AT: Train Fail Won’t Put People Off


Auckland Transport CEO David Warburton doesn’t believe the Rugby World Cup 2011 Opening Night transport fail will put Aucklanders off using trains.
In a report to this week’s AT Board meeting, he acknowledges that there has been speculation that the problems occurring on Opening Night would have lasting and negative impacts on PT.

But based on rail usage in the two weeks post the Opening Day his conclusion: “it is not considered to be a major factor.”

He also believes the “significant factor on Opening Night that was not well anticipated” is that as the first game (All Blacks vs. Tonga) “generated a large interest in the Pacific Community,  this resulted in disproportionately high numbers arriving from the South using rail.”

One has to say that’s odd considering the huge amount of Tongan activity everywhere around Auckland  (so many flags) and fact Len Brown is a local South Auckland boy who seems to be in tune with the street.

Maybe the streets around AT’s Henderson HQ were quieter. I don’t understand why you would not think the economically challenged kids in South Auckland would flock to the city using public transport to celebrate Tonga’s big day when they gave every sign leading up to the day they would do so. And they did come.

Did no one notice the Pacific Island community interest in the Tongan game?

Here at AKT there have been at last count over 150 emails from people who tried trains for the first time on Opening Night and swear they will never go near them again. The emails came amid the highest ever traffic for AKT as non regular users also flocked to read stories and comments about it on the site.

I have not published the emails because:

a) The tone was generally highly abusive especially of AT and Veolia heads

b) Some of them tell horrific stories of  families with young children getting extremely upset and people in overcrowded carriages feeling traumatised

c) The people may have calmed down after a lie down and cup of tea and the distraction of the televised matches

d) The complaints were so common I stopped reading them. Common themes was anger the overcrowded trains to Britomart during the day and the fact some did not even stop at stations should have signalled a problem to Veolia and AT earlier on of problems ahead , the lack of communication at stations and on board, the fact they trusted the heavy promotion  by the authorities to leave their cars at home and take a train as the preferred mode of travel and that everyone should go into the city because there was plenty of rom there and the disbelief the expected numbers for the event were so wrong.

Anyway e) Quite frankly, I’m keen to move on. I sense people are tired of the inquest.

Let’s indeed move on .. but the untested factor is that while regular commuters are used to delays, and bad communication and even overcrowding, those emailing are people who might have started to use the trains on a regular basis if they had had a good experience and now buy into the belief Auckland trains are unreliable, unpleasant and badly run.
That is the general basis of their comments in their emails - and quite frankly it makes for depressing reading especially as you can not reassure them the train system is reliable and communication is good on regular trips.

The AT CEO, in his report, insists that the relative total daily PT loadings over events are worth considering. Those approximate estimates are:

  • Bledisloe: 153,325
  • Opening Day: 414,380
  • AU/IR Day: 159,870
  • AB/FR Day: 174,950

His conclusion is that this shows that Opening Day was about 2.7 times the normal loadings achieved with other events, typically on Saturdays, and highlights the relative loadings.

Total loadings on the Opening Day were approximately 1.7 times a normal Friday spread across the day (with peaks at specific times up to six times on some bus corridors and up to ten times on rail.

On that Opening day Friday, BAU for rail was 43,000.
Actual numbers over the BAU to the city was 51,000.Add 26,200 going to eden park and you get 120,2000.

The pinch points that day:

  1. The 5 hours inbound 2pm to 7pm when the normal BAU on rail is 7,500.

But the actual number over the BAU was 33,000 totalling 40,500.

BAU capacity (at 1.4% load factor) was 22,389 and crush load (@ 2.8 load factor) was 5.4

The volume relative to the BAU capacity was 1.8 and the volume relative to crush load 0.9.

2. Leaving Britomart 8.30pm to 11.30pm when the normal BAU is 2,000.

The actual number over the BAU was 17,800 totalling 19,00.

BAU capacity (at 1.4% load factor) was  6,451  and crush load (@2.8 load factor) was 12,902.

The volume relative to the BAU capacity was 3.1 and the volume relative to crush load was 1.5

Comparing the overall PT loadings there is not sufficient data as yet post the Opening Day across the PT network.

For rail, using a four week average pre opening day September 9 , there was an 8.6% lift in total rail from 2010. The week following the Opening Day, the volume was 24.9% above the same week in 2010 but 4.8% down on the previous weekly average.

“This trend will be monitored to determine what if any lasting effect the Opening Day events may have had on PT, but based on rail usage in the two weeks post the Opening Day it is not considered to be a major factor,” he says.


CEO says this has not put people off trains

In the CEO’s review of other transport modes he says:

  • Overall the bus programme has worked with few difficulties. There have been some crowd control issues at certain stops and need for greater separation between RWC ticket holders and those just travelling to the Fan Zone. The extra demand for buses has caused the bus companies to have to fly in spare drivers to ensure they continue to comply with safety requirements on driver time. This was scheduled with additional train drivers but had not been anticipated for bus drivers and is a consequence of the greater contingency allowance.


  • The ferries are only significant in bringing commuters into the city and allowing transfer to train or bus for travel to Eden Park. However, it is worth noting that while ferry numbers for Bledisloe and the AU/IR game were both in line with Business As Usual for Saturday ferries (about 5,000 passengers), the loadings for Opening Night, despite the 1.5 hour shut down, was 34,380 or about 2.5 times the BAU for ferries on a Friday of 13,500.

In the overall mix, the relative volume of coaches he says is “worth noting.”

  • Bledisloe: 2250
  • Opening Day: 2250
  • AU/IR Day: 3645
  • AB/FR Day: 3465

“Predictions are for additional coaches as the tournament progresses towards the final. This will impact on PT or other forms of travel given the limited and defined number at Eden Park.”

So .. moving on the big question now: how will the finals night cope?

Dr Warburton admits there remains “some uncertainty as to crowd sizes as the tournament approaches the final.”

“AT is working with event organisers to get a better fix on numbers. It must be recognised that by nature this is difficult and planning is based around a flexible contingency allowing repositioning of resource depending on demand. The finite capacity of rail will require a larger bus support programme if it is decided to continue to promote activities.”




  1. signalhead says:

    Oh, for the love of god, there were TOO MANY PEOPLE! Plain and simple. If it puts people off, so be it. The chances are slim we will ever see this volume of people go to the city again, this is a good thing. One fifth of the city’s population going down town isn’t a good idea. The rest will be fine.

  2. Economically challenged South Auckland kids? Sorry Jon, not all kids in South Auckland are economically challenged. I live in South Auckland and we’re just like all the other Auckland youth.

  3. Dlyan says:

    Why would regulars want to abort their trains when they know the facts already?

    Also, previous events, a great many of them have always been fairly succesful with Eden Park matches.

    It was “blame it on the trains”, because of poor planning from those at the top. Such an easy thing to do. But we know who wanted the party downtown on the same day as the opening ceremony don’t we all. Funny they don’t have their offices in Auckland.
    Wouldn’t want something like that taking place in Wellington now would we.

  4. John Dalley says:

    Yeh’ who in their right mind programmes the start of New Zealands biggest event on a Friday night, downtown in Auckland at a public choke point.
    I blame the RWC committee and Murray McCully for being morons.
    more sinister person might think it was payback from National to Auckland voters who did not vote their boy John Banks back in.
    Mind you, that would be a sinister person, not me.

  5. Jon C says:

    @aucklandmusings Of course not all are. It was a comment on kids having to use public transport, not some stereotype statement about Sth Auckland.

  6. Ben says:

    Everything seems rosy at AT and the Ivory Tower?

    I noted something about getting it ready and right for the finals? Errr lets try this weekend with a quadruple whammy incoming; we have normal RWC matches and now the 3 rugby league matches (+ fanzones for our league fans) to contend with.

    Ummm AT, Veolia and the Bus Companies might want to get a wriggle on and get some “planning” done for Sunday. Could be a very interesting affair to say the least


  7. James says:

    Every country has hiccups during big events. I can bet that you wont hear about it during the Olympics but that there will be transport problems in London next year, but at least they have build new station for the stadiums…unlike us. But then again they probably have more money then us! Auckland’s system just isnt build for a big number of people using pt at the same time. People going into the city and workers leaving….should have been a public holiday.

  8. Bryan says:

    James, we built a (largely) new station for the stadium. Kingsland has had three RWC makeovers since it was double tracked : both platforms were extended, then an extra underpass constructed, finally extra shelters erected.

    AT’s response to date has been the extra buses, and the doubling of Saturday and Sunday services. Regional Fan Zones from the Quarters on, should limit the numbers going to Party Central.

    And there were plenty of Tongan flags in the streets around AT’s Henderson HQ. :-)

  9. Gibbo says:

    My fear is that once RWC is done AT & others will relax & go back to their old ways - lack of comms; no effective capacity planning for events etc.


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