Rail Faults and Level Crossings

There can occasionally be interesting bits of information found within the written questions asked of government ministers and so I keep an eye on it from time to time. Going through them the other day I stumbled across a few questions that Green MP Julie Anne Genter had recently asked about the rail network. In particular about faults in Auckland and Wellington, and about level crossing incidents in Auckland.

On faults she asked about the number of point, signal and track faults (defined as rail breaks, buckles or pull-aparts) that had occurred each month for two years for each region and the results are surprising, especially in light of the answers to similar questions in the past.

In total for Auckland there were 544 faults in the 12 months to the end of June, almost identical to the year before which saw 548 faults. This is made up of 58 points faults, 460 signal faults and 26 track faults. The previous year saw 65 points faults, 462 signal faults and 21 track faults. The number of signal faults certainly seems very high considering that in the past we’ve had the following numbers in response to similar questions (the new system was rolled out from ~2011).

Signal failures:

  • Apr 07 – Jan 08 (10 months) 144
  • Feb 08 – Jan 09 (12 months) 214
  • Feb 09 – Jan 10 (12 months) 172
  • Apr 11 – Mar 12 (12 months) 454

While the increase might be alarming at first I understand it’s actually a bit of an apples and oranges type situation.  As I’ve been told the faults we see now are quite different to those experienced before the new system was introduced. In the past the faults could each cause significant disruption however now I understand they are mostly very minor and the result of what’s known as a dropped track – something that can be fixed remotely and with very little delay for trains.

What is good news is that points faults have reduced dramatically. The 58 over the last year compares very favourably with the old results below that were were around 4-5 times as high.

Auckland Rail Network Points Faults

In Wellington the numbers for the most recent year were 80 points faults, 383 signal faults and 11 track faults with the year to June 2014 seeing 81 points faults, 554 signal faults and 27 track faults. As Wellington has a different signalling system I’m not sure if the same processes and impacts around faults apply.

Here’s a table showing all the numbers provided

AKL + WLG Rail Network Faults

As mentioned there was also information on level crossings. The data provided covers a 13 month period from 1 June 2014 to 30 June 2015.

7901 (2015). Julie Anne Genter to the Minister of Transport (30 Jun 2015): How many level crossing incidents, if any, have been reported by Auckland drivers per month from June 2014-2015, and at which crossings did these occur?

Hon Simon Bridges (Minister of Transport) replied: I am advised that there were 117 level crossing incidents reported to KiwiRail between 1st June 2014 and 30th June 2015 within the Auckland area (Pukekohe to Helensville); these records are only for designated crossings and do not include incidents involving trespassing. The definition of incident is in accordance with the Railways Act 2005 and National Rail System Standard 5: Occurrence Management. The list of crossings is attached

From what I can tell National Rail System Standard 5: Occurrence Management refers to collisions and near collisions. Below is the data provided where I’ve added totals for each crossing and colour coded it to highlight those with the highest number of incidents. As you can see the worst three crossings are

  • Woodward Rd (this seems to be incorrectly labelled as a pedestrian crossing)
  • Manuroa Rd
  • Morningside Dr

AKL Level Crossing Incidents

The only crossings we know that are definitely planned to be removed are Sarawia St within the next 1-2 years and Normanby Rd and Porters Rd as part of the CRL.

As an aside, Simon Bridges and his office are clearly much more on to it in answering questions – his predecessors would often be weeks late before answering.

Rail network grinds to a halt due to Signal Failure

It’s not going to be a good afternoon on the rail network. Here is a press release from Trasdev.

NETWORK WIDE SIGNAL FAILURE HALT TRAINS

Transdev are advising customers to use alternate transport due to a major signal failure that has affected all trains.

Until the signals are restored we cannot run trains safely so please check the Auckland Transport website (www.at.co.nz) for bus services and travel updates.

If you are at a train station please listen for announcements as they should direct you to the nearest bus stop or contact 09 366 6400 for more information.

At approximately 2.10pm this afternoon KiwiRail advised that the Auckland rail network signalling system stopped functioning, both primary and secondary systems were affected. KiwiRail are working to confirm the cause of the network outage.

Police are also advising motorists to take extra care around the barrier arms as some are not working presently.

If you have smartphone you can follow Auckland Transport on Twitter or download the AT app. You can also sign up for text updates on the AT website to receive information directly to your phone.

Transdev will issue further updates as they come to hand.

Definitely a concern that both the primary and secondary systems have failed. It is also not the first time this has happened. Previous incidents have been due to a failure at Train Control in Wellington and contractors cutting cables.

I will update this post as more info comes to hand.

Update: AT have said on twitter that the network is back up and running again but as you can expect, it will take some time to work through the backlog

Update 2:

30 MINUTE TRAIN SERVICE BACK OPERATING

Transdev would like to advise customers that a half hour train service is now operating.

Customers should still use alternate transport wherever possible. AT HOP cards and paper rail tickets will be accepted on all buses.

“We apologise for any inconvenience customers may have experienced and we will be working closely with KiwiRail to get train services running as frequently as possible for the evening peak,” says Transdev Managing Director, Terry Scott.

If you have a smartphone you can follow Auckland Transport on Twitter or download the AT app for the latest updates.

Customers can also sign up for text updates on the AT website (www.at.co.nz).