Rail popularity continues to run away
It is always a good news story to see rail patronage grow at the rates it has been since the electric trains went online in 2015. The catch is now demand is that high for rail services the call for more trains is only growing louder and louder.
From Auckland Transport:
Auckland’s rail network is adding a million passenger trips every three to four months.
Auckland Transport says another milestone has been reached with 19 million passenger trips for the year, an annual increase of 19.4%.
Brendon Main, Group Manager AT Metro Operations says the rail network performance continues to be outstanding. “We’ve added a million more trips in just 117 days and we’ve seen growth at around that rate for the past two years. This time in 2015 we’d just celebrated 13 million trips.
“The completion of the electrification of the rail network from Papakura to Swanson has seen Aucklanders vote with their feet and use the trains.”
Mr Main says including around 27,000 for the Adele concert on Thursday 23 March, trains carried a little over 113,000 passengers that day, setting a new daily record.
He says passengers like the service, and satisfaction with the rail network is at 92.1%.
And Auckland’s newest rail station is performing well. Last week Parnell station was used by 2900 passengers.
For the 12 months to March 2017 Auckland public transport patronage totalled just under 87 million passenger boardings, an increase of 6.9% on the previous year.
Source: Auckland Transport
Growth was meant to plateau out until the City Rail Link was online in 2023 (allowing the three main lines to hit train frequencies of between 5-10 minutes in the peak and 10-15 minutes at all other times). However, I don’t quite think that plateau is going to happen not as the new bus networks are still to come online and emphasis feeding into the rapid transit network for with our rail network is one (the Northern Busway is the other).
The New South Auckland Bus Network that started in October last year has enjoyed a surge in bus patronage as well as contribute to a surge in patronage on both the Southern and Eastern Line trains. While it might annoy some the structure of the new network is one of feeding passengers into the transport spines when transporting passengers over longer distances especially on efficiency grounds. However, this has meant more crowding on trains and given it takes two years from purchase to revenue service for a new train we need to start looking into investing into more trains now.
More EMUs + New Depot?
As I said earlier it takes two years to bring through a new batch of EMUs ready for revenue service on Auckland’s rail network. I have been told the Wiri depot where the trains are currently stored and maintained can hold another 30 units while Pukekohe once electrified should be able to hold between nine and twelve. So we have room for the next batch of trains for now. The two-year lead time means the new batch of EMUs will not be ready until the beginning of 2020. The 2020 timing is rather crucial for two reasons:
- Pukekohe Electrification should be online meaning Pukekohe to Papakura would be serviced by the EMUs rather than the current diesels. Also the first stages of new residential and industrial development out in the Drury-Pukekohe area would be complete meaning more people travelling to and from work.
- With a bit of luck a busway between Manukau and the Airport via Puhinui Station would also be online meaning the Southern and Eastern Lines would be feeding airport patronage to the new bus way at Puhinui Station
Getting a new stabling yard and depot set up and ready by 2023 in Drury would also be crucial as well for another reason.
2023 is when the City Rail Link is due to be online and a major surge in rail patronage especially on the Southern and Western Lines is expected. To handle this forecast load the idea of permanent six car sets is not a daft one at all but rather very prudent. However, the current Wiri Depot is not designed to handle permanent six car sets so a new one would need to be built out at Drury for a cost of $100m. That is not a bad thing getting a second depot up and running when you would have potentially 112 electric trains (and maybe inter city trains) running around.
It would take five years to get the new depot built and running as well as at least three years to design, build, test and commission the new permanent six car sets. Putting a 2023 deadline down in anticipation for the City Rail Link would be again prudent.
As for capacity for a permanent six car set? The current ones (two units together) is 750 but with two less driver cabs in a permanent 6-car set I would say you can get capacity to 850 no problem allowing a total increase across the rail network.
Things to think about although if we want to be proactive rather than reactive for once we don’t have long to get the ducks lined up if we want the new trains and depot ready in time.