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Be one of the first to ride our new electric trains

Want a trip on one of Auckland’s brand new electric trains before they start carrying the first fare paying passengers on the 28th April?

 

5000 lucky Aucklanders first to ride electric trains

On Monday 28 April, the first of Auckland’s new electric trains will go into service on the Onehunga line. This is a defining moment for the future of Auckland.

To celebrate, we’re letting 5000 lucky Aucklanders ride the trains on Sunday 27 April. To be among the first to try out the trains you will need to register for a free ticket.

Registrations will open at http://at.govt.nz/electrictrains at midday on Saturday 12 April and tickets are likely to be snapped up fast, so we recommend customers get in quick. If you can’t book online, you can book over the phone from midday on Saturday 12 April on 0508 iTICKET. Registrations are limited to 4 tickets per person.

The trip on the new electric trains will take people from Britomart (starting at Takutai Square) to the Newmarket Train Station and return, but you won’t be able to get off at Newmarket.

Tickets will be issued for specific blocks of time (20 minute periods) from 10am to 4pm so we can spread people evenly throughout the day. Ticketholders will need to make sure they turn up at their designated time to ensure they can get a ride. More information will be provided on your e-ticket after registration.

There will be entertainment at Takutai Square behind Britomart. We will also have mobility parking and a valet service for bikes and prams.

For those who miss out on tickets, the trains will be running from Monday 28 April on the Onehunga Line, however we encourage casual users to travel off-peak.

 

Quick info:

What: Launch event for Auckland’s new electric trains – be the first to ride

When: Sunday 27 April (time will be on ticket)

Where: Takutai Square, Britomart

Who: Registered ticketholders only. 5000 free tickets will be available from midday, Saturday 12 April at at.govt.nz/electrictrains

 

 

Electrification officially turned on

Yesterday the switch was officially flipped on electrification of the Auckland rail network  - well at least the on the section into Britomart. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it so am relying on reports in the media and from others who were there. Firstly the official release from the government

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee welcomes today’s switching-on of overhead lines into the Britomart Transport Centre as a milestone for Auckland’s transport network.

“Electrification is a key element of the government’s focus on supporting a cohesive, efficient transport system for Auckland,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Today is a milestone for three projects which represent a total $1.7 billion government investment – the upgrade of the network to enable 10-minute peak frequencies (Project DART), the Auckland Electrification Project, and the purchase of 57 new electric trains.”

Mr Brownlee says while Aucklanders made 10.7 million trips by rail across the city in the year to January 2014, the upgraded and electrified network, along with new electric trains, will encourage many more people to take the train.

“This will play a big part in tackling congestion, and will also substantially increase the size of the rail fleet, providing spare capacity for future growth,” Mr Brownlee says.

“I want to commend KiwiRail, Auckland Transport and TransDev Auckland for their efforts in deploying safety and protection measures across the network, and safety education.

“It is particularly pleasing to see children learning rail safety in the classroom, which will help them keep safe around our rail network, both now and in the future.

“The government is investing around $1 billion a year on roads and public transport to meet the transport needs of Auckland’s growing population and to improve the transport system’s contribution to economic growth.”

It’s sad to see the government are still bundling together the spending on project DART, funding for which was approved long before they were in office (as was electrification funding). Of course they don’t do the same thing when talking about roads otherwise they would would be constantly talking about $4 billion they are spending on the Western Ring Route alone before you consider all of the other upgrades that have been happening to the motorway network over the last decade or so.

On to more positive things. At these types of PT events we’ve become quite used to hearing government politicians mention the PT project then proceed to talk at length about the efforts to upgrade the cities roading network. John Key’s speech ditched  that and he actually spoke very positively about the importance of it. Here’s some quotes from his speech:

“There’s nothing magical about Aucklanders using public transport,”

“If it’s there and it’s efficient they will use it.”

“So today I think is part of the solution to making sure that we can grow as a city, cope and do well and to do that if we want Auckland, and indeed New Zealand to be efficient and competitive on the world stage we actually have to have good access to public transport”

Here’s some tweets from Patrick who was at the event

Many readers love to blame the government for a lack of investment in PT, particularly around the CRL. I’ve long thought that John Key and the real problem is those who give him advice on transport, namely Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee, something highlighted by the Fran O’Sullivan from the Herald last year after the government agreed to the CRL (but obviously not the timing).

Our friends from Generation Zero were also at the event pushing for the Congestion Free Network.

There was also an interesting bit of timing with this announcement. Professor Peter Newman is in town and he is a man who was instrumental in getting the Perth rail network electrified and extended and has long suggested we do the same.

Lastly the countdown to the first services is now definitely on and with  the first normal services starting to Onehunga on April 28, a mere 26 days away. Now people are seeing the trains out and about, plus with AT now advertising them I think the excitement for these trains will only keep building.

EMU Newmarket from AT

Advertising our new electric trains starts on TV tonight

Tonight Auckland Transport are starting an advertising campaign to build up hype for the new electric trains. It will start with the the 15 second ad below. On Sunday a 30 second ad will actually show the train.

This comes after John Key officially turned on electrification to Britomart earlier today (we’ll talk more about that in a separate post)

Photo of the day: EMU vs motorway

A great photo from Alex Burgess today showing one of our new electric trains in testing/driver training alongside SH1. The first trains enter service to Onehunga on April 28th.

EMU Southern Motorway

AT’s Feb board meeting

Tomorrow the Auckland Transport board have their first public meeting of the year before and as I usually do, I’ve gone through the reports looking for what interesting information exists. The first thing that I noticed was even before getting into the reports and that was just how much was on the closed agenda vs what was on the open one. Other than the standard reports on there every meeting, the open agenda contains just a few additional papers. However on the closed session agenda there is a whole list of interesting looking topics. The items for approval/decision is

Finance

i) Half Year Report
ii) Update on draft 2014/15 AT Opex Budget
iii) Fleet purchase and funding roll forward

Capital Development

iv) Albany Highway
v) Mill Road
vi) Tamaki Ngapipi Intersection
vii) AMETI
viii) East West Link

Operations

ix) Northern Maintenance Contract Award

Strategy & Planning

x) Draft Parking Strategy Consultation

Business Technology

xi) CCTV Convergence Project

Probably the most interesting one would be the Mill Rd item which is something quite controversial to many of the locals and the last we heard of it, the design was looking like a mini motorway. In the open session business report it’s said the project is needed due to over 3,800 houses within special housing areas being along the corridor and I can only assume they are upcoming SHA’s as there hasn’t been any on that corridor so far.

On to the items that caught my attention in the business report.

EMU testing

Based on the report, the EMUs should now have finished the testing to ensure they will actually work on our network which is great news.

Official track testing is now well advanced and scheduled to conclude mid-February 2014. The testing of the on-board signalling system has been completed with the passenger information systems (PA announcements, and passenger information displays) remaining to conclude testing.

Four trains are now capable of mainline running and fleet kilometres during testing are in excess of 15,000. The trains continue to perform well under tests on the electrified main lines which now extend from Wiri to Newmarket and also on the Onehunga Branch Line.

Trains five, six and seven are at Wiri undergoing reassembly and tests. Trains eight and nine have left Spain and are due in New Zealand in early March.

Now we just need to wait for more to arrive and be put through their paces so that services can start on the Onehunga line. Later on the report also mentions that from Friday testing will be able to commence on the line between Newmarket and Britomart and I can’t wait to see these trains parked up in the station. It also confirms when we will see these trains on each of the lines across the network.

  • Apr 2014: Onehunga Line services
  • Sep 2014: Manukau via Eastern Line services
  • Mar 2015: Southern Line services
  • Jul 2015: Western Line services

And lastly on the date in April has been confirmed as the 28th and along with that AT will be giving many of the operations a bit of a refresh to improve the customer experience. There will also be an open day near the time of the first services starting so that the public can get a look at the trains.

As part of the improved customer experience with the new EMU services, enhanced station works will be started on the Onehunga Line stations from February 2014 in the lead-up to launch of the Onehunga EMU services on 28 April 2014. This includes improved pedestrian shelter between modes at Onehunga and Ellerslie Stations, improved customer information on station platforms, station rebranding and in line with the recommendations from the Customer Experience research undertaken in the latter half of 2013, improved wayfinding signage. Platform edge warning lighting will also be trialled. New Transdev staff uniforms are being selected for initial implementation prior to the launch of the new Onehunga Line EMU services.

City Centre Integration Group (CCIG)

There had previously been a cross council group that was intended to work together on projects along the waterfront containing Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Properties Limited. It appears that the various organisations have now agreed to expand the reach of that across the entire city centre. This should hopefully mean we get some more coherent development of projects happening rather than each organisation working in silos. Of interest:

Transport feasibility studies are due for completion in early 2014 for the Ferry Basin Masterplan, Fanshawe/Customs St Corridor, and Wynyard Bus Interchange

Integrated Ticketing and Fares

With integrated ticketing almost complete the focus is now going to really shift to integrated fares. In December the board agreed to investigate further two different options. They were a 5 concentric ring zonal model and 4 concentric ring zonal model + short trip fare. These are likely to be variations of these options. Analysis including pricing options and a business case are currently underway but it seems we won’t see anything implemented until the 2nd quarter of 2015, probably when the new network rolls out. I had been hoping we might see it rolled out by the end of this year. AT do say they are in the process of testing out a daily pass which will be rolled out in March based on geographic zones (most likely the same ones used for the monthly passes). The big question will end up being how they price the passes and I fear they will be priced so high that very few people would benefit from them.

The graph below shows the percentage of customers using HOP for bus journeys (up until early this month so won’t include Howick & Eastern. It appears the Birkenhead customers are increasingly using HOP however its Bayes buses that get the most HOP card usage with over 70% of people using a HOP card. I’m surprised that NZ Bus and Urban Express don’t seem to be seeing any real change.

HOP ticketing usage Feb 2014

Tamaki Dr/Ngapipi Rd intersection

Late last year AT went out to consultation on this intersection which is the worst for cycle crashes in Auckland. AT wanted to put traffic lights in however the local board were pushing for a roundabout. The exact details about the intersection are in the closed session however it’s noted in the board report that they have chosen to implement the traffic light option (which was also supported by Cycle Action Auckland).

Tamaki-Ngapipi intersection upgrade

Lastly a couple of the additional papers for this board meeting. One is about the establishment of a board committee dedicated to focusing on the customer experience.

An increasing number of customer interface initiatives are being developed and implemented. Following the model of the Capital Review Committee, the establishment of the CFC will give the opportunity for Board members to have greater visibility, input and governance oversight of these initiatives.

This seems like a good idea and I’m sure the committee will have a lot to do.

The other paper gives is the forward programme for the board showing what is coming up for them to discuss/decide on. Naturally the next few meetings are more fleshed out than those 4-5 months out. Some projects that I picked up were.

  • In March the closed session will see papers on AMETI, Mill Rd, Dominion Rd, integrated fares, replacing parking ticket machines, selling the diesel trains. At the capital review committee a few weeks before three is also a paper on AT’s rail strategy.
  • In April there will be closed session discussion on the seawall in the city centre, SMART (rail to the airport), Mill Rd (again), AT’s rail strategy, Papakura – Pukekohe electrification,

I’ll post about the patronage results separately.

Barring up Britomart

Most of you are probably back at work today after what I hope was a good break and probably trying to ease back into a usual routine as slowly as possible. If you are a person who normally catches the train to work that routine is almost undoubted still disrupted thanks to the rail network still being closed north of Newmarket on the Onehunga, Southern and Western lines while closed north of Westfield on the Eastern lines. In those places the network is being kept closed so that work can continue on getting the rail network wired up for electrification. The focus this shutdown has been on getting Britomart and parts of the Eastern line wired up.

Probably the main problem with overhead electrification is the visual impact of it – although in a way it kind of acts like an advertisement of a high quality PT service at the same time. Personally I have found that in most places the impact hasn’t been too bad and the installation is certainly far less intrusive than some other overhead systems I’ve seen. However when it comes to the visual impact, Britomart and the Eastern line across Hobson Bay are arguably the two most challenging sections and the ones where people are most likely to complain. I was out yesterday and so made a slight detour to see how work was progressing.

Eastern Line

The reason I think this section is difficult is that I suspect there are some local residents between Quay Park and the Purewa tunnel for whom any change to the visual landscape will be unacceptable. Along this part of the route it isn’t just houses primarily next to the rail lines that would notice changes but quite a lot all around the bay and the view in the area often plays a large part in property values.

The wires themselves were only installed as far east as Judges Bay however the masts extended all the way past Orakei station (I decided not to both going further as had other things to do). My feeling is that while the wires weren’t installed yet, the masts showed that the visual impact on the area probably isn’t going to be too significant. For example looking from Ngapipi Rd for example across Hobson Bay they certainly didn’t seem to be an issue.

I didn’t get any photos of this section but Luke C got this one looking across Judges Bay. The visual impact across the causeway is similar to what the masts around the Pt Resolution Bridge look like in this shot.

Electrification masts - Judges Bay - Luke

Britomart

Britomart is of course a completely different challenge. One of my favourite things about the station is how open and light part of the station is; it’s like a giant cavern. The risk with electrification is that it the infrastructure makes the station appear cluttered and I understand it has been something the project team have been very well aware of. I remember talking to someone involved with the project a few years ago and they said that early on they were putting a lot of effort in to the station to ensure they got it right.

One of the decisions that was made was that instead of running wires into the station – like across the rest of the network – instead a solid bar system would be used that removes the need for catenary wires thus reducing clutter. The system will also be used in the CRL tunnels once those are built meaning a smaller sized tunnel can be used compared to what would be needed to support catenary wires.

Now that the infrastructure is going in we can finally see what the station is going to look like. Here are a couple of photos of the works although they didn’t come out that well.

Electrification in Britomart

Electrification in Britomart 3

Next week the trains from everything but the eastern lines will return to Britomart, it will be interesting to see what passengers think of the changes.

2013: A year in review – Part 1

Over the next few days I’ll be doing a series of posts recapping the year before beginning the new year by looking at what we can expect in the year ahead. For me when it comes to transport, 2013 was always going to be a bit of an “in progress” year. By that I mean that a heap of projects (both PT and road) would be advanced throughout the year however there would be nothing major completed that would fundamentally change transport in Auckland – that will change in 2014. For this post, I’m just going to be recapping public transport.

Electrification

Infrastructure

Wires are now a familiar sight across much of the rail network with primarily just the Eastern Line and the inner parts of the Western Line still to be completed however this was originally meant to have been completed by September. Back in May we revealed that the project was running late and is unlikely to be fully completed till March/April with Kiwirail saying it will be all done by the time the first electric trains are running in April. Britomart and the Eastern line are the focus over the Christmas shutdown and as I was in town yesterday I popped into Britomart which was a hive of activity and flashing lights with crews and vehicles working on each track.

Wires about to go up at Britomart

While the case for extending electrification to Pukekohe came out in 2012, the new development that is now expected to occur along the rail corridor thanks to the Unitary Plan is likely to help bring forward the need and justification for it. At the other extreme of the network Auckland Transport announced this year that the Waitakere station would close due to a combination of stubbornly low patronage and high costs to run a diesel shuttle service. The outcomes of two more stations – Westfield and Te Mahia – are still under review after it was suggested they would be closed too.

At Wiri the new state of the art depot to maintain our new electric trains was completed in time for the arrival of the first train.

Electric trains

The first of our new electric trains arrived at the end of August and staff have been busy testing it. Since then it has been joined by three others with more due to arrive soon. The trains are arriving at a rate of two every month till December when they increase to four per month. From my personal experiences of riding on them, I think they’re fantastic and people will be surprised when they first get to try the out next year.

SECOND EMU_7047

City Rail Link

The City Rail Link perhaps provided the biggest surprise of the year when in June the government suddenly turned around and agreed that it was needed and said they would help fund half of it. This was quite a change from the position they had previously taken, especially their earlier responses including to the City Centre Future Access Study which even Ministry of Transport officials had been a part of. It is believed a large part of the reason the government had such a change of heart was that their polling was showing a lot of unhappiness amongst Aucklanders about the lack of support towards the regions preferred transport and housing solutions.

While the announcement saw the government finally support the project it doesn’t mean they agree with everything about it as the government don’t want to start the project till 2020, roughly the time the council want it finished. They have set some aggressive but potentially achievable targets for starting early. Regardless some parts of the project will actually start next year (or in 2015) following an agreement between the council and Precinct Properties (who now own the Downtown Mall) for part of the tunnel to be built when they redevelop their site. That removed potentially one of the biggest issues from the consenting process which has been proceeding fairly quietly in the background. We should hear the results of that in the new year.

We here at the blog had been getting pretty frustrated with the way the project was being sold by AT (and others). Finally in November we saw a decent effort by AT with this video.

Integrated Ticketing and Fares

Integrated ticketing has one of those projects where if something can go wrong it will, frequently stumbling from one issue to the next with deadlines frequently missed as a result. The project had already been delayed multiple times in the lead up to 2013 and this year showed no sign of that changing with more deadlines missed. This year we were told the roll-out of AT HOP to buses would be completed by the end of the year however issues with the change overs pushed that back again. Birkenhead, Urban express and NZ Bus buses have now all been converted to AT HOP and fingers crossed the rest will be complete within the first few months of 2014. It will mean that for the first time people will be able to get around the city on PT with a single ticket (which is different to a single fare).

While getting integrated ticketing is a good step, integrating fares will be one of the keys to unlocking the system and making it more usable. While it has always been mentioned that integrated fares would come sometime after integrated ticketing, many at AT had previously given off the impression that it was more of a nice to have and there had been no real push. From what I have heard there has be finally been a shift and realisation within AT that integrated fares are desperately needed, especially to support the new bus network and as such work has been going on behind the scenes on this so it should become a reality.

New Bus Network

Early in the year we saw that there was a hugely positive response to the Regional Public Transport Plan of which one of the key features was the new bus network. This enabled AT to go out to the first detailed consultation which was in South Auckland. Once again there was a overwhelmingly positive response to the proposed changes. Auckland Transport deserve a lot of credit for this result as wasn’t just that the new network was good but that AT took their time to explain the reasoning behind it. Despite consultation now being complete in the South, we won’t actually see the changes made till 2015 as AT still need to work though significant issues like contracting with the bus companies. The video below is one AT put together to help accompany the consultation and explained excellently much of what is happening.

Patronage

Patronage growth was fairly stubborn throughout 2013 after a poor few years partially exaggerated by the Rugby World Cup. However there have finally been signs of improvement in the last few months, especially on the rail network. I suspect we will start to see some decent growth occurring once again in 2014.

Dec 13 Total Patronage

Other

Along with some of the big projects mentioned above, below are some of the other important things that have happened over the year:

Anything major PT wise I’ve missed? Upcoming posts will look at and recap what’s happened with road network, walking/cycling, development/planning and finally the blog itself.

Testing Auckland’s trains

One of the biggest developments that has occurred this year has been the arrival of our first electric trains. There are now four in the country and the depot is filling up so fast that in a few weeks time they will have to start storing the trains outside rather than keeping them wrapped up inside. The first three units have been undergoing different stages of testing while the fourth which just arrived this week is starting to be set up. 

SECOND EMU_7047

Back in October Auckland Transport were kind enough to invite me for a ride on along when the first of our new trains took its first tentative steps with run outside of the depot. Back then the train was only being run slowly however it was already evident just how much better these new trains would be compared to what we have in use today. Since that time we’ve heard that the engineers have had the train up over 122 km/h which is faster than they will be allowed to run in normal service

On Tuesday both Patrick and I, along with TVNZ and Radio NZ were lucky enough to be invited back for another test run – this time running at full speed – so that we could experience just what the trains were like. The train we were on had been loaded up with sandbags which were there to represent passengers and so they could more accurately test how it would perform under various conditions. They had taken some of them out for the test run we were tagging along on but at the height there were 1776 sandbags piled up in the train with each one weighing 20kg.

EMU Sandbags

The good news is that even loaded down with a full load of passengers these trains performed superbly. You could really feel the acceleration when taking off from a stop yet the train was quiet and smooth while doing so, not noisy and jerky like our current trains. In fact the performance was so good that I was surprised at one point when I found out we were already travelling at 110km/h – although this may have been partially related to the testing taking place at night so it wasn’t possible to get any sense of speed from just looking out of the windows.

For one run the engineers dropped us at Papatoetoe Station then took off back down the track so that they could come through the station at speed to help give a sense of just how fast the trains are travelling. You can see this in the One News piece.

EMU Testing - One News

There’s more good news in that while there have been a few issues that have arisen out of the testing, nothing has been major and none of the trains tested so far have had a break down while out on the tracks, something which even some of the experienced engineers were pleasantly surprised with. This hopefully bodes well for how these trains will perform in the years to come.

I think it also needs to be mentioned that despite so many different companies and agencies involved in operating trains in Auckland, they appear not only to be getting on but actually working well together. There are heaps of companies or agencies involved at all levels. There is Kiwirail who own and operate the tracks, Auckland Transport who effectively pay for the services, Transdev who run the trains, CAF who are building and maintaining the trains and the NZTA who are the safety regulators. Again this gives me hope that AT will be able to fix and improve the services  once these trains really start coming on-stream from April next year.

All up it was great to be able to experience these trains at their maximum permitted speed. These trains are truly impressive to ride on and I suspect that the general public will be pleasantly surprised when they finally get to have a ride on one.

Lastly its really nice to see that we can have a PT project that is (so far) actually being delivered on time with a good result. Congratulations to all of those involved.

Photo of the Day- Pt Resolution Revisited.

A few weeks back I returned to the new Pt Resolution Bridge to see how it’s settling in. Earlier post here.

PT RESOLUTION BRIDGE_4297

This is a great setting for investment in good design, and popular in the mornings with exercisers from the expensive properties above the point, but here’s to the same high standards being met all over the city and not just for a relatively small number of users at the bottom of the Prime Minister’s street.

PT RESOLUTION BRIDGE_4394

It does of course also connect to the Modernist wonderland that is Tibor Donner’s fabulous Parnell Baths. The Hungarian emigre architect also designed the Pt Erin pools, High St’s Ellen Melville Memorial Hall, and the Civic  Building now unwanted by it’s owners [us] having been stranded by the appalling [and also typically Modernist but of much lower quality] re-planning of that area that resulted in the twice-built Aotea carpark and the destructive sweep of Mayoral Drive; all of course expensively done in the name of accommodating the private vehicle. Joel Cayford is good on this sorry history here.

PT RESOLUTION BRIDGE_4176

Soon the wires for the new trains will be added to this scene so it won’t look this uncluttered for long, but then eventually there will be fewer diesels staining the underside of the bridge with their dirty fumes. Looking forward to seeing- and barely hearing- the new EMUs flying through here.

Nice Pair!

Never before seen in Auckland: A breeding pair of EMUs

SECOND EMU_6997

Thing One on the left and Thing Two on the right:

SECOND EMU_6977

full set:

SECOND EMU_6968

… and from behind:

SECOND EMU_7040

…with the depot building

SECOND EMU_7047

Very nice and a credit to the specifying team in NZ and all the people at CAF both here and back at the factory in Beasain:

CAF_4689

Above: The factory nestled in the beautiful Basque countryside, and below the town just outside the gates

CAF_4229

… more soon.

All photographs ©Patrick Reynolds 2013