Onehunga: Keeping It Real


Inspired by the debate here this morning as to whether Onehunga’s train service is going as hoped - or worse, I decided to check it out for myself by travelling up and down the line today.

Talk about Groundhog Day. I now know every piece of track by heart.

Without boring everyone with an Excel spreadsheet analysis, the good news is the service is meeting expectations and is growing each day.

The numbers are not earth shattering - they were never expected to be at this stage but I chatted to passengers and they are loving it -and for most, this is their first experience on Auckland trains.

Many said they couldn’t get over how fast it was -and a smooth ride- to Britomart.

Several chuckled loudly when they saw a four car prang this afternoon near Ellerslie out the window as they passed alongside the southern motorway and it reminded them the joys of not driving.

Staff say they notice more new people each day.

My prediction remains that the numbers will exceed expectations and these folk will join the clamour for airport rail now they have discovered train travel.

Boarding at Onehunga this afternoon

Here’s what I found:

  • An average boarding at Onehunga and Britomart was around 20 - sometimes up to 30, sometimes less
  • Te Papapa saw three or four get on and off each trip which is encouraging in the daytime for a destination in the middle of a light industrial area, an area that didn’t have a stop

  • It would be fair to say the numbers cannabilise the normal Southern traffic. About half a dozen Onehunga-bound got off at Newmarket, and the train usually half emptied by the time it got to Penrose 3.
  • Newmarket, Ellerslie and Penrose 3 were popular get off points for Onehunga-bound trains
  • There was plenty of room in the Onehunga park and ride - maybe 12 cars

  • The speed of the service was variable. KiwiRail staff were  studying cabinets around the Te Papapa station area and there were KiwiRail staff between Te Papapa and Penrose amid unconfirmed reports of level crossing or signal glitches.

  • Many passengers were newbies. An announcement was made on boarding asking people to buy tickets or have them ready but it would have been helpful for other onboard announcements as people were still finding their way about where the train was - even though there was a GPS operating.
  • There are so many crossings around the area and motorists are still getting used to trains coming through which is probably why the trains are crawling through the approach to Onehunga

  • Weekends are going to be busy with people going to Dress Smart which, in light of the present St Lukes mall expansion debate, proves a shopping destination is a great drawcard for train travel.
  • If we generously say 20 a trip are using the service during the day in the first week, that’s encouraging enough and we should continue to be very positive about its future.




  1. Chris says:

    People are used to having to commute by car. Coming from someone who hardly ever uses a train, they probably know nothing about trains and the way they work (if you get what I mean,)and probably would find a transition from car to train too daunting and stressful. I think, give it time and people will come once they start to hear about the benefits from others.

  2. Patrick R says:

    So are you saying 20 x 25 trains = 500 trips each way = 1000 per day, already isn’t that twice the ARTA number?

  3. Jon C says:

    @Patrick R I am being generous on today’s daytime traffic.As I mentioned the train half empties after Penrose Onehunga bound and reverse.
    But I am saying it’s slowly building and encouraging.

  4. Matt L says:

    There are definitely encouraging signs and I think this line will well exceed ARTA’s predictions. In fact I think that the predictions are so low that it might be deliberate so that they can say “we justified the line with 500 passengers a day using it but we are getting X amount more than that. It just shows that people are willing to use these services so we should build the CBD line or a line to the airport”. The biggest advantage Onehunga has is that is is so much quicker than driving at almost any time of the day which is not always the case on other lines.

    Chris - I agree that the hardest thing to getting people to use the trains is the initial fear of change. No-one wants to be the only person on board that doesn’t know how things work and look silly so it will put some people off. Once they try it though they will be impressed.

  5. Andy says:

    I long for the day where every station has its own building with turnstiles. Yes, dreams are free, it would just make things less a lot less daunting for irregular users. Just put your wallet on top and it’ll charge it to your transport or credit card.

  6. Ian says:

    Is the roll out for integrated ticketing still happening? Seems crazy that passengers still obtain rail tickets pretty much as they did a century ago. In this respect rail hasn’t moved at all.

  7. Matt L says:

    Ian they will start the initial trial of them in August next year with a limited rollout to trains and some buses but it could be another year before all services can use them


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