What Went Wrong Last Night


Fail is the kindest way to describe last night’s transport failure.
For a more colourful word describing faith in our system to cope - ask the 2000 people on trains to Eden Park for last night’s opening match between the All Blacks and Tonga who did not make it to the Park and didn’t get to see it live.

The Mayor has ordered an urgent inquiry to be completed by Tuesday 5pm so any solutions can be found in time for next weekend’s matches.

An assurance has been given by the Mayor that there will be some form of compensation for those who had a ticket but did not get there but it’s not clear who will pay or in what form.  No one has put their hand up.

People await outside Britomart worried they won't get to the game

There were 3 major fails last night- the trains, the ferries and the failure to close CBD streets from mid-afternoon.

So in the absence of any media release on it what can we piece together happened? Here is what we believe at this stage from various sources.


The message for people to use public transport was over sold and for future games there will have to be a more realistic marketing message that not everyone can get to the park by train. This will have to mean more provision for car parking - and or more buses.

People took the message to leave the car and home and use public transport to come into the CBD and to the game. Late night trains were promised so people after partying downtown late thought they could get a train home placing further stress.

According to the authorities, yesterday 60,000 tried to board trains around Auckland -  four times the 15,000 who normally use trains on a Friday. Even with the introduction of more 6-car trains, we know the system is sometimes stressed on a normal working day and still cases of overcrowding limits being passed.

It had been anticipated 30,000 would be moved by train. There was so much concentration on people getting to Eden Park, authorities seemed to forget thousands heeded the other message not to drive into the CBD so caught a train as well. Or people left their car at home for work that day and used PT.

The match was on a Friday and should have been shifted to a Saturday because the transport system is stretched enough getting Aucklanders around for their day to day business.

Veolia blames a  series of incidents and the fact the train system was under pressure from early on the day as people came into the CBD.

There were no mechanical failures but in the crowded trains, people pushed the emergency button wanting to get out.
Commuters have told AKT how they panicked in a over crowded train and wanted to get out. They decided to press the button and try to walk to the stadium.

There were also incidents of people using fire extinguishers probably to gain attention to the situation and a number of medical incidents in which someone felt unwell because of the congestion in the carriages.

The incident that triggered the collapse of the system from about 5pm concerned someone pressing the emergency button on one train and then people doing that repeatedly. Each time the driver got out to investigate and then had to reset the system. People were wanting to escape the crowded train and worried they would not make it in time.

In the end because of the number of resets, the train was abandoned and people told to get off and await another train.

But by then, three trains were held up behind the abandoned train at various places around the network.

The panic that sets in during a very crowded train trip especially when people feel claustrophobic or can’t breathe properly was documented last November when trains going to the U2 concert at Mount Smart Stadium ran into the same problem - people pressing the emergency chord. This was initially blamed on one idiot but in fact those on the trains at the time told AKT how there was no communication when trains stopped, people felt hemmed in and started to panic and there was a complete lack of on board communication.

In that U2 story last November an Australian told AKT: “Good luck with the RWC “This is a massive FAIL!”

For the past four years, AKT has complained along with its many readers about the poor communication at stations, and on trains when things go wrong.

That was painfully obvious last night throughout the whole system. There is always a reluctance by Veolia to admit at the time a fault has occurred and if you do ask an on board train official or someone at the station, you are fobbed off with an “I don’t know.” Not their fault- most train staff do their best and are helpful but they are obviously told to act dumb - or may genuinely have no idea.

Things compounded and some people, desperate to get to the Park in time, got out of trains and started walking on the tracks.

In the hour I spent outside and around Britomart from 5pm there were growing frustrations and panic about getting to the game. There was no information to passengers outside nor any proper queueing management control mechanisms you find everywhere else such as in banks or at airport customs so there was just a heaving rugby scrum getting more and more agitated.
The long queues of people trying to catch “normal” trains at the Westpac building at the back of Britomart Transport Centre got longer and longer and people got more and more despairing at the lack of movement in the line with again no information.

The queues were so long people did not know what line they were quequeing for because of a lack of signage outside the building and no information. Again no queue management.


The leaflet handed out during the week from Auckland Transport headed “What’s your game plan for opening night?” included these statements:

If you are planning to  to join the party on Auckland’s waterfront plan to get there early so you don’t miss any of the action starting at 4pm. Additional train, bus and ferry services will be provided to get you home.”

The harbour ferry service also had failures on the night. People ended up being stranded on the North Shore unable to catch a ferry back to the CBD because services were suspended.

Services were to have stopped during the firework display but stopped much earlier - at 6pm and resumed only in a limited way later in the night.

The numbers in Quay St were so great, there were constraints on people trying to enter and exit the ferry terminal so a decision was made to halt services.
Again any thought about people using ferries seem to miss the planning. It was obvious some of the best vantage points for the fireworks were on the shore such as Devonport and those on the Shore would use ferries to come to the CBD because it would be impossible to get parking in the CBD or they may get a drink.


The waterfront was pushed as the place to be -especially Queens Wharf.

The public had no idea only 12,000 people would be let in - or there would be restrictions along the waterfront leading to closures. The public understand there would be plenty of vantage points throughout the waterfront so room for everyone.

Queens Wharf had the full sign up after only about half an hout and long queues formed. Other areas closed because of capacity issues.

There were large screens so people could see the entertainment but one I saw did not seem to be going so people would have moved to find one.

Security were standing around the Viaduct area - but I became very worried about the lack of easy safe egress for those who started to feel suffocated by the growing crowds pressing against them.

I don’t suffer claustrophobia but started to get unusually slightly nervous thinking I would be trapped there for hours when I wanted to move around the CBD - but had huge difficulty getting through the thick crowd to try to find some fresh air and space and had to be quite rude about it in the end.

The only time security created any path was to let the waka teams through.

CBD streets

There  were an estimated 200,000 people around the CBD and waterfront last night - at the highest end of the RWC planning authorities’ expectations.

It is impossible to guess how many people would be in the city but the planning did not seem to be for the maximum expectations which the authorities seemed to think would be unlikely to be reached.

The decision to close only Quay St was incredibly short sighted.

The numbers downtown were so great, people spilled into Queen St and other streets adjacent to the waterfront. Eventually apparently some closure was made of Queen St but this was too late and should have been anticipated. It is a miracle no pedestrian got killed as they wandered on the roads amid the good spirited party atmosphere. When people wandered on the road others thought they could do so so followed. As it was, there was a nasty bus, car versus pedestrian accident on Fanshawe St.

Talking of road management, at 2.30pm Saturday there was still a flashing sign on Ian McKinnon Drive insisting New North Rd was closed so use alternative route!

So much of this was predictable and has been raised for the past couple of years on AKT. Sadly it means now people will be put off trying public transport because their suspicions it doesn’t work in Auckland are founded.
It’s also sad an otherwise fantastic magical night has been marred by bad publicity.


About 9,000 people used buses to Eden Park and 12,000 returned to the city on buses.

30 people ended up in hospital for minor problems.

4000 or so walked to the game on the Fan Trail.

There was only one arrest -so overall Auckland partied well, safely and in good humour.

A rolling account of the disaster 2000 miss getting to the game

What happened in Queen St when pedestrians took over

Government attacks transport fail

World media miss Auckland’s transport fail

Photos from the craziness on the streets

What Party Central looks like






  1. Patrick says:

    You have pretty well have got it right, just too many people and not prepared to manage that number

  2. Mike says:

    The route cause is that there are simply to many old farts running things in this country who need to be thrown in a retirement home. Has anybody prior in any official role been able to think about the future more than just what they will have for lunch?

    They’ve had 5 &^%$ years to plan for this and they still screw it up!!!!

  3. Doloras says:

    “According to the authorities, yesterday 60,000 tried to board trains around Auckland … It had been anticipated 30,000 would be moved by train. ”

    You could have pretty much stopped the article there. Still, the problems of success in promoting PT are better than the problems of failure.

  4. James says:

    Lets just hope the people who planned all this (or didnt plan…) will meet the consequences.

  5. Susan says:

    Interesting link Commuter. I note that riding a bike isn’t part of the list of transport options listed in that press release (which includes “walking opportunities”). And the bike option (or should that be “opportunity”?) seems to be pretty much absent from all transport marketing messages.
    Let’s hope they get it right for the night of the final.

  6. Doloras says:

    I’m a cyclist but I’m not riding my bike to the game to let some drunken rugby fan steal it.

  7. morecityplease says:

    Kind of sad to think that people cant just walk 4km. Yep Queen St should be closed along with New North Rd. Fan Trail is a great idea. The train is never gonna be a good option. Been to Germany, Korea and Japan for big games and the trains were often just as bad.

  8. Simon says:

    The buses were a big fail too! Post game no busses to anywere other than the city.

    However, big ups to the stadium, everything went really well from their point of view!

  9. Wasp says:

    With hindsight, although organisers surely must have foreseen big crowds, having the opening on a Friday night in downtown coinciding with knock off time in the city and adding to this the opening game elsewhere at Eden Park was never going to work. Public transport was always going to fail.

    Clearly it would have been better to have the opening tonight, the first game tomorrow spreading the resources more evenly.

    That and having security guards by the emergency switches in the trains would have helped also.

  10. bystander says:

    yes the transport was carnage - but no worse than the rail system in London on a normal day! sorry to hear some people didn’t get to the game in time, but, its one night of chaos. expect it!

  11. Scott says:

    Good post thanks.

    Just one little thing.

    “The public had no idea only 12,000 people would be let in” - this was well publicized the day before on the TV news and on many radio stations: the advise was that if you want to get near the cloud to go early, hence the crowds waiting prior to the gates opening at 3pm,

  12. William Stewart says:

    Hahah that is awesome:

    This is one occasion when failure is not an option. There are international experts who have been brought to Auckland and are working full time on transport planning for this event so that we get it right – “and we will,” stressed Mr Barnett.

    For more information contact Michael Barnett: (09) 309 6100 or (0275) 631 150

  13. Kris says:

    A lot of finger pointing is going on.

    The reality is, Auckland is differently a car orientated city and its PT system infrastructure is still being developed and failed to deliver because of this.

    Auckland is still not ready to be a ‘Party’ city due to its lay out and still lacking ‘Party Central’ facilities and infrastructure.

    If Auckland wants to the party city of NZ and host important international events, it really needs to develop the necessary infrastructure to do so and not leave it to the last minute. Auckland had 6 years to get its self organised.

    Out of the 5 major cities in NZ, Wellington is currently the only city that could be ‘Party’ city due to its compactness and its PT infrastructure, with Christchurch once the rebuild has been completed and maybe Dunedin.

    Wellington has proven itself to in previous events that is can do it but I don’t think Wellington could have coped with over 200,000 people (Police estimates that where in the AK CBD on Fri) decending on it.

    I do agree with other posts, that the opening of RWC should have been on a Sat avoiding the chaos of 100,000 plus descending on the CBD at the same time as peak hour traffic was clearing.

    Who ever thought of that, should have been shot.

    I agree that the Party Central on Queens Wharf could have opened on Fri night as a build up to the Sat’s opening but at a later time like 8 or 9pm allowing the peak hour to clear.

    Another point about bus/train services from city to Eden Park.

    Every RWC planner knew that the Eden Park stadium had a seating capacity of 61,000. Veoila according the media statements in the NZ Herald today had planned to move 30,000, so how was the the remaining 31,000 was going to get to Eden Park?

    AK Council had calculated 5000-10,000 was going to use the walking trail, so this means buses would had to transport the remaining 20,000 to 25,000.

    Apparently, 9,000 traveled by bus to Eden Park and 12,000 was carried by bus from Eden Park to the city on Fri.

    So how did the remaining 15,000 to 20,000 get to the Park on Fri?

    What should have happened, that a Bus/train shuttle system should have been used to carry 50,000 people between the CBD to Eden Park, even it means pressing into service every available bus that was available, hence a Sat official opening.

    If the RWC opening was held on Sat, then AK fragile PT system would have creak and groan under the pressure but at less it wouldn’t have been a shambles as occurred on Fri night.

    I would have thought the after the U2 concert problems, these problems would have been resolved. To many excuses are being made.

    Quiet frankly, there is no excuse for the shambles that occurred on Fri.

  14. Ian says:

    Aucklanders couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery.

  15. Ben says:

    As I have said in other posts at other sites, there were Heroes and villains out there last night for the RWC opener. And to do my bit of finger pointing, as usual Central Govt (Murray McCully) is being a tad rich when the administration he is in (and his predecessors before it both National and Labour) accuses someone/thing of a fail.
    Now with the finger pointing over, heck almighty being down at Britomart for 13 odd hours is an experience I WILL NEVER FORGET any time soon. The share volume of people is something I have never seen in my life time and to be honest I am lucky to have gotten away unscathed because it was a powder keg down there. Am not looking forward to the Finals night and the bronze play on Friday 21 October.

  16. Nigel says:

    We need to build a 60.000 car park building right next to the stadium, right?

  17. The real test of any organisation is how well they respond to events like this. Hopefully RWC and Auckland Transport are up to the challenge.

    One thing that might help is removing the focal point for all transport to the game away from Britomart. From the south, for instance, were there any trains running directly to Kingsland, rather than to Britomart first?

    Ferry users coming to the game should not have to push through crowds of people at “Party Central”. Perhaps inbound ferries could use a different wharf? In retrospect it would have been better to site Party Central a small distance away from the major transport interchange, like at the container wharf.

    Also after the game, all trains stopped only at Grafton or Britomart. There was no indication on how you get to points South or East. And for some reason buses waiting to depart North are located right on Sandringham Rd, blocking pedestrian access. Shouldn’t they be located on the perimeter of the pedestrian zone, with signs clearly pointing pedestrians to buses North, South, East and West?

  18. Ian says:

    How many people can a 6 cars train move? If the number was let say 300 people for 6 cars train then how can it shift 10,000 people in an hour. Something not quite right????

  19. Patrick says:

    The redeveloped strand platforms could have been used for people arriving in auckland for the celebrations and britomart used for trains to eden park

  20. geoff_184 says:

    A number of trains ended up using the Strand, but none of them were planned as such.

    Ironic that all the motorways were free flowing. Auckland’s traffic levels are way down at present. I would say a few people will go back to their cars for the next match, so there might be a bit more of a balance between road and PT.

  21. GJA says:

    I went into town this morning around 9am, when there were a lot of people out and about to get breakfasts, coffees, etc.

    I was shocked to see the state of the Downtown precinct. In side the Dowbtown mall the rubbish bins were over flowing, bottles lying all over the place, and ‘coke’ spilt over the floor (in a few places), etc. Then when I exited Downstown towards Britomart I was met with more broken bottles, and rubbish…

    This was 9 am, surely they could have had cleaners in to come and sort this out, from say 4am or 5am. While I was there I did not see any cleaners. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes, since we do not have much time to go to plan B.

  22. geoff_184 says:

    Plan B??? I think Plan A was all they came up with in six years….

  23. Brett says:

    As someone who lives in Mt Eden (east of Dominion Road), my gut instinct is that there were fewer cars parked in Mt Eden for the opening match than for other sell out events held at Eden Park in recent years. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that many people who would normally drive to the game opted for public transport instead.

  24. Patrick says:

    you can get 300 people in one car, so 6 cars means 1800 people

  25. Martin says:

    Something not mentioned here is the Kiwi tendency to arrive just on time and put pressure on the system (car parking, stadium entrance, PT). I’ve seen it at Football and Rugby games held at North Harbour Stadium, Eden Park and Waikato Stadium in the past.

    Had people left early for the event as is the norm in North America and Europe they would have beaten the rush and made the opening ceremony and game.

    There would certainly be no compensation in the UK for this. The issues in downtown are a completely different matter.

  26. kalelovil says:


    People did plan their travel and leave with time to spare.
    The problem was that demand for (heavily promoted before hand) public transport massively outstripped anything that had been predicted.
    The trains were already experiencing full loads at 11am and it was probably a similar experience on the Northern Busway.
    There were massive queues at stations by around 2:30pm and trains so full they couldn’t let anybody on.

  27. Matthew Flower says:

    All I can say is I took a ferry at 1900 from Auckland to Devonport. Except it took 150 minutes to bus from Devonport to Albany because there was a massive traffic jam at Devonport Wharf. That counts as a fail too.

  28. JJ says:

    Why has the chair of Akl Transport not come out and said anything. He should resign after that fiasco. Massive FAIL!!!

  29. kane says:

    People were the problem, I saw it first hand.

  30. Chris R says:

    @Patrick - I did hear that a 6 car is limited to 1000.

  31. Chris R says:

    My feelings are that Veolia is being blamed for the incompetence of Auckland Transport (Previously ARTA).

    For a very long time it has been common knowledge that all the scheduling decisions are made by AT and Veolia are then asked to comment and ultimately implement them.

    Veolia, being a contractor who wants to keep the contract, goes along with what AT say and everything goes downhill from there. An example is the current timetable - inter station running times are totally unachievable with southbound trains that are supposed to take 39 minutes between Britomart and Manurewa invariably taking up to 50 minutes. A lot of this extra time is in station dwell times with the high numbers of passengers using the service. Even the 0550 from Manurewa is usually 3-5 minutes late arriving.

    What can be done about this?

    I don’t know.
    However answers to the following questions would be nice.

    Why does AT need Veolia or KR? Why can’t AT apply for an operator’s licence on it’s own? It obviously has railway planners on staff. If that happens then the blame can be squarely (and transparently) laid where it belongs - with AT.

    One thing that is for certain is that the current system isn’t working on a normal working day - yesterday morning during rush hour a friend waited at Papatoetoe whilst 4 trains sailed past empty. She then got on a full train that got to Middlemore where they were all ordered off because of a train failure! If this happens what hope is there that we can cope with event days.

    Bear in mind also that preventative maintenance was supposed to have been done to reduce the chance of train failures at this time but the genset failed on the 0540 from Papakura yesterday morning.

    Another certainty is that nothing will improve until AT stops micro managing. They just need to say “you will provide 12 trains per hour between Papakura and
    Britomart with 6 of those coming from Pukekohe”. How the operator does that is then up to them.

    Veolia has really been sold a pup since they started here. It seems strange to me though that they have stayed for more but I suppose that they can’t afford to pull out. They have no control over schedules, they have no real control over LEs hired from outside to drive trains. They have little or no control over maintenance because that contract is negotiated by AT and KR.

  32. Pete says:

    A total FAIL on an epic scale.
    Its just such a test to identify the complete shambles that transport in Auckland has become and continues to be planned to fail. The money thrown at every sector gets blown on useless experiments and band aids.
    Buses - Fail - here in suburbia yet on a main arterial route dozens of near empty buses plying a circuit and even now on RWC days no patronage either, yet bus numbers were increased.
    Bus stations - Fail - what kind of an idiot did not anticipate or encourage vehicles to park on the acres of vacant grass in Albany or Barys Pt Rd.. Must have shares in a towing company. (note its rumoured that many parkers were directed to park on grass and then returned to find vehicles towed)
    Ferries - Fail - No planning to allow city workers to get unhindered home crossing with excess revellers coming in.
    Rail - Epic Fail - Contrary opinion on another blog that has rail employees reporting events in technical terms reports some mechanical failures and blames the NZ system of an emergency button push stops the train rather than opening a communication line to driver (like the london underground). To not anticipate drunken misuse or whatever in this country is delusional. Britomart what a joke.
    Police - Fail - 200 cops? Needed 2000
    Alcohol free zones - Fail
    Drunk & disorderly policing - Fail
    Smashing glass on streets - Fail
    No bottle or glass bag inspection barricades - Fail
    Safe to bring children - Fail
    Auckland - Fail

    Transport planners - what a joke - they will just go back to fancy lit useless signs, ramp signals, bus lanes, transit lanes, cycle lanes ; all the bright ideas looking for a problem yet cant see they are all the problem. In fact buses are themselves a problem…remember the strike and how easy it was to get around Auckland?
    Less consultants and technology and more common sense needed…Wont happen.

  33. traveller says:

    About the staff not able to give indications to passengers, that’s an everyday occurrence, they are completely clueless. The reason (coming directly from the mouth of one such staff) is that they are “HIRED TO COLLECT FARES…”. No wonder, then, they are not to provide a service, just to make sure people pay fares (which in overcrowded trains don’t happen anyway and btw where else in 2011 is a guy clipping tickets on a train?? epic fail!). This being NZ doesn’t surprise, but is good it has been exposed to the whole world. Welcome to NZ…

  34. Patrick says:

    @ Pete I think your being too hard

  35. Geoff Houtman says:

    So far the only transport system that people aren’t accusing of a “fail” are the Trams…

  36. Roger Watts says:

    The combination of downtown crowds, regular work commuters and rugby spectators is not going to clash again during the remainder of the RWC.
    The pity is that the recent transport shambles will become somewhat less of a shambles and be embraced as “we fixed the problems” by those who previously got it so, so very wrong!

  37. david says:

    Privatisation has gone too far and it is time that mass public transport especially services like the trains came under local or national government control.

    Hiring, scheduling, maintenance and all other essential matters pertinent to competent and efficient running should come under one management.

    Simply carving up a system so that everyone can have a ‘slice of the pie’ is quite illogical and that is where things will break down and have proven to be the achilles heel.

    Those that have visited Melbourne will know the problems they have encountered with their train system (which has been running a lot longer) and it is a lesson we should have learnt from.

    In this case the authorities who were responsible for what was a monumental stuff-up have been judged and are seriously deficient and found wanting.

    The first impressions are always the most lasting what it has proven is that Auckland is incapable of holding anyting on a large scale and that we are not up to the high standard that is required to handle it properly.


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>