Friday, January 20, 2017

BrizCommuter becomes AucklandCommuter

Auckland AM Class train at Britomart terminus. 
In the second part of BrizCommuter's trip to New Zealand, BrizCommuter provides a review of Auckland's public transport system. Auckland is New Zealand's principle city with 1,500,000 population, and 1/3 of New Zealand's entire population. Auckland's population is equivalent to 75% of Brisbane, and 45% of SE Queensland's population.

Services are coordinated by Auckland Transport under the AT Metro brand. Rail, bus, and ferry operations are all privatised. Auckland's train services are operated by Transdev Auckland, with the trains and stations belonging to Auckland Transport and the rail infrastructure belonging to KiwiRail.

Auckland's rail system has only recently been electrified and almost fully duplicated, with a new fleet of AM class EMUs. There are four lines, the Western Line, Eastern Line, Southern Line, and the short Onehunga Line. Weekday off-peak frequencies are every 20 minutes (30 minutes on Onehunga Line). Weekend off-peak frequencies are every 30 minutes. Peak frequencies are generally consistent at every 10 minutes, or better on the Southern Line (30 minutes on Onehunga Line). Train services end quite early at around 10:30pm, apart from on weekends. For a city of Auckland's size, the off-peak frequencies are acceptable, and peak frequencies excellent.

It was observed that trains arriving from one line, would usually become a service on a different line when departing from Auckland's Britomart terminus. Impressively fast turnarounds of just 2 to 3 minutes were observed on multiple occasions at Britomart.

Automatic gap filler
The new AM class trains are 3-car units, with most peak services consisting of 6-cars. All off-peak services were observed as running 3-cars only. As with Wellington, the platforms are relatively low. The centre carriage in each 3-car unit has a low floor section for wheelchair and pram access. The end carriages have high level seating. All doorways have an automated gap filler, which makes accessibility far better than in Brisbane. The use of gap fillers does make a noticeable increase in dwell time. Right of way permission buttons are located at each doorway, allowing guards to roam through the train.

The train network is currently limited to 20 trains per hour (tph) due to there only being 2 tracks into the 5 track Britomart terminus. There is also a flat junction outside of Britomart which can cause minor delays. The City Rail Link tunnel is currently under construction which will run under Auckland's CBD from Britomart to Mt Eden, allowing for a doubling of capacity and a more direct route for Western Line services.

No barrier pedestrian crossing
Other rail observations are that full station car parks are an issue in Auckland as well as Brisbane, and pedestrian level crossings do not have barriers (only lights and audible warning).

Auckland's bus network was also recently re-designed, allowing the city to have twice as many high frequency bus routes as Brisbane. Some train stations such as Panmure have a bus interchange for efficient bus connections, and unlike Brisbane, many high frequency bus routes by-pass the CBD or feed rail.  Auckland has a Northern Busway, which serves (unsurprisingly) the Northern Suburbs that lack a train line. There is provision for this to be converted to light rail. Thanks to some political long term thinking, Mangere Bridge has also been designed to allow an extension of the Onehunga Line to Auckland Airport.

Auckland also has an extensive ferry network, which links some Northern suburbs and many of Auckland's islands. The main ferry terminus is adjacent to Britomart station.

Auckland's smart card is the AT HOP card, which has a relatively high $10 purchase fee. Fares are reasonable, unless you have to use a more expensive paper ticket. Most train stations are unstaffed, but seem to have at least 2 ticket and top-up machines for redundancy.

Auckland's public transport has improve considerably in the last few years. Unlike in Brisbane, where bus network reform was obstructed by Brisbane City Council in 2013, Auckland has a highly efficient bus network. Unlike Brisbane, train services are reliable, with reasonable and consistent frequency. Finally, unlike Brisbane, Auckland is constructing an underground rail tunnel to increase rail capacity through the CBD. Brisbane's politicians need to take a serious look at Auckland to see how public transport can be improved.

1 comment:

  1. These appear to be unrealistic "futuristic" vision of rail transport. Self-sealing gaps. Well timed services. Utter Utopian nonsense. It's all fine and well in practice, but it would never work in theory.


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