Multiple rush hour services on Auckland’s train network have been cancelled this afternoon due to hot tracks.
In an update this afternoon, Auckland Transport (AT) alerted passengers to heat conditions on tracks and said scheduled buses would accept train tickets.
Trains were continuing to run on affected lines but with reduced frequency at times due to cancelled services between 1pm and 8pm.
“Some train services on Eastern, Western, and Southern lines have been cancelled due to weather (heat) conditions,” AT wrote on Twitter.
The latest set of issues comes after weeks of delays for train commuters in our largest city. Passengers have faced unplanned cancellations and delays nearly every weekday since trains returned to Britomart Station on January 22.
On Twitter, Auckland councillor Richard Hills called today’s disruption “ludicrous”.
“Unreliable public transport puts users off.”
KiwiRail General Manager Metros Jon Knight said in a statement aht temporary speed restrictions were put in place once the steel rails reached 40 degrees and lifted once the track drops below this temperature.
“It means that trains have to travel slower over these areas, due to the risk the track may have been misaligned by the high temperatures expanding the rail length. It is critical we apply these speed restrictions, so that passenger trains can continue running safely.
“We have had high temperatures on the network and heat restrictions in different areas for most of the last three weeks. In Auckland today heat restrictions are primarily on the Southern Line between Ōtāhuhu and Papakura.
Steel rails ‘hotter than air temperature’
“For example, the track around Ōtāhuhu has reached temperatures of 48 degrees today. We believe these restrictions add about 5 minutes to service journey times.”
Knight said heat on the track was not directly related to air temperature – the steels rails get hotter than the air. Also, if there have been warm nights, the rail may not cool enough from the previous day.
It was 23 degrees in Auckland Central as of 3.30pm, according to MetService.
Knight said temporary speed restrictions could have a cumulative effect on services and, to maintain schedule integrity, some services could be cancelled.
“This is a decision for the metro operator. Other factors, like the availability of train crews can contribute to decisions about cancelling services.
“At the earliest opportunity, predominantly in the evenings during high temperature periods, KiwiRail’s maintenance crews carry out any repairs to the track that may be required to ensure timetabled services for passengers.”
Last week, public transport advocate Matt Lowrie told 1News that there had already been an “appalling” number of cancellations so far this year.
Newmarket Business Association CEO Mark Knoff-Thomas pointed out the cancellations were likely to put Newmarket at a standstill as commuters sought alternative routes.
“The stop, start nature of public transport in Auckland is incredibly frustrating and I sincerely hope that Auckland Transport and KiwiRail have these issues resolved before the CRL network opens.
“Our roads are already congested enough and it’s almost impossible to travel in the city during peak hours. I feel sorry for all the commuters facing disruptions today and hope they all get to where they are going safely without too much delay.”
Aucklanders deserve better
Auckland Transport director of public transport services Stacey van der Putten called the cancellations “enormously disappointing” and frustrating.
“These speed restrictions would be unlikely to be needed today if the Auckland rail network was not vulnerable because of numerous known faults.
“We appreciate how enormously frustrating regular disruptions and cancellations are for our customers, and just how much days like this dent public confidence in our rail network.”
Van der Putten said the disruptions have been decades in the making and would take renewed investment and commitment to give Auckland a reliable rail network in time for CRL.
“Aucklanders deserve better than a passenger rail network that can’t run at capacity on a mildly warm summer day.”