Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown is hauling transport bosses into his office to explain ongoing train disruptions and to stop the blame game.
“The frequent disruptions on the Auckland train network have become unacceptable,” Brown raged yesterday.
In a letter to AT chief executive Dean Kimpton, KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy and One Rail chief executive Martin Kearney, whose company runs the city’s trains, Brown has asked for a meeting to explain what is being done to fix the disruptions and quickly restore public confidence.
“Aucklanders have reached the end of their patience with train cancellations due to weather, signal failures, crew issues or other excuses.
“[Yesterday] it was apparently because of the weather. It cannot be a surprise to any of you that Auckland gets warm in February. Aucklanders need to be confident that their public transport system is reliable and able to cope with a mild summer’s day,” the mayor said.
Brown also blasted the three transport bosses over muddled communications.
“[You have] often blamed each other, and [it has] been described to me as an ‘omnishambles’. I could use other language to describe it,” said Brown.
The mayor’s office is arranging a meeting this week, and Brown has also invited Transport Minister Simeon Brown or his representative to attend.
AT’s director of public transport, Stacey van der Putten, yesterday said it was “enormously disappointing” the transport body had to cancel services because of speed restrictions put in place by KiwiRail on the network due to “hot tracks”.
“These speed restrictions would be unlikely to be needed today if the Auckland rail network was not vulnerable because of numerous known faults.”
KiwiRail says it’s not its fault trains across Auckland were cancelled yesterday afternoon, and, apart from a small section of track, the network is strong.
Multiple trains across Auckland Transport’s network were cancelled yesterday afternoon.
The cancelled trips included eight on the Southern Line from 3pm between Britomart and Papakura, five on the Eastern Line between Manukau and Britomart and four on the Western Line between Swanson and Britomart.
When Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking asked Prime Minister Christopher Luxon this morning about the trains, he said the situation was “clearly pretty sub-optimal”.
”The excuses we have heard like hot tracks and a lot of miscommunication are not very acceptable at all.”
However, KiwiRail chief planning and asset development officer David Gordon told Hosking it did not shut the lines, it only placed speed restrictions on a 4km stretch of rail between Otahuhu and Papakura.
“That’s four out of 200km, and [we] said you need to run over that section of track at 40km/h. It is not a stop running trains, it is a run trains slowly,” Gordon said.
“Normally, [trains] will be doing 70km/h or 80km/h in those straights.
“It does impose an impact on those timetables. We estimated about six minutes per train. That does have a compound effect on a timetable, it would probably be necessary to cancel some trains to do so. We do not shut the lines.
“The area in which the restrictions were imposed had some underlying weakness in the track that we are working on with our rail network rebuild.
“The rest of the network where we have experienced the equivalent temperatures, we were confident in its stability, and therefore, we were able to say, that notwithstanding those temperatures, it can run at normal speed.”
Gordon said he cannot comment on what “AT or Auckland One Rail did or didn’t [say], and I don’t think the commuters really care about the allocation. We’ve got a shared accountability between ourselves, Auckland One Rail and AT to do better in the event of heat restrictions.”
He said they were making changes to ensure that if something like this happened again, there would be a better response.
Gordon said it was a bad look for everyone.
“I’m getting the train this morning and I rely on the train. The customers deserve better.
“A couple of things are going to happen that will make a material difference. In April, we open our new control centre in Auckland. For the first time in the history of rail in New Zealand, all the operators, ourselves, AT, and the locomotive maintainers will all be in the same building, all on the same floor, all in the same control room.
“The moment we have issues like this, we will literally be sitting next to each other, have a conference room, and move very quickly on a joined-up response.”