Wellington's bustastrophe is infamous but there's chaos of a different kind brewing on the city's train network, and God help you if you live in Wairarapa.
This slow-burning problem has come to a head before, about a decade ago, when old English trains were hauled out of museums and workshops to help ease overcrowding on the city's network.
People were being left on platforms, trains were breaking down, and signals were failing.
It was only after Helen Clark's Labour-led government injected half a billion dollars into rail and returned rail assets back into New Zealand hands that Wellington's network saw a way out.
But rail investment is expensive and that money only went some of the way to solving problems; the Wairarapa line still relies on handwritten instructions for signalling.
A new crunch point is coming for Wellington's rail network and it's as little as five years away.
Luckily the memory of 10 years ago is still fresh in the minds of those in charge.
This morning's commute in the capital was by all accounts an absolute shambles, after tens of carriages were damaged by an old piece of rail that had been replaced and left on the side of the track.
AT releases sobering road toll stats as speed limits set to lower across Auckland
The repairs started yesterday afternoon as soon as the issue was identified, but by this morning a quarter of the Matangi fleet was still not up to scratch.
Furthermore, units were in the wrong places to run peak services after coming out of the maintenance depot overnight.
KiwiRail apologised for the disruption caused to rail commuters and chief operating officer Todd Moyle said they were investigating how it happened.
Commuter Jono Capewell followed Metlink's advisory that the trains were running at a reduced half hourly timetable, but he still waited 40 minutes at the crisp hour of 6am before his train turned up.
"Over the past year or so it has felt like there is something like this every week and when it goes wrong, it is always a big incident," he told the Herald.
"My biggest frustration is that they are never consistent with messages, their timetables aren't updated when an issue happens. It just wastes time for everyone.
Capewell is not the only one who feels that way.
A Public Transport Passenger Survey from November 2019 shows only 63 per cent of respondents were satisfied to some extent with the information about service delays and disruptions.
THURSDAY EVENING PEAK - CONGESTION - 3:50PM— NZTA Wellington (@NZTAWgtn) June 25, 2020
All @metlinkwgtn peak train services are operating this evening. However, due to a higher number of vehicles using the state highway network this morning please expect SIGNIFICANT DELAYS heading out of the city. ^IF pic.twitter.com/ajlZCMr3Zo
Another commuter this morning jumped in the car to get to work but after reading a State Highway electronic display board advising it would take her 68 minutes to get from Porirua to the city, she gave up and went home.
When the trains go down, cars start piling up on the motorways.
What does the data say?
On the face of it, Metlink data shows that on average you'll be waiting longer for a train than you will be for a bus these days.
Looking at November 2019 data, which is pre-summer holidays and before Covid-19, punctuality across the rail network was as low as 88 per cent.
On the other hand, punctuality on the bus network was 94 per cent.
But for anyone who listened in maths class it should come as no surprise that such averages can be misleading.
The rail network is heavily affected by one-off events, some of which are completely outside of anyone's control.
If a big enough earthquake occurs, the network closes so the tracks can be checked. This can take several hours.
Last year other events included a bomb threat at Wellington Railway Station, a freight train that derailed, and an overhead fault.
But there's one train line in Wellington with a woeful track record that goes beyond these one-off incidents: Wairarapa.
Data for the same month last year shows punctuality on the line was a mere 68 per cent and reliability was 89 per cent. Both were deemed unsatisfactory by Metlink.
Why the Wairarapa line?
Wairarapa's train line is in such a state there are several notices along the track reducing the speed of trains to as low as 15km/h.
The track is a victim of delayed maintenance and underinvestment over many years.
It has a lot of old timber sleepers and an antiquated signalling system.
There are no light signals north of Featherston, so a driver has to call a control system to avoid any collisions.
The instructions as to how far the train can travel on the track are read out loud and the driver writes them down then repeats them back to ensure they are correct.
The instructions are kept on a clipboard where the driver can see them as the train carries on north.
Wairarapa hasn't previously been a priority for investment because it's not a main trunk line and it's not carrying the same volume of freight or passengers compared to the likes of Kapiti.
What's happening in Wairarapa is a window into the future for the rest of the network without millions of dollars being pumped into it.
But there's also quite a clear picture of what could happen to the network by looking to the past.
About a decade ago Wellington's train network was in disarray after years of under-investment.
There were regular points and signals failure, trains were breaking down and those that were running were so full that people were being left stranded on platforms.
Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) got so desperate it bought old electric English trains from a museum and a workshop to boost capacity on the Hutt Valley line.
The network was handed a lifeline when Helen Clark's Labour-led government injected half a billion dollars into rail.
It paid Toll Holdings $690m for its company to bring rail assets back into New Zealand hands.
At the time the Government admitted it paid a premium to buy back the former state railway company, and said further huge investment would be needed in the newly named KiwiRail company.
But Clark justified the deal, saying rail could not have survived without substantial Government subsidies.
Finance Minister Michael Cullen said there was no question the Government paid a premium.
"But the alternative is continuing to subsidise a foreign-owned company failing to invest sufficiently in basic infrastructure, increased expenditure required on roading, increased accidents on the road, and increased greenhouse gas emissions at a direct cost to the taxpayer."
Among other improvements, GWRC was able to buy 48 new two-car electric trains, double track the line from MacKays Crossing to Waikanae, and widen the Kaiwharawhara "throat" where trains still come into the main station.
The arrival of the Matangi fleet would mean for the first time in close to 50 years new trains would travel on the Johnsonville line.
Patronage still fell over the ensuing years after such a diabolical period for public transport.
But eventually it picked back up and patronage was expected to increase by 2 per cent each year.
Now, the whole system has gone gangbusters.
Before Covid-19, patronage growth year on year has increased by about 8 per cent in peak travel periods.
Capacity is again becoming an issue for Wellington's train network.
New money for rail
Serious money started coming for Wellington's rail system when Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced a $196m package in 2018.
The upgrades include converting the Trentham to Upper Hutt single track section to a double track, with a new signalling system, upgraded stations and level crossings, and a pedestrian underpass.
Last year KiwiRail got $300m from the Government for modernisation and upgrades including installing foundations for 60 new masts for overhead powerlines close to Wellington Railway Station.
GWRC chair Daran Ponter was a regional councillor in 2010 and knows all too well the struggle at that time.
Last year he sent MPs, ministers and mayors a tin of sardines in the mail to illustrate a rail network again on the brink of bursting across the lower North Island.
That call has been answered this year when the Government announced $211m for improvements.
Then $5m came from NZTA to pursue a detailed business case, and commence procurement for new regional trains.
Some of these projects will be fast-tracked through the consenting process because of Covid-19, a package which is now called the Wellington Metro Upgrade programme.
Ponter said the issue with the trains is a "slow burn" compared to the bustastrophe where regional councillors took their eye off the ball and implemented a new network design that created chaos overnight.
"I would suggest we helped to manufacture that problem but in the case of the trains it has really arisen not as a consequence of any direct action, but actually quite the opposite - the Government not taking enough action over the years and not placing enough investment in."
Someone made a mistake with a piece of old rail sparking this morning's disaster commute, but at least there are spades in the ground to secure the future of Wellington's train network.