Thursday, June 30, 2005

A challenge to the ARC

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee admitted yesterday that delays to western rail services were unacceptable, but rejected a claim they were forcing commuters to buy more cars.He accused Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey of becoming "histrionic" in suggesting many West Auckland passengers had already given up on rail and were clogging up roads by buying cheap Japanese cars instead.
"Bob has every right to be frustrated at these delays, which are unacceptable, but he has gone right over the top to say many users have given up, because the figures indicate the direct opposite," Mr Lee said. "More people are using trains than ever."

The Herald reported this today. It is time he and his fellow elected ARC members got out of their (no doubt ratepayer-funded) cars and visited the train stations and talked to those of us who are frustrated and despairing.

Only yesterday this blog quoted a fellow commuter who has gone back to using his car.

Yes, more people are trying the trains - but more and more people are giving up.

We elected people like Mr Lee (I voted for him) to the ARC with great hopes. How they let us down badly.

We won't forget it come next election time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bob Harvey is a GREAT Mayor

Another great piece in the Herald this morning by on-to-it reporter Mathew Dearnaley reveals that
Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey will tonight ask his city council to summon regional rail operator Connex Auckland before it to account for its persistent inability to run services on time after almost a year in the job.

Thank goodness!

"While this council, with all its best intentions, has strived to lift to unprecedented heights the train patronage, the very system we have cheered on has left the daily user - whether to school or work - in utter despair."

Once again this morning I arrived at the station to find would-be passengers leaving in despair with trains not arriving and no explanation. (Later text messages revealed the usual mechanical breakdowns).

"I've done this for five weeks and have run out of excuses for why I am always late for work," said one guy.

Well done Mr Harvey. We should all turn up for that council meeting.

And isn't is pathethic that we have still yet to hear anything from Mr Hubbard about the service. Or is it Mayor Hucker we should be asking for help?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Is this my high school toilet block? No, it is the only seating available at Morningside. By the way, there is no toilet. Posted by Hello

Morningside station was suppose to be improved. It remains a cold windswept graffiti-ridden landscape. Posted by Hello

The Barmy Army have been conned!

What a con.
As the Lions supporters head for the special trains to take them to Eden Park, they will marvel at the splendid Britomart station -- and arrive at the spanking new Kingsland suburban platform, recently opened by the local MP Ms H. Clark.

Little will they realise that if you go to any other suburban station it will be a windswept graffiti-ridden platform that resembles something out of NZ's early history.

Is there any hope we will see the much-promised improvements to other stations in our lifetime?

And what happened to a park 'n' ride at Kingsland?

Kingsland's platform is not quite finished. Posted by Hello

The Barmy Army will be most impressed with Auckland's suburban platforms. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

I'm wet and the train is broke again!

It's pouring with the rain.

The railway platform has no shelter, my umbrella keeps blowing inside out and the cold rain puddles on the platform keep splashing up my trousers.

There is nothing to do but wait and wait. The trains are broke again.

7.39am: Due to a mechanical fault, the 7.27 Western Line from Britomart has been cancelled. All other west services are to running to time (sic).
7.43: Due to a mechanical fault, the 07.55 Western Line train service from New Lynn has been cancelled.
7.56: Due to a mechanical fault train services in both directions on the Eastern Line are delayed by approx 20 mins. Trains leaving BRT on line.
8.17: Due to a mechanical fault the 07.57am Western Line train service from Britomart has been cancelled. Next service to Waitakere will leave at 08.15am
8.22: Due to a mechanical fault the 08.25am Western Line train service from New Lynn has been cancelled.
9.22 Due to an earlier mechanical fault train services in both directions on the Western Line are delayed by approx 20 mins.
9.25: I ring for a cab and ask them to bring me a towel.
But at least we learnt a new word today. BRT.I think it stands for Bloody Rundown Trains.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sydney train drivers get lost!

Sydney trains are miles better than Auckland's but it seems even they have major problems.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports today how rail staff typically have no idea where trains are, how late they are running or when they will arrive!

The Auditor-General, Bob Sendt, said in a performance audit report that RailCorp's management and staff were "making a serious effort" to help passengers, but a "quantum leap" was needed to improve a communications system that often gave "inaccurate, incomprehensible or incomplete" information.

Disruptions were inevitable on any rail network, he said, but CityRail's poor on-time performance highlighted the need for much better communication with customers.

Mr Sendt said old technology, including party-line phone networks, manual signalling systems and inadequate public address speakers, contributed to the lack of reliable information on services, but poor staff responses were also part of the problem for a system experiencing falling passenger numbers and fare revenues.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The old Anzac Ave railway station platforms look like a much-neglected slummy parking lot as you pass by in the train. Can something be done about this area? Maybe make it a station again for Parnell people. Posted by Hello

Why they don't want us to use the trains

It's crazy.
They spent millions on Britomart.
But they forgot to order trains and carriages. Well they did get a few.
But sometimes only two carriages (one day only one!) arrived.
With no sign of any more carriages ready yet, we keep getting punished for using the trains.
The message is : please don't.
Every day the train messages warn (like this one today):
Due to heavy passenger loadings, the Western Line services has been delayed by approx 20 minutes.
In other words:
We designed the recent timetables thinking no one would use the trains.
So now we find people are trying to get on at the stations. Remember they just jump in - the ticket collecting is done on board by guards.
But that slows up the trains.
So it makes the services late.
Please don't add to this congestion.

The Herald reported today that in the last year Auckland had 2.5 pc fewer bus passengers,14.3 pc more ferry passengers but 57.4 pc more rail passengers!
How come the planners did not think a new rail service and Britomart might create this increase and plan accordingly!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Marcus,start walkin! The Western Line service is late again! (TVOne picture) Posted by Hello

Marcus, you're off the rails!

Another great TVOne Off The Rails show from the slightly eccentric but delightful Marcus Lush, this time on Auckland.
But he should have spent a few days riding the Britomart services before declaring unequivocally that the Auckland train service is now fantastic.
Marcus: Britomart looks fantastic and it certainly looks better than it ever was, but try catching a western line train every morning for a week.

Lost in the fog

By Mathew Dearnaley
Rebellious Auckland rail passengers, their patience exhausted by more delays yesterday, forced train staff to give up collecting fares. About six passengers held an impromptu fare strike on the region's troubled western railway line after a double-headed mechanical breakdown halted morning peak-period trains between Waitakere and Henderson.
Connex Auckland general manager Chris White ...said he had not heard about a fares revolt, but did not believe any delays to his services justified any such action. "If you want to fly to Wellington and you are delayed by fog for two hours, do you refuse to pay for the flight?"

Thanks to the Herald reporter
Mathew Dearnaley for a well-written piece. Great to see the Herald following this story - and they tell me they're reading this blog.
Connex boss Chris White is sounding so arrogant and needs a lesson in customer loyalty and PR.
Here are a few of the reasons why we are fed up and it not just about the latest breakdown:
1: Almost every day the trains are late.
2: Trains are so full, they may go by without being to pick up passengers.
3: There are so few carriages, you have to stand in unpleasant crowded carriages. Sure that happens in London and New York but the carriages are small, there are no even enough handrails and you sometimes have to almost cluth on to someone else. Not very pleasant in these PC times.
4: The trains are very old and come from some Australian museum.
5: Breakdowns are common.
6: The signals keep going faulty. One night it took three hours to get home. They are run from Wellington which is crazy.
7: The trains are so late some mornings, some of us spend time on the train trying to think up a new excuse for being late.
8: There have been some unexplained scary moments. Concrete falling down at Britomart and two fires.
9: Communication on board is patchy. There is no intercom between carriages.
10. Guards are either very pleasant under trying circumstances or downright rude. One ordered me to unplug my Ipod in case he needed to talk to me in an emergency.
11: Most trains have no in board information of where you are making it hard to know which station you are at on a dark night.
12: Trains often display the wrong sign of where they're going. Passengers tell of stories of getting a train marked Waitakere on the back and it goes on the Southern line.
13: You can sign up for a text messaging system warning you of problems but the messages give little real explanation and often arrive late by the time they get sent out.
14: Two days last week I gave up waiting after an hour and went home (walk 40 minutes) to get my car and picked people up from the train station on the way.
15: Most station platforms are cold, graffitti-ridden windswept and have no facilities.
Shall I continue?
This is not about fog closing the airport. This is a daily saga of a broken down transport system some of us are trying to support to make a difference to the environment and the traffic gridlock.
Air NZ planes don't catch on fire, fall from the sky, stop for no reason every day.
Look at Friday's txt messages for the Western line as an example of the problems:
Due to heavy passenger loadings the 6.15pm western line service from Britomart has been delayed by approx 12 mins.
Due to a mechanical fault train services in both directions on the western line are delayed approx 30 mins.
Due to heavy passenger loadings train service s in both directions are delayed by approx 12 mins.
Due to heavy passenger loadings train services in both directions on the western line are delayed by approx 20 mins.

So Mr Chris White of Connex, do you still think we are a miserable moaning lot?

We're really fed up. Trust me, it won't take much to push some of us over the edge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Another train day in the big city - a train bus! (Wed June 15)

You head out the door to catch a train -and it's a bus waiting at the station!
Due to an earlier mechanical fault the 8.08am Western Line service from Waitakere has been replaced by buses to Henderson

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Thanks ARC! Now the trains will never run on time

Thanks to a posting on an ARC forum, we discover why the Western Line trains have stopped running on time according to the timetable -and never will again.
He explains:
Unfortunately starting yesterday a new train plan which makes greater use of locomotive hauled carriage trains on the west line was introduced.
These trains are unable to operate to the advertised schedules, and lose 22 minutes on each return trip provided there is nothing else to delay them.
Previously they only used these slower trains twice each morning, and not at all in the evenings, but from yesterday they are now used three times in the mornings and twice in the evenings.
This means it is no longer possible to maintain timekeeping on the west line even when there are no other delay-causing problems. The various 22 minute delays cascade into even bigger problems.
Apparently the rail operator did not want this, but the ARC do, and they call the shots.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

UFOs check out Auckland's new arena being built downtown - or are they strange spots on the train window? Posted by Hello

Wednesday 8 June: Another day , more cancellations

7.11am: Due to a technical fault train services in both directions on the Western Line are delayed by approx 20 minutes. Services departing Britomart on tine.
8.05am: Due to an earlier Technical fault train services in both directions on the Western Line are delayed by approx. 25 mins.
8.19am: Due to an earlier Technical Fault the 7.27am and the 7.57am Western Line services from Britomart to New Lynn have been cancelled.
4.36pm: Due to an earlier operational issue, the 4.23pm Western Line train service from Britomart has been cancelled.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Another week, no trains comin'

7.34am: Due to a technical fault, Western Line services have been delayed approx 25 mins.
9.04am: Due to an operational issue the 8.15am service from Britomart has been cancelled. Next service from Britomart 9.15am

Questions of the day:
What is a technical fault? Does this mean the train is broke and simply won't go?
What is an operational issue? Does this mean the train driver refuses to drive the train?
What is the difference between a technical fault and an operational issue?
Why send a txt message at 9.04am to announce the 8.15am train has been cancelled?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sunday at Britomart: No train services. You'd think this was Auckland in 1927 when Sunday was a closed shop. Posted by Hello

More customers, no more carriages!

Auckland rail operator Connex says it is still carrying an average morning peak load of about 500 passengers more than the 2700 who caught trains before the last strike, which ended more than three weeks ago. (Herald)

Thanks to the recent Stagecoach bus strike, more Aucklanders have discovered the joy of coming to work by train -and have switched from bus to train.

Pity the rail operator boasts about the extra numbers but fails to put on any extra carriages. The problem of course is that there are no more carriages.

But good news: In some workshop somewhere, another ancient train poached from a train museum is being converted for use.

Meanwhile the trains get more and more crowded.

In all the years that the city officials spent designing and building the grand Britomart railway station, they failed to think they might need trains and carriages as well.

As always, this makes sense.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Is this what is called investigative journalism?

More train disruption
Trains were disrupted for several hours again yesterday afternoon on Auckland's problematic western rail line, because of difficulty pinpointing a signals failure. Rail operator Connex Auckland cancelled five trains from Britomart and transferred passengers to a special shuttle service from Henderson to Waitakere.

It's great the Auckland Herald has mentioned yesterday's train "disaster" but no-one from Connex has been asked for an explanation. The Herald had reported previous signal outages. I hope someone from the paper will find out what is going on, and why and how and who is responsible and what they are going to do about it?

Friday June 3: Too many people

8.54am Due to heavy passenger loadings, train services in both directions on the Western Line are delayed by approx 12 mins.
So people are encouraged to get a train only to find there are only a couple of carriages per train . Those carriages are already full by the time the train comes to your station. The timetable has not been designed to expect people to actually get on and off the trains so the whole system runs late and people are left standing on the platform as there is no room for them on the train.
Yep, all makes sense.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Thursday June 2: Signals crash again!

Auckland's hi-tech highly sophisticated passenger train network operates a mobile txt message service in which messages can be sent to you in the unlikely event that the train is running a wee bit late.
If you subscribe to the service, consider getting a powerful mobile with lots of memory as you'll get quickly flooded with messages. Tonight, here we are again standing at Britomart for hours with the only amusement being the constant incoming txt message beep on the phone.
Services on the Western Line are once again cancelled because the signals have crashed. The train signals, another hi-tech feature of the service, are operated from Wellington for the Auckland service. This makes logical sense!
The signals have crashed several times in recent weeks. On one Wednesday night, us passengers for the 5.15pm train to Waitakere took three hours to get home. The driver had to manually change the signals along the way. Nothing has been done as once again tonight services aren't going.
So as we pound the Britomart platform as I speak, what to do? Wait in the hope of getting home tonight or once again book into that dodgy downtown bed and breakfast place with the other homeless?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

If only the train would leave the station! Posted by Hello