Monday, October 31, 2005

Oh no! We're back to breakdowns and long waits

After a great Sunday launch of extended weekend services, the western line tonight is plagued with "technical faults" causing up to 25 minute delays in rush hour.
On the iPod: New Order -Waiting for the siren's call
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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday trains are a big hit!

I've been riding the trains up and down to support Sunday services, which started today - and they've been an instant hit.
There seemed to be two types of people:
Old men who said they had not travelled on trains for years -and were very nostalgic when you asked them why they were travelling: talking about Mayor Robbie and his train project that never happened and how with the cost of petrol they are so pleased to be back on a train
Families taking kids on their first train ride. The kids were all so excited it was like a kids party on board - kids scrambling to get a window seat and mimicing the sound of the engine.
The funniest comments from the kids:
- "Oh it's slowing down, is it broke again?"
- "Morningside? Is there really a Bro'Town!"
Train staff said it was steady all day. This is indeed a great day for train believers!
On the iPod: Blue Note Trip Sunday

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The toilet saga parts 2 and 3

When I wrote to the Auckland City Council earlier this month to complain about the toilets - or total removal of them from Newmarket I got a typically Auckland bureaucratic reply. Or in other words pass the buck onto one of the other 3,4000 local authorities. The ACC probably only supplies the toilet paper. Some other local body or quasi-body does the cleaning and someone else organises the portaloo. Not our problem sorry. Try someone else.
Diane from the council replied:
Hi Miles, Thank you for your enquiry regarding public toilets at train stations.
For further assistance and information regarding toilet facilities at train stations, you would be best to contact ARTNL. ARTNL is responsible for the renewal or upgrading of Auckland City's rail passenger stations. This means stations that are convenient, accessible and safe, as well as clean, modern and user-friendly. Contact details for ARTNL are available to view on their website, via the following link: . I hope this helps.

It didn't help. It was a cop-out. So I replied on October 17:
Hi Diane
Thanks for replying - I appreciate it - but unfortunately you missed the point. I was referring to the Herald article which says it was the council's doing. That is why I wrote to you.
The article is at

which said the only temp toilet there has gone and
Groundwork for the apartments is at an early stage and the city council has apologised for the "inconvenience" of its sudden removal of public toilets that the developers must replace when the project is complete in two to three years
It may need some co-operation between the council and the ARTA to sort out but meanwhile it's dreadful for the thousands using Newmarket every day now the only toilet has gone.

So on Oct 19, a Katherine replied:
Hi Miles, Thank you for getting back to us regarding the lack of public toilet facilities around the "Newmarkets Future" project.
I have referred your email on to our Dawne Mackay, Senior Planner, and have asked her to respond directly to you. I trust you will hear from Dawne shortly.
I hope this helps.

Don't you love this official-speak ending every communication with I hope that helps. I must try it. Sorry Visa I can't pay my credit card bill this month because I am broke but I will be able to next year. I hope that helps.
So when is a reply coming to us shortly? That was October 20.
We're waiting and waiting and some of us still need to use the loo!
On the iPod: Lifestyles mixed by Bugz in the Attic

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Wow! Newmarket goes hi-tech

There is far too much confusion at Newmarket. Trains Waitakere-bound stop at platform 1B and Papakura ones at 1A but they are effectively the same platform. The Papakura stop a fraction in front of where the Waitakere ones do.
With more trains, the station needs to tell passengers during rush hour what's what.
Hey, presto! Connex has come up with a very hi-tech solution.
There is now a station announcer just like the Big Time stations like the Brit. In fact he seems more on to it than the Brit one usually is as he seems to really know exactly when the train arrives.
No wonder. The hi-tech solution is that man with the red Connex vest standing on the platform. He has a loud hailer.
He walks up and down the station yelling out the train has arrived. Through the loudhailer. Very high school athletics day.
Honestly, didn't I see this in some British comedy somewhere?
On the iPod: Ella Fitzgerald Someone To Watch Over Me
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

At last Auckland has joined the big time

Despite the odd wobble, with all these extra trains whizzing past, it actually feels like a real modern train system at last.
On the iPod: Global Communication 76:14 remastered
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Ummm... is anyone home?

The 3.59 to New Lynn is leaving in five minutes. Front two cars only.
OK . But hey it's now 4.01 and nothing is happening.
Finally we get told it's the cars further down the platform.
New timetable, more trains. Yep, but we're not quite there yet.
Update: The 6.04 to New Lynn from the Brit was cancelled because of a "technical fault.:
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Radio NewMarket on your dial

Just out of Newmarket, this morning with the train stationary a new radio station hit the air..
A cheerful DJ banter from DJ TrainDriver.
"I'm sorry folks but we are stopped here for a brief time just outside Newmarket while we let another train go by. It's a beautiful day and Connex thank you for coming along and hope to see you again soon."
Does DJ TrainDriver think he is in training for Air NZ's next trans-tasman flight?
Can he manage also a few shout outs and maybe an Elemeno P's Burn for the bros on their way to school?
Hey, good on him. It was great to hear a human voice. At least they're trying with a new PR look even if it drew laughs.
On the iPod: Elemeno P

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Kind Of Blur

You can tell the new entrants. It was all a blur. Dressed in their shiny clothes, they looked a mix of excitement and anticipation as they waited for their first day on the train clutching their timetable in hand and occasionally alternating between glancing at their watch and checking again the timetable.
Oh give them a few weeks and they're be cynical buggas like us, mouthing off on the platform how the train is late again and laughing at the latest excuse the txt message gives for a delay.
I loved the look on their face when every new entrant first entered the classroom unsure whether to look left or right and not sure whether to sit in any unoccupied seat especially if there were already people standing (some people stand anyway). You could tell they were not used to a carriage full of people looking them up and down and staring straight at them so after a first glance, their eyes would dart around nervously not sure how to respond to all this eyeball attention.
After the journey, their comments were extremely positive:
I can't believe how fast it was..;
I got to read and relax.:
.. no traffic gridlock!

Homeward Bound

Sadly, the grumbles continued on The Brit platform about the dropping of the 5.45pm. It really does make a difference having to wait that extra 10 minutes for a westbound train.
If you arrive at 5.31 it's a long almost half hour wait before you leave at the later time of 5.54 and the train seemed to take forever, stopping before Newmarket for a while to await the passing of another train: I arrived home much later than I ever have which doesn't matter in the days of daylight saving but still feels like robbery. What's especially puzzling is that an express to New Lynn leaves shortly afterwards but arrived at Kingsland about 90 seconds after the 5.54pm did.
That makes no sense. Two trains arriving at the same time but you wait longer at peak hour at the Brit to catch one?
Connex, please fix.
On the iPod: Simple Minds, Promised You a Miracle.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

New timetables start: Onward and upward for rail?

Good to see a leaflet drop to homes with a copy of the new timetables.
Good luck everyone with the new timetables. Let's hope it all works. Be keen to hear how you get on!
On the iPod: GoHome Productions mashup Superchunk Mix - download it here.
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Friday, October 21, 2005

Now here comes James' vision of the future!

James has made some rough maps for when the Avondale-Onehunga, Onehunga-Manukau, and Panmure-Mankukau lines comes online -- which should happen in the next 20-30 years or so.
The first keeps the present east/south/west lines and adds new lines on top.
Have a look here
The second follows Nick's second model of Britomart being a through station instead of a terminus.
I havn't bothered to add the stations as these are details which can be added later. I have included all the stations where its possible to transfer to another train and also the terminus of of train services.
The 'wide loop' doesn't really have a terminus, but Manuakau is a
logical choice as its reasonably near the depot at Otahuhu.

See the second one here
Thanks James. It's becoming a fascinating debate.
On the iPod: Gaz Nevada /Kraftwerk remix Trans Europe Express

Nick R's future vision

Nick R kindly sent this glimpse of Auckland's future possible train network. Thanks Nick, fascinating stuff. Email me if you want the attachments)
He writes:
"They are based upon a basic upgrade of the existing network (eletrified, new signalling and rolling stock) plus the CBD underground tunnel, a completed Manukau branch and a re-opened Onehunga branch. I have added a new station at Parnell, and would expect things like enhanced park and ride and bus interchanges at most stations. I consider this a realistic 'doable' network for Auckland withing 10-15 years.
"The graphics are a little messy sorry, but you'll get the drift. There are two versions, the first (shown here) has four radial lines, each moving through the CBD tunnel to terminate at either Britomart or Newmarket. The second is the one I think would be most effective, the four lines are paired to form two long 'through' lines (western/southern and Onehunga/eastern-manukau), that pass through the city in the middle and only terminate on the edge of the city. This setup means that you can reach 50% of all stations on the one train, and only one transfer is required to reach the other half. The two lines snake around three quaters of the 'city loop' each, both providing access to all stations on the loop (except boston rd to the west-south line, and the new parnell to the onehunga-east). I think it is a more efficient arrangement too. Naturally an airport extension could be easily accomodated off the end of the Onehunga branch."
Thanks Nick - wonderful stuff.
On the iPod: The Future Sound of London

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Number ones and twos

When the new timetables kick in on Tuesday, Western line trains switch to Platforms 1 and 2. I can just imagine doing my usual nightly Spiderman leap from the escalators to halt the train about to leave on platform 5 -forgetting it's now platform 1! The most frustrating thing is having two seconds to spare and finding the train on the platform is dark and closed and the train you have to leap to in 20 seconds is the one in front of the parked train half way along the platform. Thanks to the nice female guard who let me leap on the other night when she saw me coming and was closing the doors.
On the iPod: Lemon Jelly - 64-95
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Nick R's future vision

I have reposted Nick's re-sized pictures above. Thanks Nick .

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Steamy windows and bad Karaoke

Not only are the windows often filthy, tonight it sounded like the worst wannabe NZ idols were busking on the platform. Turned out some bright spark in the control room decided to subject us to a very loud blast of the most insipid pop music. It sounded one step above Muzak. Really really annoying especially as the electronic signs were all stuffed and we kept getting interruptions of the music with warnings to ignore the signs.
- No music. If we want music many of us have iPods.
- Tell the announcer to speaker clearer
- The announcer's volume kept changing -sometimes too soft to hear, other times overbearing. Teach them the volume control and what works
- The announcer was sometimes "bumped" by some automatic recording by one of those Great Radio Voices telling us when the next train was departing so you had two voices - one amateur and untrained and one automatic loop from a pro. Choose one not both. Too confusing.
- Fix the electronic signs but turn them off when they don't work so that we are not confused -don't let them run with the inaccurate info.
On the iPod: Steamy Windows -Tony Joe White (what a voice)

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We're treated like criminals! A PR disaster

The train is as usual running late and you were hoping to reach the city by 9am.

It�s now 9.07am by the time the train reaches the end of the journey. Everyone leaps up, gathers their stuff, puts on their bag or coat and leaps out ready to dash for Queen St.

What�s this about this morning? A police cordon? A terrorist attack?

The blockade complete with ropes across the platform was to check we had paid our fare! We had to produce evidence of a ticket. All watched over by a couple of security guards at the top of the escalator in case someone tried to jump the cordon.

This is shocking. What bad bad PR Connex. Honestly, we put up day after day with appalling conditions. Late trains, breakdowns, a lack of proper information, platforms without proper seating and toilets, rude Maori wardens bossing us about. Tonight the electronic signs on the platform were faulty and showing wrong information or not working and now you treat us like criminals.
I showed this photo to others today and they couldn't believe this is NZ and how the train operators treat their passengers.
What's tomorrow trick? Fleecing us in case we are carrying iPods?
I can understand you want to catch out the one person who is not paying but isn't that an issue with your guards? Last night west-bound it was Kingsland before I had my ticket clipped and heaps of people had got off before sighting a guard. The other morning no-one collected the ticket I held out in my hand all journey.
If you're going to treat us like criminals, how would you like us to stage a sit in protest one morning on the platform in protest at the endless breakdowns?
No, bad idea. Connex might bring in the WTO demo riot squad.
On the iPod:Police & Thieves (The ClashPosted by Picasa

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Greens deal

Among the crumbs the Greens achieved in their agreement was
Building increased capacity for public passenger transport
It's not electrification of Auckland rail but at least I guess some basis for discussion but without any Greeny ministers, I wouldn't take a TAB bet on anything happening.
On the iPod: Styles of the Unexpected Andy Votel

The leaks on the concourse continue

More water problems? I said last week it wasn't all over and will the authorities come clean and say how BIG and COSTLY the problem is? We're still waiting.
On the iPod Moondog (the genius too few know about)
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Toilet humour from the City Council

I asked the Auckland City Council why they took away the temporary toilet at Newmarket and told nearby apartment building developers they don't have to replace it for a few years (see earlier post) - and whether this was the sort of hygiene standards we expect from the council. Diane replies and completely misses the point:
Hi Miles, Thank you for your enquiry regarding public toilets at train stations.
For further assistance and information regarding toilet facilities at train stations, you would be best to contact ARTNL. ARTNL is responsible for the renewal or upgrading of Auckland City's rail passenger stations. This means stations that are convenient, accessible and safe, as well as clean, modern and user-friendly. Contact details for ARTNL are available to view on their website, via the following link:
I hope this helps.
Diane To'oto'o
Customer Service Representative

Well no Diane -actually it totally misses the point. I wonder how many emails will go back and forward before they get it! Meanwhile our bladder suffers!
Actually don't tell anyone but if you're desperate and can jump like Michael Jordan, I spotted a toilet at Newmarket today if you go a few metres down from where the train stops and jump a fence where apartments are being built.
On the iPod: Osymyso -fun crazy UK mash ups of TV themes and other stuff - listen here

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Their secret is out!

Don't you love seeing everyone's washing when you train travel!
On the iPOd: Lagos Chop Up
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Buy them a clock & keep smiling!

THE OTHER morning when I got off the morning train, I notice the electronic signs on the platform said the next train to Waitakere wasn't til 2pmish. Henderson commuter James P writes an amusing email about his experience with the electronic signs. While we're on the subject the platform itself needs a big clock to tell us what the present time is!
Today I went to Britomart to catch the 2:15pm train on the western line. I walked into the lobby and I checked out the big electronic display --
and I was amused to see that it was still showing the times for trains departing between 10-11am! I walked down to the first basement floor (just above the rail-level floor) and the shorter electronic display was
stuffed as well, it was still showing the 7:40am train to Wellington at platform 3 and a mixture of various train times throughout the day!
Feeling a bit amused, I walked down to Platform 5 (the usual Western Line platform) and the sign for it was showing 13:15 (the previous train) instead of 14:15 for the train I was going to catch.
Imagine my suprise when the train actually arrived, I was half-wondering if the 1415 had been cancelled! Good old Britomart! At least the train themseleves ran on time today, even if the displays suggested otherwise!
What would be a requirement for catching trains in Auckland? Just a sense of humour is enough! :-)

You're so right James plus you need a great deal of patience, tolerance as well as humour!
On the iPod: Iceland's quirky (aren't they all from the cold north) group called Mum and the album Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is OK (listen to it here) Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Big leap forward or political hot air?

  HIDDEN amongst today’s junk mail in between the Warehouse brochure and the Bunting warehouse was the ARC’s October newsletter Region Wide. My heart leapt when I saw on page two, “chairman” (don’t we have to say chairperson any more!) Michael Lee say:

“The ARC group also has a mission to build up Auckland's public transport system - which is chronically run-down after decades of neglect. The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) has been working hard on upgrading the present system with generous support from the Government. This is beginning to pay dividends - in August our train services achieved a record high in patronage.”
This alongside an article headed : Future of rail looks electric.But the article is very short on specifics and a little confusing for me head. Great in principle – thanks ARC, all good stuff – but it doesn’t seem clear how any of this will ever happen. Is it dependent on money from the Government as the final blow seems to suggest at the end? If Dunne and Peters are the kings of a greens-excluded labour government or National and Turia get into bed (horrible image), I can’t see it happening.
But the fact local politicans as important as these are now saying it in big bold print in official publications is a very exciting step forward that was unthinkable a year ago. We must encourage Mr Lee and co.
Here’s the article:
Plans for upgrading Auckland's rail based on electrification have been presented to the Auckland Region Council's Transport Policy committee. The Auckland Regional Transport Authority's (ARTA) plans for the rail network in 2030 would see annual passenger numbers increase to 30 million. ARTA is the ARC transport agency tasked with improving the region's transport experience. ARC Transport Policy Chairman Joel Cayford says the plan proposes a rail network with a CBD loop, construction of a rail link to the airport and a route between Avondale and Southdown.
"The underground CBD loop would provide commuters and those visiting the city for hopping, entertainment and business with convenient and high speed travel options."It would include two new stations, one near the Wellesley Street intersection with Queen Street and another near Karangahape Road. "ARTA's vision for the rail network in 2030 would see major increases in rail capacity. The improvements could drive annual rail use from the 4 million carried today to more than 30 million passengers in 2030.
"The proposed rail system would be a huge step up from what is currently available to commuters and would make a major contribution to solving Auckland's transport problems," Cr Cayford says.A major issue to consider is how the rail expansion would be funded, he says. "Given the significance of ARTA's proposals it is important we get to grips early with all the issues involved.
"The scale of development that electrification would enable is large and is likely to span 20-30 years. This is not merely a matter of making a decision to electrify and then 'flicking a switch'. It is about the future extent of the rail network. "It is essential for the ARC and ARTA to work together on a full proposal for the development of the rail system. The public have clearly indicated support for significant improvements to our rail system. "Now financial support from the Government will be essential for the region to achieve its rail vision," Cr Cayford says.
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On the iPod: Omit- Tracer (beautiful electronica from Blenheim) Check it out here. Scroll down this San Francisco shop to hear clips and see a rave about a much-neglected Kiwi treasure.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It's dial 111 out east too...

Mark D emails from the East line this shocker this morning: Thanks for the story Mark. Hopefully you'll get a taxi or cop car to your rescue next time.
So I'm sitting in the southern line train heading towards britomart when we stop just past Orakei to the announcement there'll be some delays....
Seems the train infront of us had stopped, broken, and generally wasn't moving - the location - somewhere over the water/basin/estuary or whatever its called between Orakei and the Brit.
As I snidely commented "I wonder if we'll get busses or Taxi's like those westies...." a ticketer wandered in saying "looks like it'll be around 30 minutes, we're looking at getting you guys taxis or buses..."
That didn't happen thou as 30mins later the train starts moving again and we're on our way....
I took a PXT of the stuck train but all you see in the distance is a white smudge, looking much like my ticket from yesterday after missing the train by 10seconds and haunting Panmure station in the murderous
rain yesterday morning :()
God the train system sucks....

On the iPod Damaged Black Flag
On the PSP:Need for Speed:Most Wanted/
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This is disgusting & a health hazard

The other day I went to sit down again on the only seat available at the windswept Morningside station –and again it was soaked in urine. Sorry about the detail but that’s how sick I felt too. The homeless man had slept there again the previous night.
Tonight I sympathised with him. Coming off the train into a biting cold wind, I needed to go. Sorry but that’s why it’s called a call of nature. When you have to go, you have to go.
But where? The stations do not have a toilet. Surely there must be some council regulation that public areas like train platforms have to have a toilet. Train passengers are furious that Newmarket has just lost its primitive makeshift toilet because of an apartment development (do we really need another one: have you seen the dodgy ones near Newmarket when you go past in the train? you know the ones, where the decks were deemed dangerous)and the council has told the apartment developers they don’t have to replace the toilet for two to three years.
And they expect us to use public transport?
I am seriously thinking of calling a public sit in in the foyer of the ACC building next to Aotea Centre to protest this absolute nonsense.
On the iPod: Nature’s Best (Kiwi classics)
On the PSP: Wipeout Pure Posted by Picasa

New York needs them now!

New York has supposedly a terrorist scare in which someone is going to bomb the subway – but it sounds more like Bush trying to scare everyone into believing Bin Laden is living in Manhattan so they need to keep troops in Iraq (I know but how can you ever work out the guy’s logic!).
Can I make a suggestion? Can we send the Maori police wardens who are riding the trains in force to go there and help guard the place? I am sure they will terrify any terrorist from trying anything on.
Late postscript: The LA Times reports the information from an Iraqi tipster that prompted New York City to go on high alert for a possible terrorist bombing of its subway system was not true — and was probably a hoax. What a joke those American officials are causing so much stress over an obvious BS story.
On the iPod:Albright Monument BaghdadPropagandhi
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A big step forward!

Great news that Sunday trains from New Lynn happen after Labour weekend. Good work Connex! Check out the new timetable here. My only grizzle is that the 545 pm from the Brit has gone and that means a longer wait. The platform is always full waiting for the 545 and now it's going to be worse. Overall, this is a big step forward. Posted by Picasa
On the iPod: Sigur Ros- check out the video

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Let this be a warning about road tolls!

It's inevitable new motorways will charge tolls because that's the only way the government (and National)
think we can afford to build more roads.
Surprisngly, the local media has been quiet about what is happening in Sydney.
The new city tunnel is suppose to be drawing 90,000 cars a day.
No wonder. The toll is outrageous; the price of the toll for a one-way trip is $3.56 with an E-tag, and $5.16 without an E-tag. That's in Aussie currency and is over $10 if you drive in from the country without having got an electronic tag beforehand. We're talking a 2.1 kilometre journey where there are other routes.
This is the first cashless motorway in Sydney. Drivers who do not have an E-Tag and who use the tunnel need to phone the tunnel operators or go the tunnel's website after their journey, and pay the toll, plus an additional AU$1.60 administration fee. Those who don't do this will receive two warning letters, then a $130 fine.
The tolls will rise automatically each quarter.
A columnist in the Sydney Herald wrote: Taxi drivers already call it the "Ghost Tunnel". I can see why. I've travelled through Sydney's latest big infrastructure project, the Cross City Tunnel, and on the first trip, at 8.55am, I saw one other car. On the second, at midday, I may have glimpsed a van. We had the place to ourselves.
This is not the first time the NSW Government has backed a very expensive transport link that was immediately rendered irrelevant by self-evident stupidity. The absurdly priced, woefully underused city to airport rail link springs instantly to mind. It's a basket case.

So if the new NZ government thinks this is the solution, that would be very foolish. Take a trip across to Sydney and come back and get the electrification of rail moving!
On the iPod: >Road to Nowhere- Talking Heads

More proof officials have no brain!

I overhead a couple of mothers rave on about how wonderful Brit was and the train system. I tuned in to see what they'll saying. They took their kids to the recent Sunday event starring Thomas the Tank Engine at the Brit. They had never been to the train station before and thought it amazing. They raved on about how wonderful the train system was.
Hang on. The event was at the Brit on a Sunday. But there were no trains on a Sunday. So to get there people had to drive or get a bus. And Thomas himself was "too old" to run. What a great opportunity it would have been to run it on a Sunday with trains or a Saturday with trains running so people could get a taste of the service.
But no, that's too clever. People drove to the Brit, saw Thomas and had to get back into their cars to go home or find a bus.
It was no point waiting on the Brit platform.
On the iPod The Weight the Band

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

We can solve Auckland's roading congestion for sure!

Why take a train this week? The roads are empty. It's like the time I drove into Wellington. We don't need to build more roads. Just organise better buses and rail for people going to school /uni and make it compulsory. Posted by Picasa

Call 111 for a taxi: Proof the train service is broke

It’s no wonder people are bringing bikes on the train. Just in case. They are so wise. The breakdowns this week seem to have got worse – and delays longer. 18 minutes is not unusual. Today was proof the train system really is broke.
Due to a mechanical fault, a bus will leave from Waitakere at 7.8am for Henderson stopping at Swanson and Ranui.
Taxis will shuffle between Sturges and HSN.
Due to a mechanical fault, services on the Western Line are cancelled between Henderson / Waitakere only in both directions replaced by buses.
Pardon? Anyway the key words are buses and taxis.
Isn’t this a train service? What city are we in again. Afghanistan?
Will someone finally admit a massive injection of money is needed NOW.

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