Regular Commuters’ Outrageous Fortune


Anyone else overhear the grumbles this morning when leaflets were distributed to Auckland rail commuters advising them of the Christmas rail closedown starting today?

It was the first time the penny may have dropped for many in realising  that some disruptions start from now, prior to the full closedown.

You can read in faces the initial panic about .. how the hell will I get to where I am going from Monday.

I remain very disappointed that Auckland Transport has chosen to treat their regular fare-paying customers with such disdain. We all understand the need for network work to take place – it has happening at weekends for years. And the Christmas month long closedown is an accepted tradition. The work being done will benefit us all in the long-run.

But the main reason for bringing this forward this year – because of the one-day music festival Big Day Out- is outrageous. Regular commuters had to put up with being treated poorly for many weeks of the RWC. They came back to the trains afterwards but are now rewarded with this at the most stressful time of year.

Even though tertiary and other educational institutions have closed for the year and businesses are winding down, there is a lot to achieve in a short time for most of us. Many businesses are still in full flight. The last thing we need is to face interruptions to our journeys.

My most-used phrase on this site is that if public transport is not reliable people will not get out of their cars and use it. It’s the main reason people give me for not even trying to use public transport.

To mess with regulars such a short time after the RWC suggests they are easily dispensable.

Big Day Out 2012 in January is already a watered-down festival and may be the last one ever. The diluted line-up may well have put BDO veterans off already especially as there are so many summer music festivals happening over January with interesting lineups.That’s certainly what regulars I know tell me.

Music fans head for Mt Smart stadium

Buses already run to BDO and as buses were used to get the 50,000 to Western Springs for the Foo Fighters (admittedly in this case with disastrous project management) why do trains have to be used? AT said it’s a commercial agreement that exists between NZ Bus and Big Day Out for bus shuttle services from the top of Queen Street to Mt Smart.

“However, says AT, “this service has not met public transport demand historically and a special event rail service (fare paying) has been historically operated to meet the additional demand.”

Isn’t that selective use of the “historical” facts. The fringe bus service to BDO was never the only option so it’s inevitable people would chose to catch trains nearer their home than coming all the way into the CBD then walk all the way up Queen St to Real Groovy near Mayoral Drive to catch a bus. Putting on buses as was done for Foo Fighters has not be tried so why argue this using the fringe bus service done before as saying buses don’t work.

Buses were used during the RWC so why do they not work for special events anymore?

The report on this to the AT board justified an earlier closedown as impacting only a maximum of 2,850 passenger trips per day including both inbound and outbound while a closure when Big Day Out was one (January 18-25) would affect a maximum of 3,150 passenger trips per day including both inbound and outbound. This represents about 20% of the daily network usage. Therefore, it believed the minimum impact on regular commuters will be pre-Christmas closure.

Agreed that this is the best of two evils. But shame on AT for choosing the option that once again penalises those who continually support public transport, not offer up a decent bus service instead to those who use public transport once a year only when it is convenient.




  1. Geoff says:

    AT’s argument makes no sense whatsoever. 2,850 PER DAY regular commuters, vs 3,150 Big Day Out travellers, means that the earlier closedown is affecting around 15,000 regular commuter journeys, to keep the 3,150 happy.

  2. Doloras says:

    But if they were withdrawing the trains for the BDO, this very blog would be yelling “FAIL FAIL OUTRAGE PEOPLE WILL NEVER RIDE TRAINS AGAIN IN AUCKLAND WORSE THAN RWC”.

  3. ODaikoRob says:

    This is NZ folks..what else is new…

  4. Matt says:

    Doloras, you’re really going out of your way to be a dick. The BDO is one day. We’re being subjected to a full week of service closure this side of Christmas for a One. Day. Event. The RWC was weeks of inconvenience, but rail services still ran.

    Jon is rightly annoyed that AT is treating the bread-and-butter rail users as a disposable inconvenience. Regular users are what keeps the rail network going, and while it’s arguably acceptable to have foisted upon them the levels of disruption we saw during the RWC, it’s very definitely not acceptable to completely shut down rail services for a whole week in order to accommodate a one-day event.

  5. Mike says:

    This is the same organizational culture that delivers one late train in every five. Trains will never fulfill their potential in Auckland until they are run by a customer-centric organization.

  6. George D says:

    What Mike said. The passenger experience is still treated as dispensable. Do what I do and call 366 6400 every single time your train is delayed (+5 minutes) or cancelled. It isn’t a good look when they have to report complaint numbers.

  7. Doloras says:

    I restate my case: this blog has gone big withjeremiads against AT’s bad organisation of big event crowds, using the really annoying 4chan meme of “FAIL” in all caps. And then AT decides to make sure the trains work for the BDO, and they get attacked just as hard.

  8. Matt L says:

    The thing that annoys me is that other outside the box options don’t even appear to have been considered.

    We know that the section from Britomart to Newmarket needs a lot of work but that the other parts on the Southern and Western lines are ok. Why not run trains west to south for the BDO, that would sort out people from out west and parts like around Newmarket. Then AT would just have needed to sort out the shore and CBD areas. For those then run buses but as the numbers are less because not everyone is forced into the CBD first then they should be able to handle the load.

  9. Ben says:

    And you can all thank Cr. Mike Lee and AT for Parnell Station which is the primary reason the Newmarket to Britomart Section of Line is to be closed from Monday coming up.

    Even if BDO did not happen and the normal closure did occur from Xmas Day, thanks to Parnell the extra week has to be added somewhere to which side, before Xmas, or the week before Auckland Anniversary weekend when people and normal commuters are typically back as well. So effectively damned either way.

    And don’t worry, I will be alongside the rail passengers next week at Newmarket Station through the last working week - so I will know quite personally their plights from disruptions next week.

    As for Parnell Station - IMHO that station should of and should have never seen the light of day unless the proper infrastructure such as cross overs at each end of the station AND/OR a third bypass track in the station limits to give redundancy capacity in that very heavily used and congested part of the network.

  10. Jon C says:

    @Dolores Stop stirring like a bad troll

    Recently you accused me of banning you which was untrue. I will now.

    Either make constructive comment about the issue or go away.

  11. joust says:

    shame on the PR person that came up the phrase “the timetable is changing next week would you like a copy of the new one?” for train guards to try tricking travelling public into thinking they’d be getting enhanced services.

    Then when questioned about why they have to close during the biggest shopping week of the year, the response was “Most people are going on leave from the 17th”. Most Auckland Transport officials maybe, certainly nobody in my workplace has yet as much as we’d love to. Again I feel sorry for the guards put in the middle of these deceptive messages and an already poorly treated group of customers.

    All of that at a time when traffic hasn’t been this bad in months the weather has been terrible which only makes things worse. I like many train users, was looking forward to being able to reach shopping spots like Newmarket, Sylvia Park or Lynmall without the stress of parking space hunting. Which I might add AT themselves have been spending our money on promoting: “take public transport to do your shopping”, only to pull the rug out from under the victims of that advertising during the one week when they might actually try the trains!

    We understand the need for closures, just be upfront about it and don’t treat your loyal customers and even some of your new arrival ones so badly.

    It was obviously a political trade-off to provide train services for the BDO. The fallout is shown on this post. Perhaps thats been calculated to have a smaller organisational impact than closing the network during the music festival. Which makes me wonder, who are our CCO more worried about ticking off, ratepayers who rely on transport infrastructure (inc roads) and services or ATEED friend to event-organising big-businesses everywhere, a philosophy they share with a political party sworn into government this week.

  12. Chris R says:

    I don’t understand the need to close the network for 3 weeks to put in electrification masts. I’m sure that when the Ipswich line in the UK was electrified they did it at night and kept the line open during the day.

    I agree with the sentiments about not pissing off the customer - someday that customer will find a way to piss on you!

  13. Matt L says:

    Chris R - It has been done at night, the vast majority of the western line was done at night with the only exception being when the rest of the network was closed anyway. If they weren’t closing the rest of the network for other infrastructure works then I suspect that the whole thing would have been done at night.

    The only part of the traction system that is only seeming to be done during shutdowns has been the wiring which is up between Henderson and Swanson

  14. Matt says:

    Chris R, there are bridge and track works being done in a number of places, it’s not just electrification. There are five bridges being rebuilt, and there’s track lowering tacking place at Parnell which blocks the Southern and Western lines.

  15. JC says:

    Once again this proves the point that those within the Auckland city council are not worth the money they are paid. Nothing is about the people of Auckland City, and I cannot wait to vote these dickheads out. Where are the real people of this city who want to make a difference within council and build a better city that works for those of us who pay good money to live here. Extremly poor form.
    Now where is Len Brown now, he is not out around the railway stations explaining to the users why the trains are not going to be working face to face to those who use them most days. That would take some back bone and show some leadership, which is not Len Brown.

  16. Giel says:

    I think we all understand the major transformations underway in both Auckland and Wellington but after the 2012 - 2013 shutdowns these total network shutdowns for weeks on end must end. They will need to staged better for specific line shutdowns (one route at a time) over limited periods ( eg long weekends) like almost everywhere else in the world. We are undergoing a major rebuild. It is pain but we should put pressure on that once electrification works are complete then such closedowns must be more limited in future in terms of continuous length. However if further big projects occur such as third mains etc then no doubt further major shutdowns will be required. It is starting to wear thin though as this has been going on for years now in Auckland over Xmas New Year and we need to get our trains back for the holiday use some holiday season soon. It just can’t go on like this. Those in charge must take this on board.

  17. Matt says:

    JC, what? Huh? This ain’t Len’s decision, for one thing. AT is a law unto itself.

  18. Anthony says:


    This isn’t the Council’s decision…..

  19. Matt L says:

    Geil - That is a large part of the reason Parnell is being done now and not in the future like originally planned. When AT released their rail station upgrade program in Feb this year (which was to upgrade the remaining stations in the region), one of the reasons listed for bringing all of it forward was to minimise disruption post electrification.

    In the case of Parnell if had of been done later then all of the overhead wires would have had to have been moved as well increasing the time it would take and the cost.

  20. Giel says:

    Thanks for that Matt L - Agree better now than later - only two years to go. That will be good - We are getting there.

  21. TFT says:

    Judging by the outrage above, do I detect that the majority of commentators are saying that Auckland Transport are lying in their statement that the week before Christmas is quieter than the third week in January for normal, regular commuters?

    The figures speak for themselves, and clearly the week before Christmas is quieter than that in mid-January.

    If not, then suggest you all shut up and get behind rail and the continued good work which AT is doing. Record patronage and use of rail must mean they are doing something right. Give these guys a break for once, and allow them to get on with what they are doing.

    Oh, and don’t be surprised if the same situation presents itself next year as well. I hear there are some major works needed at Britomart ahead of electrification.

  22. Matt says:

    Giel, another consideration is that most of the bridge work that’s being done this year and was done last year (and probably any last work to be done next summer) includes width for a third track, where appropriate. So adding another track in future shouldn’t need the same kind of disruption we’ve had so far since the work can mostly be done without having to close the whole line. There might be speed restrictions, but that’s a big improvement on the whole network being closed for weeks on end.

  23. Jon C says:

    @TFT This site has been strongly supportive of AT and celebrated its first year by congratulating them on a job well done.

    This is a discussion about the decision AT had to make because largely of the timing of BDO along with factors like the Parnell work as to when they started that work.

    I disagree that this was the best timing.

    I am not accusing AT of lying about their figures.

    Nor am I saying AT does a bad job.

  24. joust says:

    looking back at an earlier AKT post on this issue (when the decision was made):

    I noticed in a quote about the option of providing buses instead, “…this would incur additional public subsidy cost.”

    Does anyone know how much public subsidy is being provided with the trains option? A pretty good deal for event organisers by the sound of it. Or are the ticket prices expected to cover costs?

  25. joust says:

    @tft the difference in the numbers is pretty small, especially when they’re both estimates of maximums. Probably within the margin of error.

    The problem is the timing and inconvenience to regular commuters having to make alternative travel arrangements during a week of extremely busy schedules and bad traffic.

    The difference in numbers is certainly not the only factor that has been considered in making the decision as you seem to be suggesting.

    AT do a marvellous job in many other areas. Blind support is not going to help anyone.


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