Felix Lee has discovered just how silly the idea is.
- For the 5 trips being operated each day, can you tell me the average passenger number for each trip?
- Can you tell me the cost to operate this service?
The response from AT is below. It covers the period from 21 March when the service started to 21 May, a total of 42 working days (which is only when the service runs).
So a grand total of just 23 trips and it would seem that about 9 people didn’t even make the return journey. That seems like an abysmal failure to me.
But then we also need to consider the cost. AT say:
So over the 42 days covered above it cost about $7650 to run services on which just 23 trips were made so just over $330 per trip. Based on a quick search, at $175 for a 12 minute flight, it would have been almost half the cost to helicopter them directly to the city.
As I’ve said a number of times before, I believe that park n rides are often over-rated and clearly this example shows that parking then taking a shuttle to catch another PT service just isn’t attractive.
As I also said when this was announced, I think using the park as a park n ride is not a terrible idea but it should really be linked to bus services along Pakuranga Rd which AT have confirmed needs bus lanes in the recent information released about the Reeves Rd Flyover.
One other thing this episode highlights is the arguments over the bus colours recently. If you recall, those opposing the changes baulked at the suggestion that it might cost $9,000 to paint a bus and claimed that money could be better spent on new services instead. Here we have a service that runs just five times a day over ~2.6km for two months costing almost the same amount. This suggests that any meaningful addition to services on other routes will cost a lot more in a year than painting a few buses, the cost of which can be spread out over multi-year contract.
Coming back to the shuttle, the whole thing seems to have been a thoroughly predictable outcome. I guess the only real question is how much longer will AT keep the service running before they finally pull the plug on it?
Public Transport patronage results for April are now available and even taking into account that there was an extra weekday, the results were pretty good. This is a good to see after fewer work days in March dragged down the results a little bit.
Once again the most impressive results are coming from the Rapid Transit network consisting of the rail network and the busway. Both of those saw growth of over 30% compared to April last year and even taking one working day off the growth for rail was still over 25% (the adjusted figure isn’t available for the busway). We learnt in early April that rail patronage passed 16 million but from the results we can see it has now soared passed 16.2 million. Combined with the busway which has also passed the milestone of 4 million trips means that rapid transit is now carrying over 20 million trips annually or just under 25% of all PT trips. That’s up 5 million trips in just 18 months, not bad considering a decade ago our rapid transit network carried fewer than 5 million trips and accounted for less than 10% of all PT trips.
One of the results that strikes me the most from the results is the Western Line which is up 35.6% on April last year. This is impressive as other than some added capacity that came with the new trains, there hasn’t been a weekday timetable change for years and the frequency during the peak hasn’t changed since at least 2008. With the change earlier this month giving a 50% increase in frequencies at peak – now every 10 minutes – and improved inter-peak frequencies it will be interesting to see what impact they have. In the business report AT say the initial two weeks are already showing an over 30% increase on the same time last year.
One aspect that will also be having an impact on train results is that punctuality has considerably improved. In April it reached its highest result ever with 96.4% of all services arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of what is on the timetable.
Of course the Busway is also doing extremely well which will be in part due to the increased capacity from the Double Deckers now a regular sight on the busway and the extension to Silverdale which less than 6-months after starting has seen high growth resulting it having “insufficient capacity”. AT are planning on increasing capacity and peak frequencies to Silverdale in late June. It’s also worth noting that the Northern Express performs better than other buses on punctuality too.
Both the busway and the rail network continue to perform ahead of projections made when the various projects were justified. One of the best examples of this is with Britomart where the business case for building the station assumed that by 2021 about 22,000 train trips would start or end there. Data provided to me by AT last week shows that already almost twice that is happening with the number at around 42,000 a day.
As expected farebox recovery – which is always reported a month behind – continues to improve. It is now tantalisingly close to the 50% magical mark which is the level it has to reach by the end of June 2018 to meet the NZTA’s farebox recovery policy. If current trends continue it should mean that AT will have additional funding with which to either improve services or reduce fares. The improvements to rail primarily as a result of electrification continue to be impressive.
One area that isn’t seeing much change in recent times is HOP usage which seems fairly stubbornly stuck in the low-mid 70% range. Perhaps changing all SuperGold card users to HOP will help boost that up a little bit but I hope AT have some plans to improve utilisation above that. One thing area that may help for trains at least is that they say they’re working on designs for gates at Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Middlemore, Glen Innes, Henderson and Papakura Stations.
Overall some good results from April and I’d expect those to continue in the coming months. Changes such as the improvement in timetable on the western line are bound to drive passengers. As is the roll out of double deckers to Mt Eden Rd yesterday – although it could be a little while before we see just what impact this has.
We’ll also see double deckers on the 881 route by the end of June and at the end of July we’re due to finally get integrated fares which I think could have a significantly positive impact on PT use.
In just over a month those over 65 will no longer be able to just wave their SuperGold card to get free public transport. Instead, following changes made by the government, they will be required to have an AT HOP card with a concession loaded. There are currently about 180,000 people in Auckland with a SuperGold card and that is growing by about 7,000 a year and AT say almost 42,000 already have a HOP card with the SuperGold concession loaded. That also means that potentially around 140,000 people won’t be able to travel unless they make the change over the next month.
Auckland Transport have launched a campaign to get those with SuperGold cards on to HOP including introducing a new SuperGold specific HOP card – although those with blue HOP cards can keep using those.
Switching SuperGold public transport use to the AT HOP card will also reduce improper use of the SuperGold concession and permit improved planning of public transport services making the scheme more sustainable, reducing taxpayer and ratepayer costs.
Mr Lambert says seniors using public transport in Auckland who do not yet have an AT HOP card will need to purchase one by 30 June, at a cost of $15 (the AT HOP card costs $10 and it must have a minimum of $5 credit loaded onto it at the time of purchase) The $10 card purchase price is non-refundable.
“We’re working with the Ministry of Transport and directly with seniors’ advocacy groups to make the process as easy as possible for seniors,” he says.
Auckland Transport is making an information pack available to all SuperGold cardholders, advising seniors of the changes and explaining how to purchase an AT HOP card and load a SuperGold concession.
“We have worked directly with seniors in focus groups to ensure the information provided is clear and easy to understand,” Mr Lambert says.
SuperGold card users purchasing an AT HOP card from 9 May will be issued with a specially designed, distinctive gold AT HOP card. However, blue AT HOP cards loaded with a SuperGold concession will continue to be accepted after 1 July 2016. Auckland Transport will be in contact with individuals who have a blue AT HOP card loaded with a SuperGold concession regarding the process to swap out their blue AT HOP card for a gold AT HOP card free of charge after 1 July 2016.
Having a specific SuperGold card is a good idea but oddly though it’s not a replacement for the SuperGold card so those eligible will have to carry both cards. Similarly, the Ministry of Social Development appear to have refused to help AT in the change over. I understand this isn’t the first time the MSD has done this and it appears to me that they want to operate in a silo over the whole thing.
At the same time Grey Power is calling the requirement to buy a HOP card cruel. While I understand why they’re saying it, I personally thing that’s a bit rough given that Auckland Council/Transport go beyond the SuperGold benefits and also cover evening peak travel too. Paying $15 for essentially unlimited free travel is still a very good deal.
I would expect most people who read this blog are likely to already have a HOP card with the concession loaded but
With the discussion on SuperGold I thought I’d also take a quick look at some of the figures around SuperGold which can be found on this NZTA site. It has annual data up to the end of June last year
In total there were 12.6 million trips via SuperGold across NZ in the 2014/15 year and that was worth just over $26 million in fares.
SuperGold trips in Auckland accounted for about 56% of that national total although only 54% of value of fares. For 2015 the breakdown of trips by mode and the percentage of total trips by that mode were:
- Bus – 5.9m (9.9%)
- Train – 680k (4.9%)
- Ferry – 445k (8.0%)
- Total – 7.1m (8.9%)
The costs are quite different though due to the high cost of ferries. In the brackets is the cost per trip
- Bus – $9.8m ($1.66)
- Train – $1.5m ($2.27)
- Ferry – $2.8m ($6.24)
- Total – $14.1m ($2.01)
Good news for commuters in East Auckland with construction starting yesterday on the new ferry pier at Half Moon Bay.
Construction has begun today on the new Half Moon Bay ferry pier, which when complete will provide a new, modern and safer ferry experience for its users.
It will be an important part of the new public transport network for east Auckland, due to be in place in late 2017.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown and Howick Local Board Chair David Collings marked the start of construction by turning the first sods at the end of Ara-Tai in Half Moon Bay. It is due to open by late 2016.
The $5.9 million project is funded by the Government through the NZ Transport Agency, the Howick Local Board through its Transport Capital Fund and Auckland Council.
During the last five years, patronage of the Half Moon Bay ferry has increased by over 50 percent to reach 372,141 total passengers in the 12 months to April 2016.
Patronage at Half Moon Bay growing by 50% over 5 years is decent and about twice the rate of overall ferry patronage growth over that time period. Yet even with that growth, it still only makes up a small portion of overall ferry use (6.5%). That kind of highlights the massive role Devonport and Waiheke play in passenger numbers.
AT list the features and benefits of the project as
- Safer and accessible for everyone and designed to provide a greater level of shelter against the elements for passengers using the pier
- Design will reflect the history of the local area
- It will be located at the end of Ara-Tai, separated from leisure boat users
- A sheltered cycle storage facility which has been recently built near the dinghy lockers will be relocated to within the new pier area
Of the total cost, $2.5 million is coming from the local board with Auckland Transport and the NZTA paying for the rest.
I’m sure ferry users out east will look forward to using it
Some sad news late yesterday with Explore ferries announcing that they will be stopping their service to Waiheke, once again leaving Fullers with a monopoly on the route.
A Waiheke Island ferry service has been axed after two years because it was not getting enough passengers.
Explore Group announced on Tuesday it would cease its ferry to Auckland’s Waiheke Island after a thorough review of the service.
The decision was being rued by Waiheke islanders, who had enjoyed the competition against Fullers Ferries, main operators on the route.
Infrastructure problems that prevented a comfortable experience for passengers – especially throughout winter months – was one of a number of contributing factors, Explore Managing director William Goodfellow said.
The decision was not easy to make, he said, because of the support the company received from passengers and the “considerable investment” made.
“We’ve thrown everything we could at the Waiheke service and we greatly appreciate the support of Waiheke and Auckland travellers, however the initial strong support from commuters was not sustained and ultimately the numbers did not stack up,” he said.
“We entered into the service with the specific aim of providing ferry commuters with a superior level of service and on-board travel experience. We achieved this and as a result we believe the ferry services to Waiheke are in better shape, both in terms of the standard on offer and the frequency of service, than it was two years ago.”
I think it needs to be remembered that the services to Waiheke are operated fully commercially and will continue to be well into the future as they were ensrined in leglislation (which I believe AT objected to).
Explore’s service had some things were working against it from day one such as not being eligible for any SuperGold funding until recently, not being able to accept HOP, issues with access to wharves, timetable issues for connections to Waiheke buses etc.
Most indications had pointed to Fullers lifting their game since the introduction of Explore and they’re even having new boats built to provide better service. It will be interesting to see if any improvements slip away once Fullers are plying the waters by themselves again.