The Trouble With Trains


The post a fortnight ago in which readers explained why they prefer trains to buses has had a curious - and strong - backlash.
I have no idea how many readers are bus-only commuters but the post did go viral and the inbox has been filling up this time with bus passengers explaining why they hate trains - and demanding balance!

I admit I don’t like buses but use them out of necessity if I have to - usually only to avoid driving especially where it’s hard to park or needing to go somewhere buses, not trains go near. It’s also a backstop for the far too many periods of the night and weekends that trains don’t run or run too infrequently. (Please hurry up and add some services).

So here is a representative of the reasons bus passengers say they dislike trains, completely in their words apart from a couple of corrections for txt language-speak.

I haven’t got around to replying to them but I am sure you will have good explanations in defence.

“I hate trains and go by bus because….

1. They don’t go to enough places. Like there is only stop at each suburb while there are heaps of stops along the roads near where I want to go.

2. They are inconsistent - too many cancelled services.

3. They are too noisy with all that clickity click track clatter.

4. The schedule is bad at nights and weekends.

5. The buzzer noise when the door closes is too loud and makes my head ring. Why is it so loud?
6. I had two mornings when the trains did not arrive and there was no explanation and I arrived late at work.
7. I tried the Western Line and we had to wait outside Britomart for ages after leaving Newmarket and I was late.
8. I find the train guards intimidating. One accused me of not having my ticket clipped and it had been. The guy  made me feel like a criminal and I was uncomfortable the rest of the trip.
9. There isn’t enough seating on platforms.
10. They don’t go where they should go. I live near Mt Eden Village and when I moved into the flat around the corner and I thought cool, I’ll get a train when I heard someone say they go from Mt Eden, then found the Mt Eden trains leave near Symonds St. Nuts. Talk about breaching Consumer Guarantees saying it’s something it;s not!
11. I hate the lack of mobile coverage around the Britomart tunnel especially when you have to sit there to wait for a train to leave.
12. When they are crowded they are intimidating. I am a woman and when I stood near the door, guys kept falling onto or brushing my breasts because it was so crowded.
13. You don’t know when you arrive at a station. Why don’t they announce it.
14. There are no electronic signs saying how far trains are away.
15. Using paper tickets is so primitive.
16. I don’t do cash.
17. The backward forward thing at Newmarket is ridiculous.
18. I hate sitting backwards on trains and this makes me feel nauseous. It especially happens when you get to Newmarket on the Western Line and you then face the opposite direction.
19. Why are so many stations in the middle of the back of suburbs?

20. Buses are more social. My uni friends can occupy the back row of the bus and chat.

21. I know buses are diesel but the fumes at Britomart make me feel sick.

22. They don’t go to varsity. Bugger walking up that hill.

23. They don’t go to AUT.

24. Buses are cool because you can change buses easily to go off somewhere else like North Shore.

25. I don’t like people on trains looking around and staring at people. On buses you face forward and don’t feel being hit on.

26. All those male school students in the morning with their carry on drive me mad.

27. I’m a chick and work late and the platform when I got off was is dark and scary and not near the main road and I’m scared of being attacked.

28. Unlike buses, there’s not enough things to hang on to.

29. I like the free bus.

30. If you miss your stop, which happened to me in a crowded train, it’s a bloody long way to walk.

31. It’s not cheap if you live as far out of town as I do.

32. I work uptown and would have to walk to Britomart. It’s easier catching a bus mid-town.

33. If you run for a bus, the bus driver usually waits for you. The train doesn’t. I ran for the train and the train guard just closed the doors as I approached.




  1. James Pole says:

    My rebuttals (which includes pointing out deficiencies in train services which are also present in bus services, therefore making many of the points moot):-

    33. Which partly explains why buses don’t run to time and why trains do. Sometimes you have to be tough to ensure the services run to the timetable — if the train manager held the train for every other late passenger the trains would never run to time.

    31. Buses are generally more expensive the further out you go (especially on the Eastern Line where there is no fare stage parity). I would be interested to see examples of where the bus is cheaper as most of the public transport trips I’ve taken have seen me go to trains based on cheaper ticket prices.

    28. I don’t get the advantage for buses here — both modes seem as bad as each other to me. Both modes could do better to provide more things to hold on to. However this issue really occurs due to crush loadings due to poor capacity planning. This is an issue not only for the trains but for some major bus routes as well.

    24. If there was rail to the North Shore would this argument still be employed I wonder..?

    16. Buy 10-trip or monthlies from Britomart or the other staffed stations (or even the dairies) where cards (at least the bank/debit varieties) are accepted. Besides the buses require cash too so I don’t see how buses have an advantage here.

    14. The trains generally run to the timetable and when they don’t Veolia is excellent at sending out text alerts to inform customers about impacts on services. Hence I haven’t found myself wishing for these yet. I do agree however that it would be nice for the not-so-frequent users who don’t wish to join the text alert service.

    13. Buses don’t announce the stops either. Again I fail to see how this is a black mark against the trains? At least with trains the stations are well sign-posted and all carriages now displays the next station information. Buses don’t have any of this (save for the LINK buses which operates only on one route).

    12. Same issues on crowded buses too. Ever been on a peak-hour Dominion Road bus these days?

    11. Vodafone has coverage throughout the tunnel due to special cell sites installed inside the underground station. Agree that Telecom XT and Two Degrees should do the same if they have not done so yet.

    10. This issue is splitting hairs — sometimes stations are in the middle of two suburbs and one has to give way to the other. Not an ideal situation I agree but you have to give the station a name. You can actually see Mount Eden from the station I believe so it’s not that wrongly named.

    7. Ever tried the Western Buses? Guess what they’re just as unreliable if not worse. These buses are the reason why I take the trains now which I’ve found to be much more reliable.

    6. Join the text alert service. They’re very good at keeping people informed of delays and cancellations. Buses don’t have this and it’s very frustrating when a bus route is diverted or the buses are cancelled and the only way I find out is after waiting ages at the bus stop. At least the train company makes an effort to reach out to customers.

    4. Same could be said of many routes on the weekends and late-nights. At least trains have progressively improved this over the last few years — what progress has been made on buses (save the Northern Express)?

    2. Buses get cancelled and delayed all the time too. This isn’t a problem specific to the trains sadly.

    Good to see both sides of the argument here. :)

  2. Alex says:

    I didn’t take the time to carefully read this post as I’m on holiday, but I can tell you now that for #28, the SA sets provide rubber grip thingies for standees to hold onto. Also, buses are more expensive: a trip from Pukekohe to Papakura by bus cost me more than a two stage train ticket.

  3. Alex says:

    Also for #20, ever tried the end of an SD car or ADL? Perfect seating arrangement for a group of 8-10 :)

  4. Matt L says:

    My comments

    1. Thats why I prefer trains, I hate that buses have stops so close together as you don’t feel like you are getting anywhere. As for going more places, it would be pretty expensive to have a rail system to cover every suburb in the city and it is hard enough to get funding and support from the government for something logical like the CBD tunnel.

    2. Agree although it has gotten better in the last few years, brand new electric trains will be much more reliable.

    3. Most of the track is welded and makes no noise unlike in the days of old. The ADL’s & ADK’s are far to noisy inside from the engine while the Loco hauled SA sets often have noisy couplings. Again this should be fixed with the new trains.

    4. Agree, there isn’t even services past Henderson on Sundays which is rubbish.

    5. Agree, it doesn’t need to be that loud, one of the trains I was on the other day had the alarm set to a different tone which was much nicer.

    6. When they go bad they do it well ;-)

    7. Yep it can be pretty annoying being stuck out there, it is mainly caused by trains not running to schedule so missing their turn and it could be a result of a different line. New trains should be more reliable but likely won’t completely solve it, the CBD tunnel would really help here.

    8. Should hopefully be solved soon by Integrated ticketing so we can do away with most of them. In saying that some are really nice but others are pretty bad.

    9. More seating and shelter would be good but I guess it is an issue with cost. In saying on busy bus routes you see people lined up down the footpath.

    10. As with point 1. it would be extremely expensive to have train lines to every village/point of interest, Mt Eden is a large suburb and the line does pass through it but it of course can’t serve every part of it.

    11. I have never had a problem, as James notes it may be a Telecom thing.

    12. When they are crowded they can be uncomfortable.

    13. There are signs inside the train that shows what stop is next, I believe they want automated verbal announcements as well as part of the new trains.

    14. These were meant to be coming but things seem to have gone quiet on them.

    15. Will be solved by integrated ticketing later this year.

    16. I buy monthly tickets at Britomart with my credit card, you can buy 10 trip tickets as well plus both of those methods also make the trip cheaper. Again integrated ticketing will help here as well.

    17. Not much can be done in the short/medium term to solve this unless trains start bypassing Newmarket, the best solution would be the CBD tunnel as western trains would just head straight down there.

    18. Same as above, also there are sideways seats.

    19. The lines we have were put where they are over 100 years ago, it would cost a lot to move them now.

    20. I see a lot students sitting on the seats near the doors to talk to each other, either sitting across from each other or just on one side.

    21. Will be solved by electrification

    22. Integrated ticketing will solve that as you should be able to get on a bus for that final leg for no extra charge and there are heaps of buses that go up Symonds St.

    23. Same as 22.

    24. You can change from a train to a bus easily as well if the system has been designed to integrate well which it hasn’t (either from bus to bus or train to bus). Integrated ticketing should remove the fare penalty.

    25. Personally I either look out the window or am doing something else like reading a book. I think most people who do look around are just doing it blankly.

    26. Agreed, It would be nice if they could be confined to a single car :-)

    27. Don’t know how that can be solved other than with more lighting and security. Is it a station that has been done up as they generally have much better lighting.

    28. Most trains now have hand holds hanging from the pole that runs above the seats but there isn’t much around the doors as that might impact people getting on and off.

    29. That likely won’t be around for much longer as AT’s proposed bus changes remove it.

    30. If it is crowded it is always good to let people around you know you will be getting off at the next stop. A pet peeve of mine is people who don’t even start to move until the doors are open as I think the stops are to long as it is.

    31. Monthly passes are pretty good, I live 5 stages from town but that brings the cost down quite a bit.

    32. With a monthly pass you can actually catch most buses within the 50c city zone for free. Again after integrated ticketing it should be much easier to transfer. Also the best solution to uptown is the CBD tunnel as it would put a station by Wellesley St and K Rd.

    33. I have had train guards wait and I have had buses that haven’t, depends on the person.

    Some additional things that annoy me

    34. Our current trains aren’t good at keeping to schedule, especially the 6 car sets on the western line.

    35. Especially out west the stations are often far to close together i.e. Morningside is only 900m from Kingsland.

    36. Stops take far to long, saving just 5 seconds a stop would save over a minute by the end of the journey.

  5. Joust says:

    There seem to be far fewer reasons for buses than there are against trains.

  6. richard says:

    Comparing buses with trains in Auckland at present is a no brainer.

    Most of the complaints about trains are due to the massive alterations going on at present for electrification, and inefficient operation + old rolling stock.

    In a city/country overseas where trains have an efficient system built up over a century plus there is no comparison and buses are only used for supporting trips to stations. At last plans are going ahead for new rolling stock but buses are frequently replaced at a maximum of about twenty years. Would the bus fans like to travel regularly now in the old 1950′s Daimlers?

    I would like to see a comparison when the electric trains are running and there are lines in a CBD loop, to the airport , North Shore and Eastern Suburbs. Unfortunately I will be pushing up the daisies!

    As far as trains not going where they should then what about the Northern Busway. The stations hardly dump you near home?!! It was retro fitted in the only possible place without huge property purchases. Albany Station doesn’t even drop you in the centre of the messy Albany retail area.
    etc. etc. etc.

  7. George D says:

    1. This is why we needed integrated ticketing and connectivity between train and bus routes. Decades ago. Could have been done with paper tickets, easily.
    Better late in the next few years though.

    2. Solution - institute real penalties, or employ Japanese companies to run our trains. Too many excuses from the train companies.

    3. Ancient trains and old rails need to be replaced.

    4. More services.

    5. Agreed. Far too loud, they give me a headache too.

    6. Fire whoever was responsible.

    7. More frequent services

    8. Guards had better not be like this when the new system comes in. It will fail to read occasionally, and people need to be treated as decent humans rather than criminals.

    9. Put more seats and shelter out. This isn’t expensive, unless we go for the gold-plated option.

    10. Again, connectivity and integration.

    11. This needs to be sorted out, asap. 2deg and Telecom need to be approached proactively.

    12. Ugh. Disgusting. Not sure how to deal with this, but sexual assault is obviously a serious issue. Women only carriages? They do this in some countries overseas for this reason.

    13. No answer for this - trains run regular stops, it isn’t hard to work out which ones you’ve just been past.

    14. This should change, asap. Install signs like we have for buses. Or simply run the trains on time.

    15. True.

    16. Again, you should be able to use eftpos. It’s been around for decades.

    17. Agreed.

    18. Yes, although I’ve found backwards sitting awful on buses. Either reversible seats, or less running the same units backwards.

    19. Agreed. Much more work has to be done to integrate them into the urban design and social fabric of places. Witness how badly the new Newmarket has been done.

    20. Um, convince your friends to ride the train? :)

    21. Britomart has always been a design disaster from this perspective. Putting a diesel railwaystation underground is pretty terrible. Electrification will solve this, but you might want to avoid it in the meantime.

    22. Again, integration. And that free bus, until then.

    23. See 22.

    24. Integration needed.

    25. Not sure how to avoid being hit on. Read a book, put headphones in, and look out the window?

    26. This is actually a serious complaint. I’d suggest quiet carriages for Auckland. Students talking quietly or doing work aren’t a problem, but raucous ones are.

    27. A serious issue. Much more lighting, cameras, and most importantly - opening them up to the rest of the area.

    28. More things to hang on to.

    29. So do I. But it doesn’t go far, and then you’re going to have walk, train, or bus to the next place.

    30. Better understanding of trains, how long it takes to get off and where stops are. This will come with time.

    31. Transport in Auckland is far too expensive.

    32. Again, we need better connectivity. But for many places in Auckland buses will be better. And that’s fine.

    33. If it waited, it would make hundreds of people late. Better that it goes off, and the next service comes along soon after (hopefully - more services needed!)


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