World Media Miss Akl Train Fail


While local media continue to lead their news with Auckland’s RWC Opening Night train failure, most of the global media outside Australia have not reported it.
Over the past few years, there has been much debate on this site about what would happen if the trains failed on the night - and what bad publicity could result.

Auckland has dogged a bullet - with many world papers ignoring  or giving scant match coverage to the RWC. Despite the marketing that “The world has come to play. ” the reality is that rugby is a minority sport compared to football worldwide.

Or overseas media has concentrated on only the opening ceremony and almost entirely the rugby itself.

There are several reasons why Auckland is lucky to have escaped a bullet on this:

  • Many international media in New Zealand covering the RWC2011 seem to have sent their top rugby writers so they are not covering anything outside what happens in the stadia or at team pre and after match news conferences.
  • UK journalists seem to have covered the few hours before the opening ceremony but after the game and filing copy about it, probably headed to the bar before nursing a hangover early in the morning to catch a flight south for England’s first match yesterday in Dunedin or Scotland’s opener in Invercargill - so missed  coverage of Auckland’s train woes and then became fixated on what they considered England’s under-par on field performance.
  • It was a poor scorecard for Aucklanders to swallow - but in the wider context of the cup coverage globally, it may have been viewed by international journalists as just a parochial matter, a hiccup of the sort that plagues most international events in some form.
  • But if the games become boring and predictable,  some of the journalists may start fishing around for something that has a whiff of scandal. This might make attractive  the ongoing inquest into how commuters on an overcrowded train decided to pull the emergency chord and start walking to the game from Newmarket and how an All Black’s mum coming by train missed the opening ceremony.

Locally the transport fail continues to dominate the news with it still leading the midday RNZ news bulletin today, the front page of the Sunday News quoting angry commuters who want compensation and the Sunday Star-Times displaying a large story under the heading “Auckland’s Big FAIL” -  the worst scenario nightmare heading Auckland’s leaders and planners hoped would never occur.

The Sunday Star Times article quotes the AKT article on November’s U2 concert  (without crediting AKT but calling it “the media”) in which a commuter wrote: ” Good luck with the RWC .his is a massive FAIL!”

During that concert people also could not cope with the overcrowding and delays and lack of information and pulld the button.

U2 concert crowds

RWC commuters struggle to reach Eden Park | Reader Andrew

There will be more debate after Mayor Brown gets his report on what happened from Auckland Transport on Friday late afternoon and has to placate the public saying the problems won’t happen again and detailing compensation for those who missed the game.

The closer to home Australian press have mentioned both the transport woes and problems on the waterfront.
Sydney Morning Herald  reported that the opening ceremony was being applauded but city officials and festival organisers were blasted “for poor public transport and crowd control measures after about 200,000 revellers descended on the waterfront.” It quoted Auckland Mayor Len Brown admitting  the city’s transport system failed residents last night, after reports about 2000 people missed the opening ceremony at Eden Park because of train delays. ”The delays were unacceptable and I have called for an urgent review to ensure there isn’t a repeat of Friday night’s delays,” Brown said.

Adelaide Now reported not just the train fail but something I have not seen locally about people falling in the water from Queens Wharf - something I mused about the day before Party central opened.

Their report on the opening night in Auckland starts:

 POLICE boats were required to pluck fans out of the Auckland Harbour after overcrowding problems in the city marred the opening night of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.  Transport was also thrown in chaos, with ferries from Auckland’s north shore cancelled due to the overcrowding. Trains out to Eden Park were also severly delayed, with many people missing the game due to trains being stopped on the line. Out at the ground, even IRB chief executive Mike Miller even ran into trouble getting into the ground when a security guard denied him entry for not having accreditation.

Metro UK is one of the few UK outlets to mention the trains.

Frustrated passengers who had paid hundreds of dollars to watch New Zealand take on Tonga at the Eden Park stadium were reported to be pushing the emergency stop buttons on trains between Britomart and Kingsland before jumping out of carriages and climbing up banks in a desperate attempt to make it to the stadium.  Many were forced to walk along the tracks to get to Friday’s festivities at Eden Park, located 3km south-west of Auckland’s CBD.  Harbour ferries and buses also suffered severe delays after being swamped by fans rushing towards the waterfront to witness the opening ceremony to mark the start of the biggest sporting event ever staged in the country.

But the other media covering the tournament seem to have concentrated on just the early part of the Friday festivities before moving into coverage of the opening ceremony.

Reuters’ syndicated reports which were widely used through world media said in the middle of am AB-Tonga match report:

Auckland had been in party mood all day with thousands of people flooding into the central city to special “Fan Zones” to celebrate the start of the tournament.  The Eden Park crowd were also treated to a scintillating opening ceremony and television pictures of a spectacular fireworks display in central Auckland but the game failed to live up to the pre-match expectations.

Media report Auckland celebrated well

The opening ceremony got the thumbs up from everyone.

The Irish Examiner began their report on the All Blacks-Tonga match:

ABSOLUTELY sensational — and that was just the opening ceremony.
Leaning heavily on Maori culture and protocols, Eden Park was electrified well before New Zealand and Tonga took to the field for the most incredible spectacle I have ever witnessed on a rugby pitch. As an opening statement from the tournament organisers, it could not have been more striking. Hopefully now, after such an explosive start, the quality of rugby produced by the competing 20 nations will be equally memorable.

CNN is concentrating almost exclusively on the rugby itself but mentioned:

Prior to the match Auckland staged a glittering opening ceremony as the 60,000 crowd at Eden Park watched hundreds of performers, including traditional Maori dancers, kick the festival of rugby into life. An elaborate fireworks display showcased the city’s harbor and skyline with thousands of people lining the streets to watch. New Zealand’s Prime Minister told the crowd the World Cup was the biggest event the country had ever host

 Buenos Aires Herald also spoke only of Auckland’s party atmosphere.

Thousands of rugby fans flooded onto the downtown streets of Auckland’s waterfront today as the country began the rugby World Cup in a carnival-like atmosphere. Fans proudly displaying their team’s jerseys with flags draped over shoulders and lashings of face paint were the order of the day as groups worked on chants, mingled and practiced some good-natured ribbing with their neighbours.

Other coverage has concentrated on NZ travel guide for those going to the RWC. A few weeks before the start of the tournament, The Age tourist writer calls Auckland is about “as colourful as an Italian widow. All Blacks flags hang from its balconies; All Blacks jerseys adorn its residents. Throughout the city, buses, billboards and buildings are covered with All Blacks players flogging everything from deodorant to breakfast cereals.”

So consider ourselves lucky.


 1st step to compensate ticketholders

What went wrong

Urgent review ordered

What happened in Queen St when pedestrians took over

Government attacks transport fail

Photos from the craziness on the streets

What Party Central looks like








  1. Owen Thompson says:

    Brown better not increase my rates to pay compensation.

  2. tbird says:

    “most of the global media outside Australia have not reported it.”

    Well, why would they?

    Sadly our media seems to want to hate on things NZ does, much more than the rest of the world’s media. If this happened in Canada, London or Australia there would have been riots. Fortunately we’re not as full of angry people as the pessimists lead us to believe.

    Many NZers expect that everything should go perfectly all the time, and if it doesn’t we seek a scapegoat.

    We need to embrace our “easy-going” stereotype, and stop being such negative bastards!

  3. Apart from the nz media (mainly just the newspapers) I’ve only heard positive reviews about Auckland PT getting to and from the game and waterfront.

    Including from locals and tourists. Considering the amount of people that turned out. But typical NZer’s focusing on the negatives.

  4. AKT says:

    @Ainfrastructure So why is the Mayor expressing such disappointment and the Government demanding answers? 2000 missed the game.I dont think those people think its good enough.

  5. Andu says:

    Nobody overseas will care about the train fail. Rugby is not THAT big a deal.
    Aucklanders need to realize these things happen overseas too. Planners were overly ambitious about what our old system could deal with and some people paid the price for that, they will be compensated.
    It’s not OK that this happened, but let’s keep things in perspective.

  6. Cam says:

    @ AKT just to clarify 2000 did not miss the game they missed the opening ceremony.

    Also the oversea media have not reported this because they really don’t care about PT problems in Auckland it’s not of interest to their viewers/readers in other countries.

    It’s terrible that this happened but what else can you exepect when 60,000 people at once try to use a network that’s had minimal investment for the last 50 years. There really is a bit of hysteria flying around this in the local media.

  7. @AKT - ok

    2000 missed the opening ceramony because they didn’t follow advice on traveling early or using the Fan trail which was hugely popular and fun…

    they were expecting to be flooded by 80,000 downtown plus the 60,000 at the stadium. Only 200,000 people turned out to town, sorry but not many cities would have been able to cope, yet alone Auckland which has such an aging fleet and very limited funding for PT.

    International visitors weren’t that affected by the train problem because they know how to attend events, they travel early, which would be part of the reason for the ignorance.

  8. Liam says:

    NZ still has it’s case of small man syndrome - it’s forever obsessed about how it’s seen on the world stage.

    Ultimately the world media/overseas readers and viewers really don’t give a shit about how our PT fared. When do you ever hear about an overseas transport fail in our media?

    Interesting comment above - you really can’t help but notice all the people inconvenienced were NZers - haven’t seen a single visitor complain on the news. They’re just more aware of how to attend events than us.

    If visitors had been held up, maybe a different story world media-wise.

  9. Jon C says:

    A problem was the marketing over promise.
    Aucklanders were told the “Game Plan” for Friday whatever they were doing was to take a train.
    The system had been tested for over a year for big events and it could cope.
    The leaflet I was given at Britomart a few days before certainly talked it up - more trains, trains to the park every 7 minutes, additional trains, late night trains…
    It was unrealistic when there was also the waterrfront and firework activities and people leaving their day job heading home as usual.
    I was in London during the Millennium celebrations and over a million people were on the banks of the Thames for the fireworks and celebrations.
    Trains were running afterwards until about 4am but couldnt cope.
    I didnt even contemplate it and walked many ks home. This was a big international city and a train culture city and it was beyond all the capacity they could throw at it.
    Aucklanders are not used to 200,000 trying to get in and out of the CBD.
    But if you are telling people to leave your cars at home and come in by train, they need to have warned not everyone could possibly get there or without long delays and queues.
    Authorities said they had no idea how many people would go into the CBD but marketing also encouraged everyone to go in and party and “find your spot on the waterfront.”
    They should have worked to their highest estimates of 200,000 and talked about walking cycling or being prepared for delays.

  10. the highest predictions were 80000 planning for 100000, the amount of people was unprecedented and I’d wouldn’t expect anyone to even contemplate that many people would of turned out.

    Also personally the biggest advertising for transport route I saw was about the Fan Trail, however maybe this is because I’m not a regular train commuter…

    Also all the marketing mentioned to get there well early because of the amount of people going to the route, if everyone was early they still would of made the opening ceremony even with the delay. So using it as a excuse for Aucklander’s incompetency is poor. This is a international event of a size never seen in New Zealand, funny as said many times before, it seems it’s only the New Zealander’s complaining.

  11. Jon c says:

    @ainfrasstructure Joshua, Lem Brown said they planned for 200,000 people being in the CBD but that was at the highest end of their predictions. Such an event had not been held before & with the new Waterfront facilities they did not know but they did plan for up to that number.
    The Game Plan marketing was not just handed to train commuters but marketed widely including in large press adverts telling people to use trains.
    You are wrong only Kiwis complained. I was at Britomart on Friday night. The loudest most colorful language about our train service was from tourists including Australians, People from the UK and a group of Japanese. Most Aucklanders I spoke to or overheard were used to the train problems that I have blogged about for four years but like some very loud Americans who ended giving up and going to McDonalds next door they all were astounded at the total lack of information and the shaking of heads when security guarding the place were asked.

  12. Timothy says:

    The overcrowding sounds dreadful.
    Are there not OSH rules?

  13. AKT says:

    Overcrowding has been an issue on Auckland trains this year as patronage has increased. 6 car trains have been introduced which has eased the problem.
    The latest July patronage figures showed that in July there were no services reported to have average load factors above the “target” – 1.4 (i.e. four passengers standing for every ten seated passenger) but this was not a good month to judge because of the 2 week school holidays.
    Also the increases over time in timetabled services are pushing the old trains to the limit.
    I am still astounded there was no a mechanical breakdown on Friday as happened in Morningside for one of the last pre-RWC tests of the syytem.
    To be fair to Veolia, they are being asked to get more and more out of the old trains until electric trains arrive from 2013/4

  14. Derek Reeve says:

    Oh yeah, Oh yeah - it”s oh so clear.
    Duh Mayor should leave da house!

  15. Christian says:

    The biggest issue is the lack of communication and contingency planning. I wrote to Mike Lee and the Minister of Transport a few years back during the ongoing problems associated with double tracking and other improvements to the network. My concern was that when there were failures and delays, no announcements were made on trains or stations and people started to lose it. I said there would be problems for RWC but my biggest concern was how Veolia would handle an accident or another emergency - their staff are untrained, some can hardly communicate at all and simply cannot cope with problems and people could be hurt or injured as a result.

    The Minister dismissed my concerns, Mike Lee agreed with me and forwarded my letter on to ARTA. While communication did improve after that, clearly if failed in Friday night and that is a real shame.

    I was at a pub in Kingsland by 2pm and had no problem getting to the game or pub-crawling my way to Ponsonby afterwards. Great event!

  16. damian says:

    That is because there was nothing to report.
    Over crowding and delays are normal in most countries with big events.

  17. Christian says:

    Rubbish - there were incidents and delays that require people to exit trains mid-station and scramble up banks or walk along tracks. I have not seen reports of this sort of thing for other major events overseas. As soon as Auckland Transport were aware of these issues, people should have been advised to seek alterative transport. Buses and walking were options. This message shold have been given to those waiting inside/outside Britomart and elsewhere.

  18. rachel says:

    Christian, Do you or have you ever worked for Veolia? I am guessing not, as if you do or did you would know that all staff are are trained in handling minor and major incidents along the rail corridor. It is that kind of ignorant comment that perpetuates the myth that staff are a bunch of idiots.For your information, onboard staff put lots of effort into trying to make rail services run as best possible under the circumstances on Friday.
    You should apply for a job - but I fear you would not last a week.

  19. AKT says:

    @Rachel I have often said the on board staff are the unsung heroes. I am sure underpaid for the work they do which is often helping out with medical emergencies.
    None of what happened should reflect in any way on those good souls.

  20. rachel says:

    Thankyou AKL. Your comment will be much appreciated by those concerned.

  21. damian says:

    Christian - stop trying to live in never never land - delays are always going to happen with any large event.

  22. Christian says:

    I am not saying there will not be delays Damian, but if you think it is acceptable that trains stop for hours between stations, people are forced off onto the tracks to walk and miss an event they left for several hours before it started your are the one dreaming.

    Rachel and AKT, when there are delays (which are enevitable especially for large events), the key is to communicate with the passengers and frequently update them. Media reports are that this did not happen in some cases. Hence people panic and get angry. I ought to know, having been caught in many commuting debacles including one two hour breakdown outside the Vector arena on my way to work. It was very poorly handled and staff just went AWOL when they were needed most. So in my experience, the staff need better communications and crowd control training. I am sure they try hard and a paid poorly, and the problems on Friday were not their fault. But the reports are they could have handled things better so they need to learn from that.

  23. Christian says:

    Read the article in the Herald today about why emergency buttons were pressed and the reactions of train staff to legitimate medical issues. I have been stuck in a sufficatingly hot broken down train and have experienced this first hand.

    Also on communication, I notice that nobody from Veolia transport has fronted the media for interviews (only the Mayor had the guts to go on Closeup last night). Is it any wonder Veolia are getting served for their handling of things?

  24. AKT says:

    @Christian No one has campaigned more for better communication than me.
    I reported about 4 years ago on this site about being stuck in a train for nearly an hour with people fainting and wanting out but being refused because we were between stations when signals failed.
    My comment is that is a Veolia high up policy decision. The people doing the donkey work are doing their best but have to comply with the instructions.
    It’s Veolia management decisions not train guards.

  25. Christian says:

    Are you saying that Veolia mangaement has instructed train managers and guards not to update passengers about delays? You have first hand knowledge that this is the case? I would have thought that passenger communication is the responsibility of the train manager in charge of each train.

  26. geoff_184 says:

    Veolia train staff don’t usually know what the reasons are for delays, because they are on a KiwiRail network, which is a completely separate company.

    Because of the multi-party approach to the running of Auckland trains, no one employee sees the big picture, so confusion and ignorance generally reign.

    As a railfan, I can experience a delay on a Veolia train and understand exactly what is happening and why, but I can see the onboard staff don’t.

    It’s never going to improve for as long as multiple parties attempt to run the show.

  27. Christian says:

    You are right Geoff. It also probably doesn’t help that the trains are controlled from Wellington as I understand it.

  28. Kegan says:

    “It also probably doesn’t help that the trains are controlled from Wellington as I understand it.”

    Not sure that that has much to do with it - it is a relatively recent development. Poor comunication isn’t …

  29. Baylee roxs says:

    i think this was a very poor attempt of transport
    , next time we should have more people guarding the buttons and make it a one way train.


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