Passenger Protest

A group of Wellington passengers refused to pay the fare because they had not been infomed their rush hour morning train had broken down and they would be late.
But who was in the right?
If your train does not arrive on time and you are inconvenienced, do you have any ability to claim damages?
If you weren’t told of a delay and so miss an appointment when you could have made alternative travel arrangements, can you sue the company?
Or at best can you at least refuse to pay the train fare when a train finally arrives?
This debate has arisen because of an incident in Wellington yesterday morning when the passengers refused to pay the fare because they had not been infomed their rush hour morning train had broken down and they would be late.
Tranz Metro staff said they were not in their right and threatened to chuck them the train at the next station but didn’t in the end.
When they reached the central Wellington station, the angry passengers told the information desk of their protest but were told the company is only responsible for getting them from point A to B and not at a specific time.
Now Wellington’s United Future MP, Ohariu’s Peter Dunne has taken the side of the passengers by saying that that the train operators need to wake up their ideas.
“It’s been trumpeting its flash new trains in the last few days, so how about a flash new attitude that resembles something called customer service? It is bad enough that people trying to get to and from work have to deal with these unending delays, but it is completely unacceptable that Tranz Metro should respond with that kind of attitude.
Mr Dunne, who says he has been campaigning for many years for better commuter train services, said: “The people on those trains every day have busy lives and responsibilities. It’s up to Tranz Metro to sort out its problems and to sort out its attitude and show its customers some respect.

In Auckland, I saw a similar protest on board one day when a train had broken down and triggered lengthy delays. When a train eventually arrived, it was very crowded and a passenger got on complaining about the service and refused to pay - quickly triggering others getting on to echo his protest.
He was told he and the others would be put out at the next station if they continued to refuse to  pay but because the protest had spread and the atmosphere was already stressed with the crowded conditions, the train manager let the matter drop.
Tickets you buy have on the back don’t have the conditions of travel but say you can inspect those terms and conditions of travel at a Veolia office.
So what does that fine print say?
It confirms that Veolia will get you from point A to B but can vary the times, change to buses or drop services and the staff arecorrect in still making you pay.
Here is Veolia’s key fine print on the specific issue that arose in Wellington:
  • Veolia “does not guarantee the time of arrival or departure of its passenger services at the times published in its timetable”
  • Veolia isn’t responsible 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.
  • 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
Such conditions are similiar for other operators.
So it’s a waste of time demanding a free ride!

NO COMEBACK: Waiting Wellington passengers


Below are Veolia’s Full terms and conditions of travel

The following conditions apply:

(a) The operator shall not, in respect of any passenger, be liable for any loss, damage or delay caused by or arising from an act of God or inevitable accident, riot, civil commotion, strike, lock-out, stoppage or restraint of labour, regardless of the cause
and whether partial or general;
(b) The operator may use any mode of transport to carry passengers and may substitute the mode of transport used at any time, including during a journey;
(c) 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.
(d) If there is contributory negligence on the part of a passenger or other person, the operator’s liability is subject to the law relating to contributory negligence;
(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;
(h) A rail ticket issued by or on behalf of the operator is subject to any alteration which the operator may make to the service to which that ticket relates during the currency of the ticket and 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) An operator is not required to refund money or to make any other allowance to:
(i) a passenger who has lost or mislaid his or her rail ticket, who has a damaged rail ticket or who presents a stolen rail ticket;
(ii) a passenger holding a rail ticket due to any reduction in the cost of that ticket;
(iii) a passenger who is unable to fully utilise their rail ticket due to a medical condition or a change of travel circumstances.
All requests for refunds should be made to Veolia Transport Auckland Limited in writing.
(j) a rail ticket issued by or on behalf of the operator remains the property of the operator at all times.




  1. joust says:

    Imagine trying this on the numerous times I’ve waited for a non-existent bus in Auckland (assured by the realtime board one was only moments away) only to have to wait another half-hour for the next one. The driver would laugh in your face. Regardless of how much people grow to rely on a service, fare-paying passenger travel is an individual choice for which that individual should be prepared to pay. There are plenty of other ways to “protest” (I use that term loosely in this situation) late running.

  2. William M says:

    Hm. Veolia’s conditions look really tight. It would be down to the operator’s good will and common sense if they wanted to remove fare evaders based upon train performance. As joust said, public transport is a choice and a value; a privilege you could say. People in Wellington and Auckland already know that rail transport is currently undergoing serious changes, and this sometimes does cause delays and issues. My employer understands that I take public transport to work out of choice (I take the train from Papakura to Newmarket each day, and walk a total of 8km to get to and from stations as well). Ensuring that your employer is aware of this can mitigate possible “liabilities” if you are late. It’s not Veolia/Tranz Metro’s problem if you cannot organise yourself to mitigate “damages”. They’ve got enough on their plate trying to get our rail networks to work so there are no “damages” (which will never happen…)

    Things could have been much worse. The group of passengers in Wellington are lucky they have not been trespassed/prohibited from the rail corridor, the penalty for fare evasion.

  3. San Luca says:

    I tend not to care too much if my train is late, PROVIDING there is adequate notification about the delays to help me make choices about alternatives or how to use my time.
    If they do not do this then I have no issues with not paying because they have not met their end in providing the service that we, as passengers, need.
    And let’s face it, it’s pretty easy to not pay on the trains if you really wanted to.

  4. grant says:

    The newspaper article has glossed over a few points, including that Tranz Metro DID send out a text alert that the train was delayed. Infact it did everything practical to inform people about the delay, short of sending someone out in a car in rush hour traffic to each station.
    Also, while I can understand the passengers frusttration, ganging up on the train crew is not fair. The crew should not be put in this position. Who should get the free ride….everyone on the train or only those delayed off the previous train? Approx half the passenger on the “next” train where palnning to catch the later one, so were not late. What about those (well over half of peak hour passengers) that are on monthlies and so have pre-paid. Why should casual and ten trippers get a free ride when they do not.

  5. Doloras says:

    Surely we now have evidence that simply saying “screw you, I’m not paying for this train, it’s far too late” has no adverse consequences apart from a bit of static from the clippies - and gets you publicity. So it’s not a matter of whether KiwiRail and Veolia are legally entitled to charge you and kick you off if you don’t pay (they are) - it’s a matter of will they actually do so, and I can’t imagine the answer being “yes” any time soon what with their public image as it is. Chalk one up for direct action.

  6. joust says:

    actually “San Luca” according to the terms and conditions stated above - which passengers are bound by the fact they’re travelling on a service to begin with - veolia in that situation have “met their end”. Thats exactly what the article is saying.

    Whether thats what you require of them has no bearing. If someone chooses to travel, or to enter the rail system to begin with, there is a cost incurred by doing so.

  7. William M says:

    @San Luca: except when you technically have been provided the service, under the conditions of carriage? You still boarded the train, didn’t you? And you got from A to B? If you did, you still have to pay the fare for getting from A to B. There is no obligation in their conditions of carriage to get you from A to B in a timely manner. Theoretically, Veolia’s punctuality statistics could fall to 20% (that is, 1 in 5 trains arrives at their destination more than 5 minutes past the scheduled time), but they shouldn’t have to refund your fare if you still boarded the train knowing this?

    You were provided the service (maybe not to the quality you expect), if you board the train knowing the condition that the operator cannot guarantee punctuality.

  8. Matt L says:

    I think these particular passengers should have paid as the train was only about 15 mins late. In saying that constant late performance is not acceptable despite what the terms of travel say and you should have a resonable expectation that a train will turn up roughly when it is scheduled to. A comparison would be going into a clothes shop and seeing a rack advertised at 50% off, upon going to purchace an item you are told it is full price. Had you known the true cost you might not have been interested in the item and might have looked at something else.

    I have once refused to pay after my train was over an hour late. At the time I was working in Ellerslie and so had to change trains when we had Newmarket West and South. There were constant messages over the loud speaker saying there were delays but that a train would be there at X time so I. That time came and went and I kept waiting being told that a train was not far away.

  9. William M says:

    @Matt L: Again, the operators should have worked harder. It’s not enough to tell users there’s another train coming - they have to be honest, and they have to work harder on other options. When trains fail at Pukekohe during morning peak, they replace them with buses to Papakura. That is what should be happening. They should have NZ Bus on standby; this is an important component of an integrated public transport system.

  10. [...] I want to give my perspective, with regards to rail punctuality and fare evasion. My inspiration is here, by the [...]

  11. Mike says:

    It’s odd that Peter Dunne say’s he suppurts Publc transport when none of his policys really mention anything about Public transport…. I’ve only ever heard him ever campaining for more roads actually!!

  12. Anthony M says:

    It isn’t fair on the crew, it isn’t thier fault that the whole system is breaking down.

  13. Cierat says:

    The onboard staff were put in a difficult position. Best practice would have been to either detain them to met the police in Wellington or to hold the train for police to collect them (which would have been an unacceptable delay).

    These so called protesters should apologise for the unwelcome and unhelpful way they harassed the staff trying to do their job under difficult circumstances. The reality is these “protesters” were free riding - someone else (at the bare minimum ratepayers and taxpayers via NZTA or other passengers via higher fares) will cover their shortfall.

    I would have told them to pay up or get out if I were travelling on that train. Nothing at all to be proud of here.

  14. George D says:

    Good on the passengers. If there’s something wrong with a product or service at any other business I’ve worked for, we do as much as we can to rectify the problem, and give refunds when the product is obviously faulty. Why should trains be any different?

    I think that notwithstanding the terms and conditions Veolia have set out, the Consumer Guarantees Act gives them some protection. Enough for them not to pay in this circumstance, I wouldn’t know.

  15. DanC says:

    As long as any delays are informed to passengers asap that’s okay. Delays happen but train operators need to be honest and fast about it so people can make other arrangements / let people know they will be late etc.

  16. Harry says:

    The problem with public transport is at a political level, not the crews fault at all. They’re just doing their job and the delays are actually politicians fault really.

  17. Joshua says:

    Well thats all good as someone who works for a boss and sits behind a desk. What if you are responsible for gaining or liaising with clients what if you are having important meetings etc, this will really drive people who need to rely on a schedule away from Public Transport. At least they know they are being held up in traffic, make a call (with Bluetooth of course) and give the people who need to know a heads up.

    Although the operators might have a case in there terms and conditions, surely there is a case for the consumer under the consumer guarantee’s act, about providing a reliable service or something. Could be worth a look. I mean even if they have there own terms and conditions they still have to abide by this act.

  18. Simon says:

    I`d like to take up the point that Mike made and say that it`s very rich of Peter Dunne to put the hard word on transmetro when he`s done stuff all for PT. It`s so easy for him to bully others. Maybe the hard questions should be being asked of him that if governments who he was a part of had committed earlier to helping to fund upgrades of the Wellington Rail maybe the problems of the last year or so wouldn`t have happened. Just another Pathetic politician trying to score cheap points.

    Secondly, I work for large airline in NZ in reservations and I can tell everyone here that the transmetro T&Cs are completely normal for any transport and travel tickets. The airlines have exactly the same T&Cs where the airline promises to do their best to get from A to B on time but there are no guarantees and if we have got you from A to B at a later time we have still covered our responsibilities to a customer. If there is a disrupt we are bound to do our best to get the customer to their destination but it doesn`t mean we have to get them there at the same or even similar time though of course we will look at other alternatives and do our best. And of course the company should make every effort to keep the customer informed. When people purchase tickets there are T&Cs they agree to and they are bound by. End of story. It sounds to me like the company was in the right as per the ticket T&Cs and if they did indeed make every effort to inform the pax, then the pax is clearly in the wrong, as frustrating as it is for them. If they don`t like the T&Cs they don`t have to buy a ticket.

  19. joust says:

    George D, the difference with the illustration you mentioned is that if people aware of the fault, avail themselves of the product/service then refuse to pay. Its really like purposely shoplifting something knowing beforehand the product is faulty and using that as a justification - the store should have done more to forewarn any prospective purchasers. The example falls down between a product to a service though.

    The communication is a seperate issue and it sounds like normal communication did in fact occur, @grant you made excellent points.

  20. Carl says:

    Sounds like we need to have some sort of Passenger Charter - in the UK if the train is half an hour late you can apply for a refund of that leg of your return trip, or an hour late and you can claim your entire return ticket.

  21. Matt L says:

    I would also add that while the service may have T&Cs that people must accept, there also has to be a realisation that people plan their trips around the timetables and services they prefer. In the example I gave earlier I had already spent 40+ minutes on a train from out west, I had a 10 trip ticket for my connecting journey but no cash with which to buy a bus ticket, in fact I didn’t even know how much a bus fare would cost or actually where the bus stop was. I was effectively forced to wait a train and had I known how long it would actually be I probably would have walked the hour or so to work and still got there quicker.

  22. Andrew says:

    I think the issue here is actually about a company dictating Terms and conditions. I suspect the commerce commission would be interested in a situation where a service can be cancelled and no refund given. Airlines can’t do it so why should a train operator. Fir once I agree with Peter Dunne: it’s all about customer service.

  23. Simon says:

    Actually not totally true Andrew at least for my Airline and I expect most others. If a ticket is a non-refundable ticket it remains that but of course the airline can hold the value of the non-flown sectors in credit for rebooking at a later date as long as that date is within the ticket validity and the new booking fare is the same or above the original. Of course because it was a disrupt when rebooking any penalty fees are waived but it is incorrect to say that airlines have to refund. That is not always the case. It depends on the fare.

  24. Matt says:

    I’d like to see a legal challenge of those T&Cs, to be honest. Saying that they’re available for view doesn’t mean that they’re valid, especially where they impose quite onerous conditions upon one party. The leading case on this is Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking (, which is basically summarised as requiring contracting parties to express clearly the terms under which the contract is formed *before* completing the transaction.
    It wouldn’t protect the protesters, but it’d give solid legal footing to anyone wanting to hold Veolia liable for foreseeable consequential damages arising from a failure to operate timely services.

  25. Uroskin says:

    Meanwhile, yesterday morning was one of those Wintry days when fog rolls into the Waitemata Harbour almost without warning. Jet Raider, coming from town ready to make the 8am sailing from Waiheke, had forgotten to bring a fog horn and a crew member capable of interpreting radar data, so Fullers sent an alert text notifying it had done a turnaround and gone back to town. The earliest sailing from Waiheke would be 9am, the laconic tannoy at Matiatia announced. Quickcat eventually left at 9.15am. Cue frantic cellphone calls and text messages from over 300 passengers waiting.

    We are far too civilised on Waiheke to storm Fullers offices and demand a refund. That’s why we pay the highest commuter fares in the country.

  26. Simon says:

    Matt, the T&Cs are spelt out crystal clear. If someone doesn`t agree they don`t have to purchase a ticket. A legal challenge to the airline or the rail operator would get nowhere. Why? Because the company is within its rights to impose whatever T&Cs it sees fit. If you don`t like them you have other alternatives to use.

    As a reservations consultant hardly a week goes past without someone complaining they didn`t know it would cost such and such to change a booking or didn`t know that a flight on a particular fare couldn`t be changed on the day of departure. The problem? Not the T&Cs. People being too lazy to take the time to check those conditions when they book online, where the same T&Cs were there in black and white for them. Honestly I get so sick of lazy people who don`t take the time to check. Their bad, not the company`s.

  27. Matt L says:

    Simon - I think changing an airline ticket is quite a different thing to catching a commuter train. You may not have alternaives or those alternatives may be worse as you had already committed to that mode of travel, just becaues alternatives exist it doesn’t mean the trains should always run late. You may not have the cash for a bus fare on you (if you have a multi trip ticket), you probably won’t know the bus timetable and it may be even longer than waiting for the train. You may have been dropped off at the station and don’t have a car to enable you to drive.

  28. Matt says:

    Simon, with an airfare the T&C are normally presented as part of an online purchase. Certainly every time I’ve bought an airfare online I’ve had to indicate that I’ve read and agree to the T&C, and had the opportunity to read them before completing the purchase. As a travel consultant, you have an obligation to draw a purchaser’s attention to onerous conditions (such as no refunds, no rebookings, etc) at the time of purchase.

    This is entirely different to a train fare, especially on-board a train, where you have no chance to consult the T&C before completing the transaction. At what point, prior to being committed to completing the transaction, are you presented with the T&C and given the opportunity to familiarise yourself with them? And given the chance to back out if you disagree? Once you’re on the train, you’re stuck. They’re not going to let you off because you don’t like the rules. And *that* is what Shoe Lane is all about. If the conditions are onerous, and “We can change the timetables whenever we like, even after your service has departed” is about as onerous as public transport conditions can get.

    I don’t give a fig what you may think of your clients, but the law is the law and the law says that you need to spell out, very clearly, that people who enter into a contract with you for services are subject to arbitrary alteration of the believed terms of the contract without any comeback whatsoever.

  29. Simon says:

    To both the Matts - I don`t disagree. The T&Cs should be clear like they are for airlines. I haven`t checked but I would`ve thought those T&Cs would be online on tranzmetro`s site but maybe they`re not, If not they should be. Unlike airline bookings of course people mostly rock up to the station and buy tickets and with so many people obviously it is not realistic for a ticket seller to go over terms and conditions with every customer. Though I guess they could provide a print-out if someone wanted them. The law is the law - I have no problem with that

    The problem I was aluding to that is also prevalent is that even when T&Cs are available, all to often people don`t read them anyway! @Matt#2 You might not care but I think if you were in my job you sure would!:). Infact you would probably be sick to death of it! They then try to blame your company for their laziness instead of taking some responsibility.


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