We Put Up With This?!


The shots of Auckland rail 12 months ago prompted reader Andrew W to send in some shots of Auckland rail of only 8 years ago - just as Britomart was being built.

We forget how 1950s Auckland rail was in Auckland until only a couple of years ago.

Note the pathetic timetable for West services (last train 6:15pm) and the complete lack of any lights at Avondale (there was, back then, a single orange lamp pointed at the station from across the tracks).

Thanks Andrew.

Waiting at Avondale

Newmarket 2003

Orakei shelter


Inside the carriages




  1. Matt says:

    Yeesh. I’m glad I missed that period in Auckland’s public transport history.
    It’s bad enough that we still have buses on the road that’re 20-some years old. I was behind a bendy-bus the other day with a licence plate starting with KL. My first car, an ’81 Mirage assembled in NZ, was a KA reg, so by my maths that bus will be very nearly 30 years old.

  2. joust says:


  3. patrick says:

    well petrol has gone up to $1.94 a litre
    how long before it’s $2.00
    just as well we have better trains

    demand for them will probably go up

  4. Matt L says:

    Definitely some big improvements which is nice to be reminded of.

    If you told people 10 years ago which was before any of the improvements, what the system would be like today they would probably laugh at you. Especially stations like Britoamrt, Newmarket and New Lynn

  5. Andrew says:

    If I find time I’ll dig around and see if I can find a couple more. I caught the thing to school and then work until 2004 and only came back to using it regularly a year ago.

    I’m probably the only one, but I kind of liked the look of the old ADLs. The did feel somewhat ‘metro’ and were faster (when not waiting for all the single line sections) than the SAs that dominate the West line today.

    I did *not* like how loud they were.

  6. rtc says:

    These photos might as well have been 2009, as most of the changes to what is depicted in the photos happened in the last 12 months!

  7. antz says:

    My LORD, never have i seen such a hideous system! and i have never seen the old ADL’s in thier former colours before. wow, just wow.

    I bet History will repeat itself, everyone calling the CBD rail link too white elephant, more stations and lines being built, Pax numbers booming, newer trains etc. can wait to see the progress (and yeah i know about the cuts) being made for the next 10 years…..oh lord….. i’ll be 27 years old!

  8. Ian says:

    I suspect that most readers are not familiar with the system prior to the Perth sets arriving. It still surprises me that the Auckland services survived the Douglas/Richardson era at all. There were few trains at “peak” and even fewer off peak. These off peak services carried almost no passengers. Things picked up a bit during the school holidays but by and large, trains were well and truly off the public radar. Roll on the tunnel.

  9. Simon says:

    Yes we don`t how lucky we were - I know it was looked at seriously during the nineties to rip up the tracks and put busways in instead - even after all that`s happened some idiot expert still comes out in the NZH last week and says we should stop wasting time on rail and have everything coverted to busways! If I could find the guy I`d probably strangle him!

  10. cubes says:

    Wow thanks.
    Had almost forgotten what colour the front of the trains used to look like.
    I remember riding those in the the school holidays, with a 1 hour frequency (on the western), 2 carriage coaches for most of the day. Not to mention waiting at New Lynn or Avondale station for what seemed like forever since they almost never came on time because of the damned single tracks.
    Also many of those coaches never had tinted windows back then (about 1999-2001).

    Keep the ball rolling I say, just look at where a little (well informed) risk and investment can get you.
    Bring on the CBD loop!

  11. Carl says:

    pictures of pukekohe station would look exactly the same as it was 50 years ago except now the walking bridge doesn’t even go near the town and there are less services.

    what a joke

  12. Luke says:

    many people forget the arrival of the ex Perth DMU’s in 1993 was an enormous improvement, and lead to a big jump in patronage!
    I dont know how it avoided being shut down in the 80′s, I know it was regularly discussed.
    I think half the people catching it in the 80s were railway workers travelling on extra cheap tickets.

  13. Mike G says:

    @Ian & @Luke
    I believe the only reason that the trains in Auckland survived is a certain secondary school in Otahuhu that is close to the Middlemore and Mangere stations (not Otahuhu College by the way). In the morning and evening a large number of students catch the train and their parents have the political clout that would have made shutting down the service fairly difficult.
    I too remember when the Perth DMUs came in and it was an amazing improvement from the vintage rolling stock we had previously.

  14. Geoff says:

    Man…that timetable is pathetic….thank god I live in Wellington!! We have more trains leaving in the space of 10 minutes from Porirua in the morning, than that station has the entire morning!!…lol

  15. Simon says:

    “And there are less services”. Carl, compared to ten years ago when there was about one service each way in a weekday, there are 19, yes 19 services on a weekday to and from Puke. Don`t know about you, but I`d take 19 over 2 anyday!

  16. Luke says:

    @ Geoff
    Auckland is rapidly catching up to Wellington. I think frequencies will be equal in Auckland next year, and patronage will probably be higher in a year as well.

    Patronage in Auckland has more than quadrupled in the last decade, while Wellingtons has been static over the decade.

  17. karl says:

    Luke, one hopes that Welly will improve some with their new rolling stock. But then I am not an expert on their system and what is holding them back from more growth.

  18. bob says:

    Easy to sneer, but do some analysis:
    - the same ADK and ADL units run today. New interior, but that doesn’t change speed or frequency or safety of service.

    - Services were faster - yes, faster - and more reliable prior to Britomart being built. Mostly because South and East trains ran a straight-through loop, and there were 7 tracks at the Strand station (5 platform tracks, 2 run-through or park-up tracks). Raises questions about the quality of signals upgrades in recent years!

    - Station upgrades don’t change speed or frequency of service. Glossy stations don’t help when trains don’t run! Their only impact is making people feel safer when catching trains (which is mostly a false feeling - those old stations rarely had people attacked at them).

    - Some of those station rebuilds have worsened services. Avondale, New Lynn and Newmarket being prime examples - what did they gain? ARTA forced West trains to still reverse at Newmarket, Avondale was moved ‘closer’ to shops, but is no closer in reality, and New Lynn put underground so some halfwits can say pedestrians can walk unimpeded (ignoring the 4 lane arterial road right next to the station).

    Let’s put our thinking caps on, so we don’t spend the next decade spending billions to achieve nothing, aye? Most improvements (buying SA’s, more frequencies, later trains and weekend trains, etc) came simply, quickly (once decided on) and relatively cheaply. Unlike the station upgrades.

    The two projects that have been smart use of big money were the Western line double-tracking and reopening Onehunga (but not Manukau spur). And they were both rail extensions to new catchments.

    Let’s try that for the next decade (as cheaply as possible). Put CBD tunnel up against Airport rail, for example. Otherwise we are blindly demanding bad projects first (CBD tunnel), and comparing them with worse motorway projects (SH1 Puhoi-Wellsford)…

  19. Nick R says:

    Bob, Avondale and New Lynn gained double track, Avondale is in a much better position now.

    New Lynn was always a road project about getting the level crossing barriers out of the way of the cars. Never really had anything to do with pedestrians, or train users for that matter.

    Newmarket lost the three point double-shunt, in now only requires a two point turn.

    Why is the Manukau Spur not a smart use of money?

  20. bob says:

    Nick R - I listed the Western line double-tracking as one of the few gains of the last 2 decades.

    You yourself mention that New Lynn was a road project (that massively disrupted rail), so why did Kiwirail and ARTA fund it, instead of motorway builder NZTA? Because idiotic Auckland City Councillors claimed undergrounding rail would let people walk over the tracks to and from the town centre. Which is clearly why they left the rail trench almost completely open, forcing people to walk round to the couple of bridges. A subway or footbridge would have achieved the same thing for under a million, not $70m plus.

    Prove Avondale is better located! It was claimed it would be closer to shops - which shops? Avondale shops are spread over a long main street. The new platforms are closer to some shops, and further from others that were closer to the old platform.

    This is the kind of serious issue ignored in much planning today. Rail stations are frequently ‘dots’ on a map, for convenience. In reality, they are strips, sometimes hundreds of metres long, with access points at either end and often part way along. This complicates the walking distance calculations, but is necessary to avoid pointless station relocations to 100m away.

    Newmarket always had track layout to allow a 2-point reversing shunt for West trains. The fact that Tranz Rail/Veolia managers almost never used this speaks volumes about their competence!!! Another $120m wasted.

    The sole point of the triangle works was to allow direct running of West trains (passenger and freight) down to Britomart and Ports of Auckland. But ARTA blocked that by destroying Kingdon St platforms. Those disobedient CCO mandarins have been sacked, right?

    And Manukau spur line - an extension to a catchement of under 1,000 residents. Ummmm….. Yes, there are a lot of workers and shoppers in Manukau City Centre. But does the rail service match their travel pattern? ie home-work-home for workers, and will shoppers travel with average size and weight shopping purchases.

    While MIT’s new campus over the station may bring staff and students, this is far from certain. AUT’s new campus on Great South Rd in Manukau City has not given a big rise on bus passengers, despite bus stops for almost all Manukau routes being right outside the gate.

    And that’s before we consider that ARTA & Veolia planners are rerouting East trains to divert from Puhinui to Manukau station, which then halves the train frequency south of Puhinui (which IIRC happens to include the 4th and 5th highest patronage stations, Manurewa and Papakura).

    If Auckland Transport were smart, they would extend the Manukau spur track south to Homai (there is already a siding most of the way, and clear land), and get the Browns Rd and Station Rd overbridges widened to 3 or 4 tracks as they are just about to be rebuilt. The rebuilt Jutland Rd overrbidge already was 3 tracks wide, so track can then cheaply be laid
    all the way to Manurewa station, which has a bus interchange beside it, and gives a Manukau City-Manurewa service independent of existing South & East trains. No frequency cuts, little cost (c. $20m in track) and a viable shopper/worker shuttle.

    Just saying ;)

  21. Kurt says:

    That time table closely resembles the current West weekend model.

  22. Matt L says:

    Bob - The double tracking was paid for by the government not Kiwirail and ARTA only paid for the above platform infrastructure like the shelters and lights. Despite what you say those stations needed to be upgraded as they were (and many still are) pretty bad. Safety is an issue and just this year there were a spate of assaults on train staff which were all at stations that hadn’t been upgraded. Those stations that have been upgraded have seen much bigger patronage growth than those that haven’t.

    New Lynn was mainly about grade separating the line as it was estimated that with 10 minute frequencies the barriers would be down about 60% of the time across the round about and traffic was already bad.

    Avondale needed to be moved because the original station was on a curve, this meant that some points on the platform were to far awayt from the train so was a safety hazard.

    At Newmarket, Kingdon St was terrible and even though it could be upgraded it would still require a decent walk to the new station which limits transfers, long term once we get the CBD tunnel, service patterns mean we can run all trains straight through eliminating the need for a direction change.

    For services out south they will fairly similar, south of Manukau will still have 10 min frequencies and Manukau will have the same as it will be serviced by extending the short running services that currently terminate at Otahuhu

    Manukau is an issue because there is no Southern link but I think you underestimate the costs of what you propose.

  23. Simon says:

    Bob, I`m sorry mate but just about everything about rail in Auckland is an absolute improvement on 10years ago. Sure trains were faster through the centre because there were more tracks as you said but the big problem pal was that the station wasn`t actually in the center. the fact that it is in the CBD now is so much better! Same with the revamped stations. they are way nicer than what was before. Sadly Bob, you strike me from your comments as being one of those people who are impossible to please no matter what one does.


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