The New I-Spy Game. What’s the Score?


There’s a new I-spy or “how long does it take to change a lightbulb” - type game some Western Line passengers have started playing to pass the time while at the wonderful new Newmarket station.

I have spent quite a bit of time at the station in the first two fully operational days (and during the Monday chaos) so let me just get out of the way, the station is great, such an amazing improvement, the staff including the security guards are professional and helpful,  and this is not about the station OK! It’s the cute little newly-born baby son of Britomart and we’re all agog,

Here you go, people pouring in from Station Square to see and use the great new station. It warms my heart. I have even warmed to the square’s name! Well done, everyone.

The fun game is: how long does it take a train driver to walk down from the cab to the other cab? And who’s the first to spot him coming?

I win. I see him coming, walking past the long row of carriages to the cab at the other end, facing the direction of Britomart.

Or if you’re lucky, you’ll see a bonus - two rail staff swapping train ends.

Actually, i thought the idea with two crew was that one would be in the other cab ready to go, as used to happen in the old days.

But maybe the second person is in training.

On one occasion, one of the crew came back because he had left his lunch or something in the front cab and said as he passed the carriage I was in: “This is stupid!”

Nothing new there. We know that.

Some of us, caught up in the intoxication of the exciting new station opening, and trains finally resuming,and then distracted by painstaking analysis of the West / South timetable mis-matches at Newmarket, had forgotten the downside is the resumption of train crew having to switch ends on the Western Line trains to reverse out of the station to get to Britomart or head West from Newmarket.

For two of so years, we’ve just zapped around the corner from Kingdon to Newmarket.
Now, it feels like an airline flight stopover for refueling.
And inevitably, I have struck commuters who weren’t around in those previous times, and literally get into a panic when they see the driver grab his bag and move down the platform as if he is knocking off or going home, leaving us stranded as if this is actually the end of the line. Those commuters think they will be stranded at Newmarket and have to find some other way to get to work in the city - or get home.

The guards aren’t around to calm them because they’re out having a chit chat or catching their breath.

It might pay for guards to actually communicate the fact as we approach Newmarket until people get used to it. You know a bit like an in-flight “Shortly we’ll be landing at Newmarket airport. We’ll be staying here for a while until the guard walks to a cab at the other end because that’s the way it’s been designed.”

So back to the quiz: how are we doing?

My unscientific average so far based on only a few days when traffic on peak hour trains is rather light is about three minutes.

That’s not ideal, but a livable tradeoff for the other improvements and not as bad as some speculated when they had predicted it would more likely be a six to ten minute stopover.

Spoiler alert: There is a ….But coming and a big BUT I’m afraid.

So are timetables actually running as normal?
It’s not the stopover that’s the problem.
It’s the cumulative time being added to timetables.
On one of the several Western Line journeys I took yesterday, the delays kept adding up.
The Britomart -bound train was on time.
But around Kingdon St heading to Newmarket station it stopped for a couple of minutes and let two trains leave Newmarket station before proceeding.

Then we had the three minute stopover at Newmarket.

Then we stopped for at least five minutes at the Britomart tunnel waiting again for two trains to leave Britomart.
So after Boston Rd to Britomart, it was a stop- start journey, which resulted in me being at least ten minutes late from when I had hoped to be in the city.

There was also a 25k speed restriction heading to Newmarket and Newmarket-bound trains crawled through the Boston Rd railwork area.
Imagine if this had been one of those days when there had been a train breakdown, one train journey had been cut from service, , timetables were thrown out and those delays, especially in entering the Britomart tunnel, grew long as they often do, even on “good days”. I’ve been stuck outside the tunnel for 10 minutes.

And late trains impact on departing trains from Britomart.

One I caught from Britomart last night at peak time hadn’t even arrived on the platform , five minutes after it was supposed to have left!

Was this because of the Newmarket stoppage?

How would we cope with even more regular trains on the timetable?

After each month, performance stats are posted of what percentage of trains were on time.

Under the present monthly schedule, we won’t know performance stats for a full train service month (February) until mid-March.

We should demand that we get some information about the impact after two weeks of the Newmarket station.
There is nothing we can do. Kingdon St has gone and the new station can not be moved. And we love the new Newmarket station.
Trains will continue to have to reverse on the Western Line.

If it’s just a three minute stopover that adds to a journey, costomers can take that into account when working out what train to catch and get an earlier one if necessary.

But it we start getting 20 minute additions to the scheduled arrival time and that also impacts on trains at Britomart departing later than schedule causing timetable “creep,” , we need to get heads together to work out some sort of solution.

Or better still, we need to demand that the evidence is presented to the transport minister as proof that, while we can’t change Newmarket, we can at least get the CBD tunnel loop done so that the loop eliminates the bottleneck at the Britomart tunnel.
Anyone else had a stopwatch going?




  1. rtc says:

    The Boston Rd to Newmarket stretch of track will soon be double tracked which will help to reduce a lot of these delays - is just something people will have to deal with for a few months. It’s the price of progress! Our other option would be when only a few years ago we were old that the corridor was too narrow for two tracks and it would always remnain single tracked.

  2. kris_b says:

    Do Western line trains stop at Newmarket on west bound runs?

    If so, surely that could be eliminated since the Southern lines stop there, and soon so will Onehunga trains too.

    Wouldn’t help on City bound runs, but it’s something at least.

  3. Neil says:

    Whoa! that guard has a big belly!
    Seem like they have prettified the station but haven’t improved the actual service much…doesn’t really surprise me…

  4. Matt says:

    One train I was on yesterday pulled into Newmarket from west, while the train was waiting the platform announcer told us twice we were going to Papakura, this got some worried so the TM had to come on to correct it.

    The delays are already getting annoying, surely they could have run some tests via a computer simulation to see the affects on delays before they built it.

    I just hope it puts more pressure on to build the CBD Tunnel

  5. Matt says:

    Just been through and we were 2 mins from stopping to starting again, not to bad, plus the driver was running down the platform which was nice to see

  6. William M says:

    I felt a tad nostalgic when I saw the driver swap for the first time since Newmarket’s predecessor closed. I still remember the little man dressed in raincoat and sporting a giant loudhailer telling us which platform our trains will arrive on.

    Good times, good times.

  7. Joshua says:

    Not to bad of a wait, if they can sync the western and southern lines they could argue it’s for the transfer process. What happened to shuttle drivers between britomart and Newmarket?

  8. Ryan says:

    The Western line express train which I take in the morning used to get me to Britomart about 8:07am.
    So far this week it’s yet to arrive before 8:20am.
    Not much of an improvement. Now not only is it more expensive for my wife and I to take the train than drive, it now takes longer too.

  9. Geoff says:

    The stopovers I’ve seen have mostly been between 3 and 4 minutes, but the shortest was just under 2 minutes, and the longest about 6 minutes.

  10. Matt L says:

    Ryan - sounds like you are on the same train as me in the mornings. The last two days it has got in at about 8:17. I’m in the same situation with my wife and I both going to town it would be cheaper to drive. The only reason we don’t is we prefer to travel at different times and like being able to do other things like read a book or the news etc.

  11. Jon C says:

    @William M I struck some English tourists who couldn’t believe a man was standing with a loudhailer announcing trains in not the most brilliant English. They took his photo and said it was like something out of Monty Python. I told them it was just Auckland trains.

  12. Westernliner says:

    Hang on, people are experiencing ~3min delays at new market? Perhaps I should be trying to catch the trains that they are timings because so far this week the shortest stop has been 5 mins, with the longest being today at 10 mins (and we were running on time right up until then!). That changed a 7:58 arrival at britomart into a 8:07 arrival - pretty poor effort

  13. Matt says:

    Timed it at 2 mins again today, helped slightly by the TM going and unlocking the cab for the driver but in saying that we had already spent 5 mins sitting at Kingdon st waiting for a platform to free up (probably your train holding things up westernliner as I was on the following train)

  14. James Pole says:

    Sounds like they need to do adjustments to the timetable, if there’s lot of waiting for trains to clear platforms! Bit odd as surely if there’s 3 platforms then there shouldn’t be too much issues.

    @Kris: My observations over the last few years is that around 30-40% (or sometimes even more) of passengers to stations on the Western Line get on the train at Newmarket. So your proposal of skipping Newmarket would pretty much result in discarding 30-40% of pax to appease the remaining 60%. Have I understood your proposal correctly?

  15. kris_b says:

    Ahhh, I didn’t consider that, that’s a sizeable number.


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