A beloved family pet hit by a train contributed to hundreds of people missing the start of the Super Rugby at Eden Park on Friday, in the latest public transport breakdown to derail a big night out in Auckland.
Simba, a 17-year-old Jack Russell, escaped down a bank on to the railway corridor near Auckland Port, where she was hit by a train. The accident sparked an emergency call-out, and Simba was rescued from the tracks by firefighters about 4pm on Friday.
But she suffered serious injuries and later had to be put down by a vet.
Owner Barry Sparrow said the family were broken-hearted after losing Simba, who had lived with them since birth. She had gone missing from the Parnell Gardens earlier that day.
"My sister takes her there to play with the cats. But there's a bank down to the railway tracks and that's where she got hit by a train. We called the council to report her missing but then the fire brigade called us at home," he said.
"We got there at the same time as the SPCA and were told to take her to a vet straight away. He told us she had a broken back and was too old to heal properly so the best thing to do was to put her out of her misery."
Simba's death was the worst in a catalogue of delays and failures on the rail network which left hundreds of rugby fans missing the Super Rugby match kick-off between the Hurricanes and Blues at 7.30pm.
New Zealand's Next Top Model judge Chris Sisarich said he would never travel by train again after Friday night's "debacle".
"I don't normally travel by train but my friend and I were just trying to get into the spirit of the city and thought we would catch the train to the rugby," he said. "We waited at Mt Albert for what seemed like forever until we ended up getting into a car with some strangers, which was very good of them.
"Getting home was a complete debacle. We waited at Kingsland for 40 minutes and no trains came going towards Mt Albert but three trains came heading back into town that were absolutely packed. It was just frustrating. It was chaos.
"I've had enough of public transport. Aucklanders are being told all the time to get out of their cars and take public transport, but it's just not efficient."
KiwiRail spokeswoman Jenni Austin apologised to people who missed the start of the rugby because of a combination of incidents that caused delays. As well as the dog being hit at 4pm, there had been two points failures at Papakura about 4.30pm which were not repaired until 7pm, and a train had to be stopped at 6.30pm after over-running a signal.
"As standard procedure the driver was stood down and that's under investigation," she said. "But it caused some delays because we had to find a replacement driver."
Nicole Marsh said she got on a train at Britomart at 6.50pm and it didn't leave the platform until 7.25pm. "We were extremely annoyed because we missed the first 20 minutes of the match. After what happened during the Rugby World Cup they should know better," she said.
Auckland's train network came under fire last year when hundreds of rugby fans, including a player's mother, missed the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony and part of the first All Black match due to delays.
Auckland Rugby chief executive Andy Dalton said he would be meeting Auckland Transport tomorrow to discuss the issues. "We are disappointed about those who got there late and were not at the start of the game," he said.
Mayor Len Brown said he was expecting a report into the issue. "This is another reason why Auckland needs a rail link," he said. "The link will allow greater capacity so that the system will not grind to a halt because a dog is killed by the docks or a driver is stood down on the Western Line. A reliable public transport system is vital."
Barry Sparrow said Simba had been a good dog for 17 years. "She used to have a kid's fluffy at Starbucks with my sister every day. Everyone from Onehunga knew her and loved her. If I was walking down the street without her people would stop and ask me where she was. She'll be missed," he said.