Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has written to Government ministers, urging them to whip Kiwirail and Waka Kotahi-NZTA into shape after concerns poor performance on the part of Kiwirail was leading to unsafe conditions on tracks and a reluctance among Aucklanders to use trains.
Goff's letter of July 8 to Transport Minister Michael Wood and State-Owned Enterprises Minister David Clark came at the same time as two other excoriating letters regarding Kiwirail.
One said that "negligence" on Auckland's rail lines could have "resulted in a serious safety incident", and another calling for the appointment of board members with skills in "rail safety" and public transport.
Auckland Transport warned that if Kiwirail didn't pick up its act, it could cost it $7 million a year in lost revenue, forcing it to cut services at the same time it was trying to increase patronage.
Goff said that while Auckland Transport was trying to restore public transport to pre-Covid levels, rail patronage was only two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels, while other public transport use was back to 75 per cent.
The letters make mention of an "incident" on June 30 where scrap metal lying at the side of the track damaged 19 trains. Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison, writing to Kiwirail chief executive Greg Miller, described the incident as "very concerning".
"The damage severely restricted fleet availability and will come at a considerable cost to rectify the damage to the 19 units".
"While the damage to our assets is troubling, our key concern is that this negligence could have resulted in a serious safety incident," Ellison wrote.
Acting Kiwirail chief executive Todd Moyle said Kiwirail had "apologised at the time for the disruption it caused, and repeat that apology now", and said it treated the incident seriously.
Goff and Ellision also complained that the replacement of 16 turnouts on Auckland's Southern Line would result in weekday peak frequency halving to 20 minutes, at very short notice.
Ellison said Kiwirail needed to develop a better asset management programme to avoid shock restrictions of service in the future.
Issues on the track were having a "severe" impact on customers.
"Many of those in the south travelling on rail are travelling long distances and have limited alternative options.
"Riding a bike or paying for an Uber are unattractive and forcing Aucklanders back to their motor vehicles is counter to the 'climate change', 'travel choice' and productivity outcomes Central Government and Auckland Council is trying to achieve," Ellison wrote.
Kiwirail has subsequently said that, beginning Thursday, the network will be capable of services every 10 minutes on the Southern line "as a result of reprioritisation of materials and resources.
In a separate letter Adrienne Young-Cooper, chair of Auckland Transport, and Daran Ponter, the chair of Greater Wellington regional council, made a joint pitch to Treasury secretary Caralee McLiesh to consider appointing more public transport focused people to fill vacant spots on the Kiwirail board.
The letter said KiwiRail would benefit from having asset management, rail safety, and metro rail operations skills on the board.
Kiwirail has long been criticised for prioritising its freight business over passenger rail services.
Ponter said that the voices of organisations focused on commuter rail were "somewhat lost" when it came to Kiwirail's decision-making, which was focused on freight.
"If we leave it to them they'll prioritise the need for investment based on a freight understanding of rail," Ponter said.
He said Wellington needed decisions on things like who had priority on the tracks, and where to invest in track and electrical upgrades made with passenger rail in mind.
Goff could not be reached for comment, Auckland Transport, Clark and Wood declined to comment.