How To Travel Free on Auckland Trains


DSCN1875.JPG Amazed passengers in an over-crowded train watched the other morning when a well-dressed and determined businessman refused to pay his fare  - and got away with it.

Some trains have been cancelled in the morning rush hour the last few days and when a train finally arrives, it’s so uncomfortably over-crowded you have to push your way on or skip down the platform to find a carriage where there is room for one more body.

Some high school students have actually been getting off the train to let adults get on - which is very courteous but probably not wise as they may arrive late for school (some kids say that’s earned them unfair after-school detention) and may struggle to prove to the next train guards they have already travelled that morning and had their card clipped on a previous train.

Anyway, back to the story. A tall and well-presented mid-30s businessman got on at Mt Eden and loudly complained to the other standing passengers that the earlier cancellation had made him very late for an urgent appointment.

To be frank: with his expensive clothes, I would have thought a taxi from Mt Eden to the city may have been affordable if it had been that much of a life or death business deal he was doing.

By the time the poor harassed guard fought his way through the throng to clip his ticket, Angry Tall Man In Expensive Clothes, touring over the guard, started bullying him about how bad the service was and how he absolutely refused to pay because of the resulting inconvenience to him.

A heated debate followed in which the guard pointed out he still had to pay and while Veolia apologised for the delay, the man had still chosen to board and that meant paying a fare.

The man continued to refuse. A few passengers chimed in that they too were furious at the delays and the resulting discomfort on board but they had already paid.

We were obviously watching the confrontation which would be some sort of a test case.

Finally as the train neared the Brit, and as the guard got more determined to extract the fare, the man handed over a large note which he probably guessed rightly that at this point in the journey, the guard couldn’t be bothered changing for a fare of a couple of dollars.

It worked. The guard waved his hand and said OK don’t bother.

The man got away with it through wearing the guard down.

A few passengers muttered that they should get their fare refunded if this is how it worked.

But legally, Angry Loud Man was liable for the fare.

The fine print of the Veoila terms and conditions for using the trains says:

The operator is not liable to a passenger or any other person:

(i) for any consequences arising from any variation or delay in the time of arrival or departure from any station or stop of any vehicle; or

(ii) for any loss or damage as a result of a cancellation or any variation of the time of arrival or departure from any station or stop of any vehicle.

(iii) for damage to any property of a passenger; or
(iv)for the death of any passenger or other person or for injury, harm, disease or damage to health, whether physical, mental or otherwise (including mental or nervous shock or distress) suffered by a passenger or any other person


(e) The operator may vary or cancel wholly or in part the scheduled services shown in the operator timetables or may vary the point at which passenger services will pick up and set down passengers;
(f) The operator does not guarantee the time of arrival or departure of its passenger services at the times published in its timetable.
(g) The operator does not guarantee the availability of any seat or any specific area within a carriage to any passenger;

As for passengers wanting to demand a refund, the terms are also clear:

The holder of the ticket is not entitled to any allowance or  compensation due to any change in the time or location of the service or any reduction in the service

I guess the terms above about passengers suffering any damage to health will also prevent you suing Veolia if someone coughs at you and you end up almost dying from swine flu!




  1. Simon says:

    What a dick! Businessmen in Japan are forced to face the daily peak time squash and do so without so much as a sigh. Might do said snotty businessman a power of good to ride a peak hour train leaving from one of the stations in Tokyo.

  2. Dan says:

    What a loser, but the guard should have ejected him at the next stop or called his bluff and changed the note.

    Travelling on a monthly pass I’d paid whatever happened and it really annoyed me when free travel was given for huge delays etc.

  3. Sam Finnemore says:

    That guard was of course dead right. Whilst the now-routine delays hack me off too, if I wait for a train and hop on board instead of crossing the road, going on a bus or whatever else, I’ve decided to use the service and I expect to stump up the cash like everyone else.

    It’s sad that people can’t rely on the trains for business and so on, but like you say, for life and death there is the taxi, or God help us, even buses. Hardly a showstopper to get a bus from Mount Eden to town, I would have thought. You could even just about hoof it if required although maybe not in full Gordon Gekko business attire.

    This morning saw another delayed train full of people, which I didn’t even try to board - the announcer had warned us of this in advance and said that another one would be along in five minutes. More like ten minutes, and we still had to run along to find a carriage with standing room - but I suppose if the timetable is already poked, it’s better to run with longer breaks between trains than to rush it and raise the odds of accidents and so on.

  4. Dan2 says:

    How to travel free on Auckland trains? From what I’ve seen, an easier technique is to wait until Dennis is on duty and then focus intently on whatever’s out the window. He’ll walk straight past you. This is effectivly employed daily by many fellow travellers. As a monthly pass user, myself, this really gets me.

    But regarding the businessman’s behaviour, yes, I agree it was unacceptable - but what other avenues are left to frustrated commuters? Phone the nice people at Maxx and they’ll “register a complaint for you”. Try phoning Veolia themselves - good luck in getting that one answered. Formal complaint letters get fobbed off. Try phoning OnTrack to complain about the continual “points failures” - nothing. ARTA? Not interested. I think, in addition to all these other options, gentle feedback to the guards will help get the message through that people are pissed off.

  5. Andy says:

    Well put Dan2. I feel for the guards. They have a terrible job fighting through the carriage to find people to clip their tickets and they will get all the heat. But in the end they’re the only staff you can talk to. I emailled a complaint and never heard anything.The people in red coats at Britomart are helpful but that doesnt help when theres a problem when you’re on board. And some of the guards are nice, others act like iranian dictators.


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