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Rail Costs Need Challenging

11 May 2015

Rail Costs Need Challenging

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) agrees with the report in today’s New Zealand Herald that Auckland rail operating costs are far too high (see ‘Subsidy Four Times More than Wellington’)After reviewing Auckland and Wellington rail operation costs comparison data PTUA is seriously concerned that the costs of operating Auckland rail services is disproportionately higher than the Wellington rail operations.

“Costs of operation are simply too high compared to Wellington” says Jon Reeves, PTUA Co-ordinator. “In 2013-14 Auckland train operating costs at $139 million were 61% more than Wellington at only $85 million. Even though Wellington trains are mainly electrified, the fuel and traction costs deferential between our Capital city and Auckland are minimal at only $7 million for the 2012-13 year”. “So that alone cannot justify the massive gap in costs”. “Questions need to be asked. Does Auckland Transport have a top heavy management structure? Is it working efficiently and effectively? Is Transdev, the French owned rail operator, charging Auckland too much to operate our trains? Is there a massive case of fare over riding, or is not all the fare revenue being received by Auckland Transport resulting in these higher costs”?

Auckland has now taken over Wellington in terms of the number of passengers carried by rail but fare revenue is over 40% less in Auckland ($12.6 million) in the 2013-14 year. Mr Reeves says “While the length of train journeys may be slightly higher in Wellington, the difference in fare revenue is just too great to go unquestioned. It would seem that Auckland has higher levels of fare evasion than officials at Auckland Transport admit”. Reeves says “Our members, who include passengers and train staff, constantly tell us that fare evasion is huge and wide spread across the Auckland network”.

Recently it was reported to the PTUA that nearly an entire platform of passengers was seen boarding a train at Henderson station without tagging on their HOP cards or buying tickets from the platform vending machines. “I personally witness it almost daily on my rail commutes to Britomart from South Auckland. Fare evasion is costing honest, fare paying passengers and ratepayers dearly through the need for higher fare prices and household rates increases to cover the operating costs shortfall” Reeves said.

The PTUA is calling for a Board of Inquiry into the state of Auckland rail as it is too important to let these costs slide by unchallenged. Christine Rose, Chair of the PTUA said “It is times like this New Zealand needs a Ministry of Railways to sort these sorts of issues out. Without a Railways Ministry we believe a Board of Inquiry could analyse in-depth what is truly going wrong with operating costs and revenue in Auckland.”

The PTUA is a lobby group focused on representing passengers’ rights. One of those rights is to ensure passengers are not paying too much to cover for incompetence. Mrs Rose says “Someone needs to question the status quo. On the one hand we have AT management planning to ridiculously reduce the length of the Auckland rail network by cutting train services to Waitakere Township from July, and refusing to implement a very low cost, much needed rail service to growth suburbs of Huapai and Kumeu. On the other hand facts show AT is paying far too much to operate our trains and fare evasion is rampant”. “What is wrong with Auckland Transport management? Only a Board of Inquiry can get to the bottom of this. The current model is not working in the favour of the communities and ratepayers it is supposed to serve. To top it all off, the trains aren’t even able to run on time and we have witnessed four months of terrible performance levels with record numbers of trains delayed or cancelled” Rose said.


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