Sunday trains come back to Auckland

By Mathew Dearnaley

Aucklanders are being invited to count down to the start of Sunday train services in a fortnight - the first time in more than 40 years.

Rail operator Connex and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority are also promising trains until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays in a full suite of new timetables taking effect from October 25.

Authority chief executive Alan Thompson said a 25 per cent boost to services, and particularly the introduction of Sunday trains, was a big step towards "bringing Auckland's public transport services in line with comparable international cities".

"Just like people in other countries, Aucklanders can start to really enjoy the benefits of travelling by train," he said.

"Whether they are commuting to work, going shopping, watching rugby or [on] a family outing, there will be more rail services to suit their needs."

Connex Auckland general manager Chris White, who came from Australia last year to run the region's rail network, admitted being "somewhat surprised" to learn while his team was preparing its contract bid that such a large population centre had no Sunday trains.

But Mr White said that while a seven-day service was needed to make public transport useful and attractive to a wider range of Aucklanders and visitors, the timetable changes would affect all existing passengers as well.

"Everyone who uses a train needs to have a look at the changes."

These are expected to be posted today on the Auckland transport website at www.maxx.co.nz (see link below) and will be available in print from Friday at ticket agencies and the Britomart and Papakura train stations.

Sunday trains will run every 30 minutes between those two stations, alternating between the eastern and southern rail lines, and every hour between Britomart and New Lynn on the western line.

The introduction of Sunday services west of New Lynn will have to wait until early 2007, when a $66 million duplication of the line to Henderson will be finished. This is because the transport authority and government rail corridor owner Ontrack want to reserve Sundays for the most disruptive construction.

An expanding fleet of trains, being refurbished for $84 million, is also allowing Connex to increase week-day services at peak times on all lines, and at other times between Britomart and Swanson.

Connex and Ontrack are preparing a publicity campaign, using billboards and mailouts to households and schools near railway stations, to drive home safety messages - and to drum up passengers.

Train checker

* Sunday services every hour between Britomart and New Lynn, and every 30 minutes to and from Papakura.

* Trains until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, three to four hours later than now.

* Weekday peak services every 10 minutes on average between Papakura and Britomart.

* Services every 37 minutes through the day between Swanson and Britomart.

* Off-peak service cut to every 74 minutes between Swanson and Waitakere. An express every morning and evening between Britomart and Waitakere.

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