How to get Better Resilience out of the Rail Network
A Rail Efficiency Program Series
THE ALL-ENCOMPASSING RAIL EFFICIENCY PROGRAM – PART ONE
New or rebuilt cross overs at major stations
So how can we get better resilience out of the Auckland (Metro) Rail Network? For starters we give our passenger trains extra flexibility in being more able to “run-around” a problem section on the rail network. Those who travel on Auckland’s rail network (whether frequently or infrequently) would have somewhere along the line being stuck on a train due to another one breaking down somewhere or just plain getting in the road usually to being late. Unlike buses however who have somewhat more flexibility to go or run-around the a road situation (breakdown or accident), trains are confined to the double piece of parallel steel they run on (as well as rail operating procedures dictating setting a train backwards or other non-normal movement) and can not per-se run-around a broken down train that easy.
Why? Because our rail network does not have enough of what is called “cross-overs” spread throughout the network to enable trains to run-around a section of track that has an issue on it in a relatively easy manner. A cross-over being a set of “points” that allow a train to change from one set of parallel running tracks to another (and possibly back again) while still going in the same direction. The current North Island Main Trunk Line, North Auckland Line, and the Manukau Line all have “double track/mains” and crossovers spread across them rather sparsely. Currently the main cross-overs are at the following places (starting from the south ): Papakura, Wiri-Puhinui, Otahuhu, Westfield, Tamaki, Auckland-Britomart-Parnell-Newmarket section, Penrose-Southdown, Onehunga (actually a single line with a passing loop), Grafton, Morningside, Avondale, New Lynn, Henderson and Swanson. Now in saying that, not all cross-overs are “dual” cross-overs which means one’s crossing over options are limited – especially if long distances are in effect or the fact the cross-overs are not even commissioned (New Lynn) yet. The diagram below might shed some light on things a bit better:
Cross Over Diagram
Click to enlarge (1745 x 1016 resolution)
As I said earlier, not all our cross-overs currently are dual cross-overs which basically means the Auckland Rail Network is compounded by long distances before a train can “cross-over” and “run-around” something like a disable train (passenger or freight – it doesn’t matter as both are a pain). Now from experience, those long distances between cross-overs and even longer distances between dual-crossovers (No# 8-13) mean when a train is disabled on the main line here come long delays and cancellations owing to the lack of resilience in our rail network for trains to run around the disabled train.
With frequencies looking to step up to 6-trains per hour (so once every ten minutes) and the signalling system able to go right up to 12-trains per hour (every five minutes) both pre and post-City Rail Link, if the current existing infrastructure stays as is (including the limited third main being built which is for freight trains anyhow) then the problems on the rail network are going to really compound if something happens like a disabled train blocking a section of track. And if my Post-CRL Operational Proposal was ever decided to be used by Auckland Transport which had train frequencies stepping up to 18-trains per hour (every 3:20 minutes) in some sections without the extra resilience built-in – well you can think of delays and cancellations if a disabled train blocked a section of track.
So what first in investing in our current existing rail infrastructure to get extra resilience out of it pre-City Rail Link. Well that would be: New or rebuilt cross overs at major stations (basically all stations that act as Fare Boundary stations on the rail network)
So that basically means building new or rebuilding existing and subsequently using dual cross-overs (#10 and #11 for the purpose of this exercise) at all fare-boundary stations. The rail map below shows where the first run of dual cross overs will be:
Click for full resolution.
As you can see there is a bit of work to do in part one (crossovers at major stations) in either building or rebuilding cross-overs to #8-#13 specification to allow more resilience in the train network for when something goes wrong. You can also see (and if comparing to Google Maps) that the distances between the Cross-Overs once even built is still some distance in some parts of the network. Manurewa to Papakura is 9-minutes both ways and it is about the same if not slightly longer for New Lynn to Henderson, while Glen Innes to Westfield is 11-minutes regardless of the Tamaki Loop between Panmure and Glen Innes. However getting these cross-overs in at the major stations plus any rebuilds (Blue X’s) will offer much more resilience than currently available.
Now to build a new set or rebuild an existing set of cross-overs for Part One of the All-Encompassing Rail Efficiency Program (AE-REP), re-wire the overhead wires, and change the signalling (which includes changing what train drivers call a Signal and Interlocking Diagram that they have with them (now if I got that diagram’s name wrong let me know sooner rather than later and I shall correct it)) would most likely require a budget of $2-3m per crossover package (now I will go ask someone in the know to get a definitive figure and post back here ASAP). So at $3m times (not including Swanson, Britomart, the Tamaki Loop, Grafton or Papakura) 19 equals a conservative cost of around $57 million which for rail is a significant investment (but chump change for a road or motorway).
Justification for $57m?
The extra resilience allowing better reliability and punctuality of existing and future services when we eventually step up to 6-TPH (10 minute frequencies) – especially when a train disablement (passenger or freight) happens out on the Auckland rail network.
For starters asking someone in the know on the cost of building crossovers as mentioned in this so I can run some numbers. Once the number have been ran a few times then I will draw up a “rolling” proposal (so a proposal that will have various versions as the AE-REP is worked on and written) and begin the advocacy process to the Auckland Council Transport Committee and by virtue of extension – Auckland Transport and Kiwi Rail.
However despite the advocacy nothing is a given until the cheque is physically signed (even then that is a certainty with Kiwi Rail and Newmarket junction being an example) – but advocate we must if we wish to continue to push for a Better Auckland Transport (System).