BDO Versus Pre-Xmas Rail Closure


Special bus shuttle services to transfer rail customers between Britomart and Grafton / Newmarket will run if Auckland Transport approves the plan to stop rail a week before Christmas instead of from Christmas Eve as usual.

The plan is to bring the Christmas shutdown ahead while people are still working so that at the other end, it can finish before Big Day Out. It also allows time for the big job of track and signal work around where the Parnell train station will be built.

I’ve noticed in past years that once the uni students leave, services quieten but people still work up til Christmas Eve.

The core network closure occurs between 25 December and 18 January.  The two options were considered for the Britomart to Newmarket line section closure (to facilitate Parnell infrastructure works), either on 19 – 24 December or 18 – 25 January.

The extra closure period does not impact on the Southern/Eastern line and thus only impacts on rail commuters north of Westfield on the Southern/Newmarket line.

A report to the AT Board says that an earlier closedown will impact on a maximum of 2,850 passenger trips per day including both inbound and outbound and during the 18 – 25 January option, a maximum of 3,150 passenger trips per day including both inbound and outbound. This represents about 20% of the daily network usage. Therefore, it believes the minimum impact on regular commuters will be pre-Christmas closure.

Customers wishing to travel through to Britomart will be provided with a frequent dedicated bus shuttle from Grafton for Western Line customers, utilising the Central Connector bus lanes to avoid increased traffic congestion and from Newmarket for Southern Line passengers boarding north of Westfield.

20 buses will bve used and the trip is estimated to take 12 minutes.

For Southern Line passengers boarding south of Westfield, additional Southern Line services via the Eastern Line into Britomart will be provided. AT’s report says this improved service for the South and East pre-Christmas will benefit commuters.

Calling it a “difficult decision,” AT says this option is preferred because

  • Less regular rail users are impacted.

a) Approximately 8.3% more customers (approximately 300 passenger trips a day and up to 2,000 passenger trips over the course of the week) would be negatively impacted under the alternative:
i). Historically, rail use across the network is 14,245 daily passengers for the week before Christmas and 15,426 daily passengers for the third week of January (excluding Big Day Out patronage)
b) Negative impacts to customers as a result of closure would be largely mitigated through provision of a frequent bus shuttle between Grafton/Newmarket and Britomart to transfer rail passengers wishing to get to Britomart

  • Phasing of the construction works for Parnell rail infrastructure to reduce costs. The selected option permits specialist rail resource (signalling, track, etc.) to undertake preparatory work during normal work period prior to Christmas and then civil contractors would undertake civil works during the higher cost work period after Christmas. The alternative would require additional cost to employ more specialist rail resource to work during the higher employment cost period of the week follow Christmas. The earlier closure also assists with phasing of all other work being done during the shutdown.
  •   Demand for public transport services to the Big Day Out on Friday January 20.

A commercial agreement exists between NZ Bus and Big Day Out for bus shuttle services from the top of Queen Street to Mt Smart. However, this service has not met public transport demand historically and a special event rail service (fare paying) has been historically operated to meet the additional demand.
Last year’s event generated an additional 19,097 passenger rail journeys with planning this year for 20,000 rail trips. The report says partial closures of the network in previous years have contributed to operational rail issues. As a result, public criticism has been levelled at the organisation for failing to adequately plan public transport services to support the event.

“Given Auckland’s objective of being an event city, failing to service this event was considered undesirable. This year, AT has therefore requested that KiwiRail ensure all works are complete by the end of the shutdown on 18 January and that a full network is available.”

Parnell rail work will help mean an early Xmas rail closure

I wonder why more buses aren’t just put on for the BDO but the AT report argues the alternatives were rejected for various reasons.
Those alternatives and the AT view on them were:

  • Not operate any special event rail services to Big Day Out (BDO) and leave the event organiser to arrange other options. Due to previous public criticism over the lack of planning for a major public event and the need to advise people that services were not available, this was rejected.
  •   Provide alternative bus special event services to meet the demand – 20,000 passengers could not be accommodated by scheduled bus services on the key routes, therefore additional special event bus services would need to be provided, however, this would incur additional public subsidy cost. Further, the availability of 200 to 250 buses will be problematic given existing network demand and no train service.
  • Close the Newmarket to Britomart section between 18 and 25 January and operate special event rail services on the Eastern Line to join Southern Line and then reverse up to Penrose. However, this will nearly double the journey time to 34 minutes in comparison to a direct Britomart to Penrose service time of 18 minutes. Apart from public inconvenience, it will significantly reduce the service capability on all lines.
  • Operate a normal service with event trains

The Board is deciding today.

So what do you think they should do?







  1. joust says:

    BDO doesn’t really need trains. The event has worked ok in the past without them hasn’t it?

    They’re much more useful the week before Christmas helping commuters who need them avoid the awful traffic that descends everywhere from now till the 25th.

    It would be nice to be able to provide them for the BDO but if doing so means depriving regular users, doesn’t seem worth it. Hasn’t there been enough disruption with another recent event?

  2. Owen Thompson says:

    Choose an option that looks after regular passengers instead of those going to a special event.

  3. Martin says:

    @ Joust

    Prior to moving overseas at the tailend of ’06 I used the trains to go to BDO between 2000-06 and the trains were always highly utilised (for the priod anyway), so yes it has always helped control the travel demand.

  4. Giel says:

    Regular travelers should be the priority in a entirely rational world but because Rail and Public Transport is now so politicized this is part of the price stakeholders have to pay for widesprad community support for Rail. Just look at the World Cup opening day debacle for proof of that so AT are probably balancing that ledger about right! Whatever they do they will be criticized by someone - I have some empathy there.

  5. joust says:

    if only our network had higher capacity, frequency and resilience that it could handle an event happening at one point without having to re-jig and shut everything else down just to cope. CBD rail link, sound familiar?

  6. Bryan says:

    Regular commuter numbers drop once schools close for the year, so the week before Christmas is a lot quieter. A number of large businesses also shut down a couple of days early (Telecom, big accountants and lawyers). Then they start coming back the first full week after New Years (16th).

    Alienating the BDO crowd would be very poor PR, after all they are the future users (possibly already regulars?).

  7. Brian says:

    Does anyone find the whole thing a bit odd? It is quite absurd that the entire urban rail network closes down over the holidays in New Zealand’s largest metropolitan city. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I first heard of this. Surely there’s a way to do maintenance in a way that doesn’t mandate a 3 week full-on closure!

  8. Matt L says:

    Brian - This isn’t maintenance but major construction work to get the network up to finished state. They want to get all of the major works finished by the time the EMU’s start rolling so there isn’t these kinds of works needed in the future.

    The biggest piece of work is at Parnell where they need to lower the two tracks for over 1km in length to enable the proposed new station to be built. Other works include things like replacing bridges and installing tracks and other associated things needed for the new EMU depot. These are things that simply can’t be done as part of regular maintenance.

  9. Martin says:

    @ Brian

    The same happens in London. The Jubilee line was closing for a few years each weekend and each Christmas & Easter holiday period BUT if an event was on at Wembley during the scheduled closure it would re-open (Footie, League, Concerts etc). Same as Auckland plans to do re BDO.


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