Every train in Auckland has been cancelled at short notice this morning, leaving thousands of commuters stranded. Again.
This morning, like many mornings, I left the house at 8am and walked to the nearby train station. I live on the Western line and, despite the notoriously useless Auckland Transport, it mostly gets me to work on time. When I got to the platform, the digital timetable screen read “This sign is temporarily out of service”. It said that yesterday too but the train still arrived.
“Everything is always broken,” I muttered to my partner.
I had barely finished my complaint when a voice came over the PA system to announce that all Western line trains were cancelled due to a track fault.
“Always broken,” I muttered again, with less gusto.
Specific lines being down is nothing new. In fact, lines will be down for months at a time throughout the year for track repairs. Those planned closures are expected to waste more than a million hours of commuters’ time. But this morning, every single train is cancelled. Every last train commuter in Auckland has woken up (or arrived at a platform) to find they can’t get to where they need to go as expected.
Because of the last-minute cancellation, very few buses have been added to the schedule to replace trains. And that’s…it. Sorry.
There’s a fun (read: depressing) debate to be had about which major city has the worst public transport. Wellington’s buses and trains frequently disappear. Its trains were unexpectedly cancelled (for track things again) earlier this week and the government has since launched a rapid review into the Kiwirail disruptions. Meanwhile, Auckland’s trains have arguably never not been disrupted. Can’t wait for our rapid review after this morning’s chaos.
Kiwirail’s ambivalence towards running a functioning rail system is nothing new, and the list of ways Auckland Transport insults its customers is evergrowing, with some of the more recent examples being:
- asking Elton John concertgoers to please not catch the train to his concert and said “driving to the concert is recommended”. People drove, the concert was flooded out and many lost their cars as a result.
- asking commuters to please not travel during peak (aka commuting) time.
For a growing city of more than a million residents to have both a pathetic and apathetic public transport system is embarrassing, with the only silver lining being the opportunity for that little bit of wordplay.
There are shiny new offerings on the way in the City Rail Link and a multi-modal Harbour Bridge (in a decade) but if Kiwirail and Auckland Transport can’t keep our current system running even half the time, adding a shiny gloss of paint to it won’t change anything. Businesses and employees are trying to revive in-office work after years of home offices. There are genuine benefits to that, both for productivity and enjoyment of the work we all have to do to live in such an expensive city. But when there’s no confidence in the city’s infrastructure to play its part, we might as well just stay home.