Newbies Ask 20 Questions


Every week AKT gets emails asking questions about train issues - and in the last 6 months, there’s been a massive -almost unmanageable- increase in the number from newbies just starting to use the train. I guess there is nowhere else to ask and they also may have come in by Googling for Auckland trains. Occasionally I have to remind them I am not to blame!

Some questions are obvious to regulars like us, so obvious we don’t even think about them but you never know what odd question will turn up from them. I try to give everyone a reply even though it can take a lot of time.

But I thought it would be fun (and a bit of relief for me to be honest at this busy time) to hold back the replies from the last week and tell them my learned wise and often more knowledgable than me readers can tell them the answers here.

So here are some of the queries from 20 different emails in  just the last five days. See if you can help. I have cut and paste and only cleaned up some of the spelling! The questions are numbered to help you select which ones you want to answer them. Obviously some are issues only those in charge can explain but at least you can add your take on it.

Isn’t it great that newbies to the Auckland train world are taking an interest.

1. This morning the train waited 20 minutes before being able to get into Britomart. I was late for work and  my workmates told me to stop taking the train if it keeps happening. Can’t it be better managed? 20 minutes is ridiculous.

2. Why are some locomotives marked MAXX and others KiwiRail? Are they different companies?

3. Why do some seats in a carriage face the opposite way to others. I hate sitting backwards.

4. Why does that door buzzer have to be so bloody loud? It must breach OSH requirements.

5. Why can’t they get the name of stations right. Mt Eden is Eden terrace.

6. Why are there no toilets at stations?

7. Why can’t we hear messages from the station announcers when you sit in the carriages?

8. Why are timetables at the weekends so lame?

9.Why do trains go so sloooooooooow? Surely they can go faster?

10. Why is one of the platforms at Newmarket never used?

11. Can’t they do something to stop Western Line services going backwards at Newmarket? It’s only been a fortnight but it still freaks me out when I think we are going back to Britomart.

12. Why is there such a gap when you get off the train at platforms?

13. Otahuhu station is crap. Why should it be crap when yous on the other lines have nice stations?

14. What are those concrete slabs with little screws sticking out of them that appeared near tracks recently like around Newmarket?

15. How do train conductors remember who got on?

16. Why can’t I get a transfer ticket if I get off at Newmarket and go on another line?

17. Where is the control room and announcer at Britomart?

18. Why can’t trains go cross town like buses so I can go from say Swanson to Sylvia Park without having to change at Britomart and hang around?

19. What sort of training do train drivers have and why are there sometimes two in the cab and can you ever get to ask to ride in the cab? When I was a little boy they let me go to meet the pilot in the plane when I flew to Sydney to my Nana’s.

20. Why do people who get on and find there is no seats hang about the doors instead of going down like you do in a bus? On the bus when you get off you thank the driver. I never hear anyone thank the train staff.




  1. Matt L says:

    I’ll answer what I can, Jon perhaps you need an FAQ section

    1. This is something I find painfully annoying and only Veolia/Kiwirail could answer what happened on the specific incident but the usual causes for delays are congestion or faults (usually the later causes the former). It is not something I think we will be able to get rid of but it is getting better and as new signaling and trains come on board things should get much better.

    2. The short answer is the MAXX trains are on a different leasing arrangement. I think the Kiwirail ones weren’t expected to be needed but the increased patronage has dictated more trains being required.

    3. Trains don’t physically turn around so if all seats faced the same way then on one trip they would all be correct and the return trip they would all be the wrong way.

    4. This seems to be mainly an issue only with the newer carriages, I agree though it can be really annoying but I think they have turned them down a little.

    5. I assume it is because the stations main entrance is on Mt Eden Rd plus the station has been there long before the name Eden Terrace as far as I’m aware

    6. There are at some but I imagine it is mainly a space issue plus I think the ones that do have toilets are ones put in by the local council.

    7. I assume you are talking about Britomart, probably just a case of where the speakers are located in the station and the walls of the train blocking the sound.

    8. They are particularly bad out west, the main excuse that has been given is that they don’t want to increase frequencies when there are going to be so many closures over the coming year or two for electrification works.

    9. This is a mix of things, diesel trains, close station spacing, lots of curves etc. The western line is the worst for this and I really hope we see some improvements from the works going on.

    10. It is to do with train operation more than anything else, using only 3 platforms is much easier to explain plus there is a safety aspect. The train manager has to check all doors are closed before closing his door so to do that for both sides would take longer. I have heard they are looking to install mirrors on the platform to allow them to open both sides of the train.

    11. They can run services direct out west but that would mean skipping Newmarket which is one of the busier stations. If we get the CBD tunnel built it will allow us to run all trains straight through and will fix the problem.

    12. Kiwirail set the platform height and it is the height it is to allow certain freight wagons through. Most passenger trains however are higher and as we are just using 2nd hand stock there isn’t much we can do. The new electric trains will have at least 1 carriage per 3 car EMU that will be at platform height for level boarding. The other 2 can’t be lowered as they will have the motors and running gear underneath them.

    13. It costs quite a bit of money and time to upgrade them all but they are all expected to be done within the next few years. The only reason the Western line has mostly been completed is because of all of the double tracking work that was going on plus RWC.

    14. They are bases for the electrification masts, we will start to see a lot more of them in the coming years and they have started putting them in out by Ranui. We should see the first masts appear over the Christmas shutdown.

    15. They don’t always, I imagine they rely on honesty and telltale signs (they probably make good poker players)

    16. This should hopefully be sorted with integrated ticketing which is coming next year. The only way currently to do this is with a monthly ticket (one of the things I find really useful about it)

    17. Don’t know sorry

    18. We could but it is a question of how many would want to use a service like that, there is no point if it is only once a day or once every few hours. Personally I think the best option is to align the timetable to allow quick transfers.

    19. I think the training is quite extensive. When there are two I believe it is usually a case of one person training/evaluating the other. With all of the extra trains and services over the last few years they have had to train lots of extra drivers.

    20. I always find that funny as well, I guess people get concerned that if there are lots of people on they might not be able to get off at their stop, personally I would rather the extra space. I do hear some people thank the train staff but definitely not all.

  2. Sam says:

    Great answers Matt. I would like to add to (1) that the signalling is being replaced as we speak, and as of February the Britomart tunnel will be much more flexible. Train reliability is steadily increasing as time goes on. Delays like that aren’t too common I dont think- I catch a train on average once a week at peak time, on various lines, and have never been more than 5 mins late into Britomart.

    I actually think I disagree with frequency increases in Feb if they are at the expense of flexibility and reliability… we need a bit of give in the system or else we lose passengers- primarily the business executives who have the most influence I fear- its taken years to get these people to take trains seriously , lets not loose them! We should get more 6 car trains, and some South-West Services instead.

  3. James v.d.L says:

    1. The system is currently suffering from very old equipment that is getting unreliable and so the old ADLs being 25 years old for the newest ones and ADKs especially being 42 years old now break down a bit due to being and the SA sets have their share of problems too but are generally more reliable since the locos are not being taxed to their limits since suburban service is very light duty compared to the freight the locos were designed for. Signal failures (Mainly a case of the system still thinking there is a train in a block after it has left and so the signals stay at stop) This is especially a problem as a train running past failed signals has to wait for clearance and travel at restricted speed so the trains behind will get delayed more and more. With the new solid state interlockings and axle counters it should get more reliable.
    2. KiwiRail owns all the locos in the NZ network. Some of these are leased to ATA which paints these with the MAXX branding. The rest are used by KiwiRail when needed for freight trains and so are painted in the KiwiRail scheme.
    3. Because turning around a train takes time so it is better to have the seats half facing the wrong way all the time than all seats facing the wrong way half the time.
    4. So that it can be clearly heard over other loud noises and also from outside the train.
    5. Because does a name really matter that much?
    6. Space and vandalism protection mainly
    7. Because the speakers are in the roof of the station hall and the carriages are well sound insulated
    8. Because it’s cheaper that way
    9. There are many factors.
    -Our trains aren’t very powerful. The new EMUs will be much more powerful and so have better acceleration.
    -The signals have to be designed so that a heavy freight train can stop between 2 signals even though the DMUs and even the SAs could stop in a much shorter time meaning that drivers are traveling at reduced speeds for longer than necessary and also much further apart than possible. This will be improved when ETCS level 1 is installed hopefully next year in Britomart and Newmarket assuming that the trains will all be retrofitted with the cab displays which is unlikely so we will probably have to wait for the EMUs for this. The EMUs will probably also have regenerative braking allowing brakes to be more powerful and also send electricity back to the grid!
    -There are lots of sharp turns. Many of these will be widened and there is a target of having an 80km/h minimum limit along the Western line after electrification is completed.
    10. Because opening doors on both sides just causes confusion. I think it would have been better if they just put a barrier up on one side and just numbered the platforms like ||1:||23|| with : representing the barrier and || representing a track.
    11. They could skip Newmarket. But otherwise no.
    12. If we want higher platforms they would have to be further out and also 750mm is not far off the 760mm that is the EU standard for high platforms so it shouldn’t be a problem.
    13. Because they cant redo every station at once. They’ll get to it later.
    14. Foundations for the catenary (overhead wire electrification) poles.
    15. Practise.
    16. Because it will never cost you any extra.
    17. Don’t know but probably upstairs in the old post office building.
    18. Take a bus! Rail is not as useful for situations like this.
    19. Lots of training. When there are 2 people in the cab it is usually for training, evaluation or just to get LEs where they need to be.
    20. Ask a crowd psychologist.

  4. Andy says:

    @James - I feel your answers would bring up more questions than answer them to any newbies. Your answers have too much jargon. Newbies are not going to know what an LE and EMU are let alone ETCS level 1.

    However your answers are great for people like me who have interest in Auckland PT.

  5. AKT says:

    @Matt L @James v.d.L Thanks for your contributions.
    @Andy Yes you do have to reply in non rail geek.
    @Matt L Good idea about an FAQ. i will add it to my long holiday site maintenance to do list!

  6. Patrick R says:

    The most important one is:
    11. This will be fixed when the CBDRL is built, see Mr Joyce and friends.

  7. AKT says:

    @Patrick R That is almost word for word my standard reply to the most asked question!!!!!

  8. Matt says:

    Okay readers, can you think of the dumbest questions to entertain and infuriate Jon?

    What’s the prize for the dumbest Jon?

    This must be the funnest competition to participate in I’ve seen in years. Genius :-)

  9. Sam says:

    @Matt Why do we have trains? :-p

  10. AKT says:

    @Matt Thanks..I think.
    These are among the most intelligent!!! LOL

  11. AKT says:

    @Sam That came in before from someone called Steven.

  12. Matt says:

    @Jon, C’mon share the really dumb ones with us. Would it not make a hilarious post?

  13. Antz says:

    I can imagine one,

    Why do we need trains when Steven Joyce is building a lot of motorways?

  14. Matt L says:

    Matt - As funny as it might be we don’t want to put people off reading the site by making them feel dumb. We want more people reading it so they can be more informed about whats happening and help to put pressure on to further improve things. Jon has worked hard to build this site and it would a shame for people to be scared of reading and contributing.

  15. AKT says:

    @Matt L Well put. I reply to every question and while some are bleedingly obvious to regulars like us , they are a mystery to those starting out.
    For example, the most asked question (from people about to give rail travel a go) is how do I get tickets. When I last looked aorund Maxx and Veolia’s sites the answer was not there yet when you think about it it’s not that stupid a question. People find there is no ticket office or ticket vending machine so they worry about how they can get on board.
    I am putting together a FAQ which may mean i don’t have to answer some of the emails but my experience in the past is people don’t hunt around a site for such things. It’s easier to send through a question. I’m always happy to help them if it encourages them to try trains or understand why an early experience was not a great one. I have been replying to them for ages. I just thought people might be interested in seeing a selection.

  16. James B says:

    I wonder why people don’t like travelling backwards. I notice on the bus that often the seats that face backwards are the last ones to be filled. I’ve never had a problem with it, but clearly some people do.

  17. Nick R says:

    James B, my girlfriend suffers from nausea if she travels backward, quite a common problem from what I understand.

  18. greenwally says:

    @James B,
    In Wellington the original English Electric’s had reversible seats so that passengers could flip the seat back to face either forward or backward.

    The Ganz’s did away with this and adopted the half forward and half back trick.

    But many trains in Japan still have this feature
    either by flipping the back

    or rotating the entire seat set, (which I think is now required to meet safety specs)

  19. karl says:

    “I’m always happy to help them if it encourages them to try trains or understand why an early experience was not a great one.”

    Hats off. So you are doing even more for rail than we thought.

  20. karl says:

    Greenwally, those rotating seats are really fancy. Personally, I don’t care, but some people would really like those. Wonder though whether they’d be solid enough to protect against vandalism in a commutter train environment.

  21. Carl says:

    @ Matt,

    can I ask why you think these are Dumb questions or its a so called dumb idea?

    some people believe it or not, actually have no idea how things work or why the don’t work.

    id take a step back and let people ask questions.

    the best thing people can do is ask, ask more and keep asking.

    it shows people are interested.

    surely you can see that?


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