The trains don’t arrive

Auckland’s train operator Veolia provides their performance statistics – which is a good thing. The problem is that actual figures themselves, which show just how poor the service actually is:

The first column is how often trains are 5 minutes late or less. The second is how often trains arrive at all.

So if you take the Southern Line (wherever that is), you are likely to be more than 5 minutes late 24.2% of the time. If you commute 5 days a week, then that’s averaging one every two days*. Even the overall average of 83.1% implies one late train every three days.

Worse, if you commute 5 days a week on the Western line, then 2.6% of the time, or once every 4 week, your train doesn’t complete the journey. Perhaps it’s stuck somewhere, or perhaps it broke down with you one it. Either way you’ll have to take another one or find some other way to get to or from work.

So these performance statistics are clearly unacceptable for commuters, who need the security of knowing if they are at the station at a certain time then they will get to their destination on time, each and every time. It’s something that needs to be solved so that Auckland can extend beyond the traditional drive a car and then sit in the traffic jam approach.

So now let’s look at Wellington, where there’s been a relatively successful commuter train operating for years.

Oh dear. The comparable metric is that in the last month only 88% of the trains were on time – on average. That’s not as bad as Auckland, but it still means that the average commuter would be late about once every 4 days.

The worst line is the Wairarapa one:

While they dipped down to 73%, the 83% on time is still better than the Auckland average – expect to be late once every three days.

So Wellington also needs to improve their act.

I’ll continue to walk and motorbike to work in the meantime – particularity as I stay nowhere near a train line in either city.

*This assumes that trains at commuter times are just as likely as all trains to be late.  I suspect that trains during commuter periods are actually more likely to be late than trains in quiet times, as there’s more congestion then and more that can go wrong.

Published by Lance Wiggs


7 replies on “The trains don’t arrive”

  1. I’m still confused as to why we only have a weekday train service on the Kapiti line at the moment, with weekend trains being replaced by buses. I thought the track upgrades and the new trains were meant to be running a long time ago.

    As for train punctuality, I also choose motorbike to the CBD as the journey time is far more predictable than train (and certainly car).


  2. The service in Auckland is appalling and unless drastic improvements are made there will be big problems come world cup time.

    Compare this service level to Sydney where the latest stats show 95.6% of services on time and 99.6% of services running. ( this is for a network that is exponentially bigger than Auckland.

    Sure the network may be electrified in the coming years and new trains delivered which will be more reliable, but the basics still need to be done right.


  3. Interesting post Lance, as a regular train commuter, I’m a little torn reading this. On the one hand I see so much waste and inefficiency in the way the trains are operated that I know they could do much better for a lot less money. But on the other hand I think we’re pretty lucky to have a train network that is usable. London was twice the size of Auckland before they got an underground, so we have some growing to do.

    It’s a chicken-and-egg situation, traffic will get worse, petrol will rise, more people will take the trains, so the trains will get more funding. It’d be a surprising politician who would spend more money on something than could be justified by it’s usage (and subsequent votes).

    Regarding the stats themselves, the punctuality doesn’t really worry me, how many times have we heard (or said) ‘sorry I’m late, traffic was terrible’. The service delivery is a real pain though, it’s only happened to me a few times but it can really stuff up your day.


  4. Is there any time series data for Auckland? It would be good to see how much of the poor performance was during major upgrades, such as the Newmarket station. Hopefully we’d be seeing an improvement since then, but I wouldn’t be so sure.


  5. I know of a couple of people that have recently given up on the Wellington lines and now drive.

    Any international stats on a comparable scale? Does anyone get trains right?


  6. As a former (reluctant) executive for a large rail network, I can tell you that few systems really work the way that commuters expect. The statistics that Veolia shows are probably relatively typical, particularly for systems with relatively low rail density. There are, of course, a bunch of factors that matter. There are a few international systems that work relatively well…some of the Japanese systems are among the best….


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