Public transport patronage in Auckland has topped 70 million trips a year for the first time since the 1950s, but almost one train in every four has been running late.
An otherwise glowing report to Auckland Transport's board yesterday - announcing a 9.6 per cent rise to 70.2 million trips for the year to February 29 - was marred by a disclosure that increasing numbers of rail passengers have been kept waiting.
Annual rail patronage rose by 18.5 per cent, to 10.9 million trips, compared to a 7.6 per cent on buses to just over 54 million rides.
Only 76.6 per cent of trains reached their final destinations within five minutes of scheduled arrival times last month, prompting criticism from board member Mike Lee, who also chairs the Auckland Council transport committee.
That was "not really acceptable to our customers and they deserve something better," he said.
The on-time figure was down from 79.5 per cent in January, and 83.1 per cent in February last year.
The worst performance was on the eastern line, on which only 67.1 per cent of trains arrived within five minutes of schedule.
But buses stuck to their timetables - or were at least no more than five minutes late - in 99.24 per cent of cases last month and ferries were even more punctual, hitting the mark in 99.73 per cent of cases.
Although train performances have been hampered by speed restrictions on sections of tracks being prepared for rail electrification by the end of next year, Mr Lee said many delays were unrelated to these.
"There have been a lot of equipment failures, signals and points failures and train faults," he said.
"It seems to be starting to become systematic - we need to do something, not just KiwiRail but [train operator] Veolia.
"Our customers deserve something better than that."
Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton said he was more than happy to report back to the board on ways to improve the system.
He said some track points failures were directly related to rail electrification upgrade work.
According to the report, work done by KiwiRail over Waitangi Weekend early last month removed many speed restrictions.
But that was followed by six signal or track faults which caused significant delays.
These included a blackout of signals on the western line on the morning of February 28, caused by overnight work, after which KiwiRail modified procedures to guard against recurrences.
But the next morning, a signal fault at Ranui caused more delays to western trains.
Train faults caused widespread disruption on five occasions last month and rail freight operations interrupted passenger services in three instances.
On top of that, evening peak services on February 20 were halted for almost four hours between Avondale and New Lynn after a pedestrian was killed by a train.
And the southern line was blocked for 90 minutes after a car lost control and rolled into the rail corridor at Papatoetoe on February 14.
On-time performance (arrival at final destinations within five minutes of scheduled times)
Total network 76.6 per cent
Western line 78 per cent
Eastern line 67.1 per cent
Southern line 73.7 per cent
Onehunga line 95.7 per cent
Buses 99.24 per cent
Ferries 99.73 per cent.