15 Sep 2015

Auckland not overpaying for trains - review

7:00 am on 15 September 2015

An independent review has scotched a suggestion Auckland is paying unreasonably more for its rail system than Wellington.

It says the real difference is modest and temporary, and that the city will be better off once its new electric train fleet is in full swing.

Auckland and Wellington trains

A review found Auckland is not paying too much for its new train network. Photo: Supplied

Auckland councillor Mike Lee says the city is paying too much to the rail operator Transdev, and getting less support from the Government than Wellington.

The review found, in the year to June 2014, the cost of maintaining Auckland's rail system was $125.6 million against Wellington's $85 million, to carry a similar number of passengers.

But it says costs were far higher running Auckland's now retired fleet of diesel powered trains, and that will fall once the new electric trains are in full service.

The consultant argues, though, that Auckland could make more of commercial opportunities around its stations, citing the small supermarket in Wellington's main terminus.

Mr Lee, who is also a director on the agency Auckland Transport, has long argued the city is getting a raw deal and that costs are inexplicably high.

The review found Auckland's services were not only more frequent than Wellington's but that Auckland's trains run 209,000 kilometres a year empty, getting from their stabling yards to their first departure points and back from their final destination. The report found "dead running" in Wellington to be minimal.

Another difference was in fare revenue, where Auckland lost out because a high proportion of trips are short, incurring $2.50 fares, while most trips in Wellington are longer and cost $5.50 or more.

The review says once Auckland's more efficient and lower cost electric fleet is in full service - expected in the next months - costs will fall, patronage will continue to grow, and Auckland should end up with a lower cost system than the capital.

Another suggestion from the consultant is to reduce the discount offered to commuters using Auckland's electronic ATHOP travel cards, once the system has reached its full potential.

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