Follow us on Twitter

Miss out on tickets to the EMU launch?

Did you miss out on tickets to be one of the first to ride electric trains next weekend and do you want some? If so then you may be in luck. Auckland Transport have given me three double passes to give away. In the comments tell me why you think you deserve one of the passes and I’ll decide on a the winners.

One requirement is you have to have missed on on the original ticket offer so it’s not for people who just want another go. Also please specify the time you would prefer to get tickets for with trips available between 10:30am and 3:30pm.

EMU Newmarket from AT

Full AT EMU ad

On Sunday Auckland Transport released the full 30 second version of their TV ad. I must say I think they’ve done a great job with these. In particular I love that they have highlighted the speed aspect by showing the train flying pass the slow moving motorway traffic.

If there is one problem with these ads though, is that I fear they’ll be too effective and people will in places like Papakura and West Auckland will expect the trains rolled out soon whereas that won’t happen until next year.

Over the last few years we’ve been hard on AT and their comms so with this combined with some of the video’s they have put together recently for the new network and the CRL it’s really pleasing to see AT starting to get their advertising right. 

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

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 – Britomart haze

The haze at Britomart from the diesel fumes. I can’t wait for the day when we only have electric trains stopping at the station.

Britomart Haze

Speaking of electric trains, reader Gianfranco sent me these photo’s showing our second electric train being unloaded yesterday. Have also heard that testing on the first EMU is going well and they have even had it up to just over 122km/h – although the trains won’t run that fast with passengers on board.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

A single electric train would be able to carry more people that all of the cars in that last photo (at normal occupancy rates).

Electric Trains a lot cheaper to run

The first of the trains is in the country and undergoing testing with the good news being that the testing is going well with the train performing well. This was the update to the AT board yesterday:

Completion by KiwiRail of the first phase of electrification and permanent energisation of the overhead 25kV traction system was achieved in September between Westfield and Wiri
including the Wiri Train Depot.

The first EMU operated successfully under its own traction power within the depot on 30 September following the first weeks of static testing and commissioning in preparation for dynamic testing from the weekend of 5 October.

Progress to date has been good, with the control system stability checks going well. Testing progressing according to the programme.

The EMU testing and commissioning programme has been finalised and issued to KiwiRail.

The second train is in transit to New Zealand, due to dock around 4 November, with the following trains due to be shipped at 2 weekly intervals.

CAF are now well established in production mode after the summer shutdown. Vehicles for the first 10 trains are now in production, with trains 3, 4 and 5 in test. The supply of materials to the production line is working well.

EMU at Wiri

Our new electric trains are going to be wonderful. They will be bigger, more frequent, quieter and faster than the trains we have today. However there has been one benefit that hasn’t been talked about much and that is how much it is going to cost to run them. We all suspect that because the trains will be running on electricity that they will be cheaper but the question is just how much cheaper. The good news is that thanks to Auckland Transport I now have some information that can help to answer that question. The information that has been provided compares the fuel/electricity costs and the maintenance costs which are admittedly just one part of the total cost equation. The cost per kilometre for running our new electric trains compared to what we have now is below.

EMU OPEX costs per km

So all up the electric trains are 54% cheaper to run on a per kilometre basis than our existing trains which is a massive difference. Some quick calculations suggest that on the current rail network the trains run about 3 million kilometres per year and so based on that figure it suggests fuel and maintenance costs are currently about $24 million per year. By comparison running the same frequencies with electric trains would save about $13 million per year. That’s not too bad however the real benefit comes in the future when we want to run more services. We could easily see the number of service kilometres double from what they are now and so the good news is that if that were to happen, the train operating costs would still be less than what they are now.

As mentioned the costs above only represent one part of the cost of running the rail network and many of those costs will not change with the introduction of the EMU’s. Some of the other costs include:

  • The Transdev contract which includes Staffing costs e.g. drivers, on-board staff, ticketing staff as well as the people behind the scenes that keeps the network going.
  • Track access charges that we pay to Kiwirail to run and maintain the rail network.
  • The running and maintenance of the various stations on the network.
  • Insurance.

The big thing that would impact on the operational costs from running more trains is the need for additional staff.  We would obviously need more drivers to drive the trains as well as more on-board staff (something I understand the unions have demanded be retained despite the trains being designed for driver only operation). At this stage I’m not sure just how many extra staff would be needed or how much that would cost but I suspect that with the savings that will come from the electric trains we should be able to make a vast improvement to the number of services that a run each day for no additional cost above what we’re already paying. That should mean we can improve both peak and off peak services for little or no additional overall cost and boosting frequencies can have a really positive effect on patronage.

Being able to run more services for the same amount of money is the kind of story that Auckland Transport need to be shouting from the roof tops. This is especially important with so many people concerned about rates and council finances. So good for passengers, good for the city, good for the environment and good for the  accountants. What’s not to love about these trains?