No Sleep ‘Til Baldwin


Here’s a sorry tale from commuter Andrew W tonight, about which I have asked Veolia for comment:

“I arrived at Britomart for the 6:21pm service west to Swanson, intending to get off at Baldwin Ave. There was no train at the platform.

At 6:28pm it was announced that the 6:21pm service had been cancelled.

At 6:31pm West bound passengers were directed to the southbound service at Platform 2, and told to transfer at Newmarket to a relief service.

After boarding, the PA system on this train was turned on and started emitting high-pitched feedback at a very high volume. All passengers had to block their ears. This continued for nearly two minutes, up til after the train departed.

Westbound passengers were then charged their full fares or tentrips clicked with transfer tickets issued, including a family of four with bikes.

We all got off at Newmarket and made our way to Platform 1, including the crew that were supposed to be on our 6:21pm service.

After waiting at the platform for about 5 minutes, at about 6:40 we were told over the PA that the following service to Waitakere (due Newmarket 6:46pm) was going to be 10 minutes late. At the same time an ETA appeared on the PID display, saying the same train was going to be 15 minutes late. No word of the relief service that we had been sent to Newmarket for in the first place.

At this point, the driver and guard got on the phone to find out what was going on. They were informed that a service would arrive from Otahuhu for them to take express to New Lynn, with all other passengers to take the service following. They pointed out that this was inconsistent with the PA message.

Two minutes later at around 7:10pm, the express relief service was explained over the PA.

Three minutes after that it was then announced that this express service had also been cancelled. The following all-stops service (due Newmarket at 6:46pm) also seemingly was cancelled as it never showed up.

At this time, two services arrived from the West bound for Britomart within a minute of each other, one going to Platform 1, the other to Platform 3. Our driver was trying to arrange for one of these trains to be turned around to go west for us, but was told no. Train Control in Wellington had already made their plan.

To quote one of the train staff, “the passengers are not part of that plan”. This is especially of concern with full train control moving to Wellington. They are a long way away from the passengers their decisions affect and do not have to see nor face them.

The inability to take any of these trains west for us was frustrating the entire train crew. They did want to get us home but were powerless to do so.

Those two trains were followed by two more Britomart services coming from the south, followed by one (maybe two, we’d lost count) more coming from the West, again going to Britomart. None were turned around for us.

Passengers on the platform were angry, and complaining that on top of these delays, and those caused by the breakdown on Tuesday, they all still had to pay.

We didn’t get on a westbound train until the service at 7:15 finally arrived.

The family of four with bikes, who had already paid their tickets, were denied entry to the train by its guard and were told to wait. They were understandably upset.

When we passed Morningside there were not one, but two trains in the loop, a four-car DC hauled train and a six-car DFB/DFT hauled train. It is unclear which one broke down, but word is that the DFB/DFTs are not coping with all-stops suburban services.

Three things were apparent:

  • The on-the-ground staff were not being adequately informed.
  • Whoever was making decisions seemed to be prioritising trains over passengers, to the frustration of both the passengers and the entire train crew.
  • There are still inadequate plans for handling disruptions.”




  1. Andrew says:

    Forgot to mention: I was lucky that the train that eventually did turn up was a four-car train! Otherwise I’d have been really up, er, Whau Creek.

  2. DanC says:

    Why is the control in Wellington? Shouldn’t it be in Auckland and In Newmarket?

  3. Urban Local says:

    I was on the train service that broke down just after Avondale bound for Britomart. We were on a four carriage set so not with a DBF/DFT loco as Andrew W suspected as being the culprit. We experinced a 45 min to 1 hour delay. Looking forward to hearing veolia’s response.

  4. Jon R says:

    This is where Veolia must reply forthwith, and on this website to show they actually do give a dam.

    I challenge Veolia to front up here on, not hide behind ARTA’s PR people, and explain why they did this.

    If Veolia cannot handle issues like this, then 1) what will they do when the RWC is on and 2) do we need Veolia at all?

    Awaiting your reply Veolia….

  5. Andrew says:

    Well, being a KiwiRail-owned locomotive and KiwiRail-operated train control, I think it’s KiwiRail that needs to explain this one.

    They seem to take much better care of their Wellington commuters.

  6. Matt L says:

    Andrew - I agree, I remember that there was a time where there were almost daily points or signal failures that sometimes caused massive delays yet we never even heard a sorry out of them. In Wellington they would have one day not work right and would be running free trains to apologise.

  7. Jon C says:

    There was a power failure in the Wellington yards by the main station late afternoon with delays through til about 7 there

  8. Matt L says:

    One of the the members on the CBT forum is a signalman, he has just said that he suggested turning around one of those trains that were close together and that Train Control in Wellington agreed it was a good idea but it was Veolia that refused to allow it.

  9. Jon R says:

    However, Veolia is the contracting operator of the Auckland rail services. KR is just a sub contractor to them.

  10. Matt L says:

    And now conversation has turned to the fact of why Veolia didn’t turn around the service, unsurprisingly its all about money. If they truncate a service they don’t get paid as much of a subsidy from ARTA so it is better for them to run the train to Britomart regardless. Profits before passengers it sounds like.

  11. Geoff says:

    The two-tiered operational responsibility split between KiwiRail and Veolia needs to end, and end urgently. One company needs to run the lot, and it needs to have a performance-based contract with ATA, including penalties for late running.

  12. Andrew says:

    Hm well that swings things back to Veolia again. Turning a train around certainly appeared to be the original plan as that was why we were all sent (driver and all) to Newmarket in the first place.

    I’d be very interested to hear their response as to why that was canned.

  13. Andrew says:

    I specifically want to hear from Veolia why they scuttled the relief train for everyone sent to Newmarket to wait for it.

  14. Jon C says:

    Veolia has acknowledged to me Andrew’s issues so we’ll await their response.

  15. Andrew says:

    I fully agree that this incident was not acceptable. The single biggest issue is that Veolia kept moving the goal posts making it near impossible to keep on top of what was happening. Apparently Wed Nights decision to plough 6 trains in 10 minutes to Britomart was a crewing issue, which I can’t buy as, as you say, there was already a full crew there!


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