And now the trains are bare

By Staff reporters

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully travelled to the game. Photo / Michael Craig
Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully travelled to the game. Photo / Michael Craig

This time the trains were ready - and most fans went by road or walked.

Passengers were outnumbered by security guards by three to one at Auckland's central Britomart train station as they prepared to travel to Eden Park for its second evening match of the Rugby World Cup.

There was such a drop-off in passengers, Rugby World Cup minister Murray McCully travelled almost alone in a carriage when he went by train to watch Australia take on Ireland.

The Herald on Sunday polled 100 fans as they turned up for the game and found a mere 22 took the train to Eden Park. Almost a third had changed their travel plans after the disastrous RWC opening night - this time, more than half came by road.

The poll matched official figures last night, which estimated 22,300 people (41 per cent of the crowd) used public transport to get to Eden Park.

The outcome was no repeat of the debacle which marred Auckland's opening night - the fallout leading to McCully wresting control of Party Central from Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

McCully and Brown did not travel together last night. McCully said he didn't know the mayor was travelling by train until "I got to the station".

He said he caught the train to see first-hand that cup preparations had worked. "No-one's going to forgive us if we end up with bad outcomes today."

However, Transport Minister Steven Joyce did arrive at Britomart with McCully. "It should have worked last week with the system in place. The difficulty last week was the lack of redundant capacity on the network in terms of additional buses and that's been fixed up this week."

McCully was reported yesterday as offering to resign as Rugby World Cup Minister if there was a repeat of opening night transport chaos - a pledge Labour's Trevor Mallard called "hollow". "There's no way we are going to see a crowd of 200,000 on the waterfront again."

Brown caught the train from Papakura to Britomart then to Kingsland. Dozens of well-wishers voiced their support for the mayor as he chatted with Ireland and Australia fans. Revising his catch phrase, he said: "Ireland and Australia are in the house."

He brushed off suggestions his job was on the line after the opening night catastrophe - and said he wanted to focus on the positive aspects lying ahead.

At Kingsland station he was approached by Canadian tourist Dave Kiselbach, 50, who had no idea Brown was the mayor when he asked for travel advice.

The Vancouver cabinetmaker was given detailed rail advice on how to return to his Mangere hotel. Kiselbach said "I thought he was joking when he said he was the mayor."

Brown was coy about plans for an All Black victory parade should they win the final on October 23. He said the team had enough pressure. "We have got to let the All Blacks rock."

But Brown's adviser Phil Wilson staked out Auckland's claim on any celebrations. "We will take the lead with putting something appropriate together when it happens."

A possible return to the roads was anticipated by some with Westfield St Lukes mall offering parking for $10 a spot. A resident living near the stadium was also attempting to sell parking on Trade Me for $50 in his driveway.

Brothers Hayden Chapman, 29, and Jeremy Chapman, 34, praised the Queen's Wharf fan zone The Cloud. They watched the South Africa v Fiji match before catching the train to Eden Park.

"It's awesome down here. There's no queues, you can walk straight up to the vendors and the prices are good too. It's what I'd call Hamilton prices," Chapman said.

Overall the fans were happy with the transport to the game. Michele McMahon, 39, from Takapuna walked the fan trail to Eden Park.

"They haven't advertised the fan trail well enough. It's excellent. It's the only way to get there. It was no stress and there were lots of toilets and food."

Mike Todd, from Ellerslie, took the train last week and "it was just bedlam". "I would have liked to come by train but didn't want to after last week's problems."

- Herald on Sunday

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