Tuesday, December 12, 2023

MP: Answers needed on Auckland rail cancellations

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Auckland commuters have woken up to news that almost all of the city’s rail network has been closed due to a Kiwirail ‘track infrastructure problem’. Photo Heart of the City

KiwiRail must urgently explain why it has effectively shut down the Auckland rail network today, causing disruption for thousands of commuters, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Auckland commuters have woken up to news that almost all of the city’s rail network has been closed due to a KiwiRail ‘track infrastructure problem’ meaning that train lines have been shut down from the West, South, Onehunga and East (which was already shut for maintenance works).

“This will cause chaos for Auckland commuters and follows similar major disruption caused for many thousands of rail passengers in Wellington this week, due to the capital’s rail network having not been checked by KiwiRail’s one and only track evaluation car.

“KiwiRail needs to front up and explain what has gone wrong in Auckland and how long the lines will be shut before they are fixed.

“Labour has allocated more than $8 billion dollars to KiwiRail since becoming Government, but passengers are not seeing the benefits they should expect from that investment. Yet again under Labour, the focus is on spending, rather than delivering better services.

“Transport Minister Michael Wood should also provide answers to Aucklanders about what has gone wrong here. Aucklanders deserve answers and they deserve them quickly.

“A resilient and reliable public transport network is critical to getting people to use public transport. This failure does nothing to help achieve that shift.”

KiwiRail chief operations officer Siva Sivapakkiam issued a media statement this afternoon.

 “I apologise to Auckland rail commuters for the disruption caused to services this morning,” Sivapakkiam says.

“Shortly before 4am we were advised of electricity arcing from overhead electric lines under the Broadway overbridge and we had to turn the power off to investigate. 25,000 volts run through the overhead lines.

“Our people had to make that call and I support their decision. Though it caused disruption, the safety of passengers and the public has to be our top priority.

Contaminants had got on the insulator – due to high humidity and recent weather. The insulator was cleaned and power restored by 8.15am.

“Insulators across Auckland are inspected every six months and cleaned annually. This site was within tolerances for checking and cleaning.

“As soon as were advised of the arcing we took action. We had track crews mobilized by 4.15am and contacted the train operator Auckland One Rail at 4.25am. The short amount of time between the fault being discovered and commuter trains starting this morning seriously limited Auckland Transport and Auckland One Rail’s ability to put alternate public transport in place.

“This issue is not related to the disruption in Wellington earlier this week. Our Track Evaluation Car will be back in Auckland next week to undertake its scheduled assessments.”

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