Trains have returned to the Auckland and Wellington networks on Monday morning, after a two-week shutdown over the Christmas and New Year break. Read more
Wellington will investigate allowing rail commuters to use Snapper cards to pay for their journeys.
Currently, passengers using trains in Wellington must pay either with cash on board or with pre-purchased paper tickets. Bus passengers can use the Snapper smart card.
According to Greater Wellington Council transport committee chair Roger Blakeley, the move to investigate Snapper payments on trains has arisen due to the experience of COVID-19 and the ability of smart cards to be used for contact tracing on public transport.
“As we saw with the alert levels we need to have safe contactless methods of payment available across the region’s network sooner rather than later. Enhancing fare collection efficiency also aligns with the future of national ticketing and the Council’s longstanding vision for a world-class integrated public transport network with high levels of accessibility, quality, reliability and flexibility,” said Blakeley.
Wellington is also looking to prevent revenue loss through the adoption of smarter ticketing.
Customers have also indicated a preference for payments with smart card technology, with satisfaction with payment services higher on buses, where Snapper can be used, than trains, said Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher.
“Our focus is on providing better services to passengers and, in our regular customer satisfaction survey, passengers tell us that convenience of paying is an area we can improve on with 68 per cent of rail passengers currently satisfied compared to 78 per cent with our bus passengers. Clearly there’s room for improvement here and Snapper on rail could have a profound impact,” said Gallacher.
Customer benefits such as fare discounts, faster boarding, and greater convenience and tracking of spend would flow from a smart card system.
A national ticketing solution (NTS) is currently being developed for New Zealand by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) Waka Kotahi and implementing Snapper infrastructure for trains would also allow for the transition to a national ticketing system once it is completed.
Auckland and Wellington are removing caps on capacity levels designed to enable physical distancing on trains, buses, and ferries.
Wellington’s transport operator Metlink said that face coverings have been an effective way to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading and that capacity could return to normal.
“This change comes on the back of the hard work of Metlink staff and passengers who have shown fantastic support for face coverings, giving the Government confidence to relax physical distancing on public transport,” said Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher.
In Auckland, while physical distancing is still recommended, restrictions have also been lifted.
“The relaxation of physical distancing requirements on public transport is good news for Aucklanders and will allow more people to use our trains, buses and ferries to get around the city,” said Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that physical distancing on public transport was no longer required, and the wearing of face masks made the lifting of capacity limits possible.
“Mask use will continue to be compulsory, and has been key in the recommendation by the Director General that this change is safe to occur.”
To assist in the event of an outbreak, in Auckland and Wellington passengers are still encouraged to scan QR codes, and maintain hygiene practices on public transport.
“It’s important that everyone continues to wear a face covering on public transport to limit spread of COVID-19. Please also keep track of your movements with the NZ COVID Tracer app and continue good hygiene practices like handwashing and covering coughs or sneezes,” said Goff.
While COVID-19 alert levels are remaining where they are at the moment, level 2.5 in Auckland and level 2 in the rest of the country, they are expected to come down further next week.
Gallacher welcomed the efforts of staff and the community.
“Thank you for your ongoing cooperation and patience, as we work together to keep our community safe and healthy.”
Auckland and Wellington will use QR codes on public transport to assist with contact tracing.
The implementation of the QR codes in Auckland from September 4 comes as the city moves to alert level two after a week at level three.
Masks have been made mandatory for passengers across trains, buses, and ferries, and physical distancing guidelines have been implemented.
Auckland Transport is asking passengers to use the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s NZ COVID Tracer app to scan the codes.
The transport authority had previously been using data from the city’s transit payment card, AT HOP, to track close contacts, however after positive cases travelled on buses and had outdated information on their AT HOP card the added method of tracing has been brought in.
While transport is running at normal schedules, capacity is limited to about 43 per cent due to social distancing requirements. Passengers can check the Auckland Transport app to see how many passengers are on a train before boarding.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that the local government and public should embrace the new measures.
“Health authorities now agree that it is safe to move to Alert Level 2, but we still need to ensure that we follow all of the safeguards necessary to constrain the spread of COVID-19. Following these rules will help ensure we beat COVID-19 again, just as we did last time.”
In Wellington, which is under alert level two, masks are also mandatory on public transport. Even before the rule was applied from Monday, August 31, more passengers had been wearing masks or face coverings, said Scott Gallacher, general manager of operator Metlink.
“We’ve seen thousands of people wearing masks on our buses, ferries and trains. Social media is awash with people wearing the most fantastic masks, scarves and bandanas and Wellingtonians have kicked off a national trend using the hashtag #OnBoardWithMasks to show their support,” he said.
Wellington’s trains are running at about 30 per cent of their normal capacity.
“We’ve got all the buses, ferries and trains out that we can but we’re asking for patience and understanding at this time. If people have the ability to work from home or travel outside of peak hours we welcome their help,” said Gallacher.
Rail services have continued in New Zealand despite the reimposition of lockdown measures to control the spread of new cases of COVID-19.
Auckland is now in level 3 restrictions while the rest of the country is under level 2 restrictions after cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Tuesday, August 11 with no known source of transmission.
In Auckland, rail services are continuing during the lockdown to their existing timetable for those who need to access local services and businesses and travel to work and school when that cannot be done at home. Physical distancing of two metres must be maintained on public transport.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff advised commuters to follow health guidelines.
“Maintain physical distancing, wear a mask when in public and follow good hygiene practices and we will get through this together.”
Auckland Transport will be cleaning trains regularly and will be making changes to timetables as needed.
KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller shared Goff’s advice to wear face masks when using public transport.
“The health and safety of our staff, and the public, is the company’s main priority as we maintain essential services, just as we did successfully earlier this year.”
KiwiRail has suspended the TranzAlpine service that was to run over the weekend of August 15-16. The Capital Connection service between Wellington and Palmerston North will run as normal.
Freight services will continue with appropriate precautions instituted.
In Wellington, which is under level 2 restrictions, public transport is also continuing as normal.
General manager of Wellington transport operator Metlink Scott Gallacher emphasised the need for passengers to take care when travelling.
“We’re asking passengers to keep a 1-metre distance on board trains, buses and ferries and keep a 2-metres distance while waiting at bus stops, train stations and ferry wharfs,” he said.
“The government has made it clear that people should wear face masks where physical distancing is difficult and we encourage passengers to follow this advice on public transport. These measures will help keep passengers safe across the whole network.”
Metlink will accept cash payment, however Auckland Transport is only accepting payments via the AT HOP card.
As the threat of coronavirus (COVID-19) eases, passenger rail operations are beginning to return to normal levels of service, however with some changes.
In New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country was COVID free on Monday June 8, rail passenger operators in Auckland and Wellington have returned to normal service.
This has meant that in both cities, there is no longer any need for physical distancing on trains and the wider transport network.
Both cities, however, have made changes to how fares are collected.
In Wellington, where fares were suspended, fares will be reintroduced on July 1, said operator Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher.
“Reintroducing fares in July makes sense following New Zealand’s excellent response to COVID-19 and the recent removal of physical distancing measures under alert level 1. Our passengers, drivers, staff on trains and at station kiosks can now safely and confidently interact again.”
Hygiene practices will continue, and passengers are still being encouraged to use contactless payments wherever possible, instead of cash.
Chair of Greater Wellington’s transport committee Roger Blakeley thanked public transport workers for their service during COVID-19.
“As a public transport user myself, it’s been fantastic to see cleaners, engineers, mechanics, drivers, ambassadors, communications and operations staff, union reps and many more people behind the scenes coming together to keep public transport running as an essential service.”
In Auckland, a 30 per cent fare discount is available to encourage passengers to travel outside of peak hours. The discount runs from 9am to 3pm and after 6.30pm on weekday. The discount is available to those using the AT HOP card.
In Queensland, discounts of up to 60 per cent are available for long-distance train travel.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey encouraged Queenslanders to use rail to explore the state.
“To celebrate long-distance services being reinstated, the Queensland Escape sale means Queenslanders are good to go with huge price discounts to support them to get out of the house, jump on a train and explore our great state,” he said.
Social distancing on these services would continue, as will heightened cleaning regimes. Extra services will start from June 13, with another increase for the school holidays on June 26.
Public transport is returning to normal in New Zealand, however capacity will be limited on services.
To maintain physical distancing when the country enters level 2 restrictions, rail operators are reducing and enforcing capacity limits.
Standing will not be allowed on Auckland and Wellington trains, with Auckland running at about 43 per cent of normal passenger capacity while operating normal schedules, while in Wellington trains will be carrying 30 per cent of their regular load.
Passengers are being advised that they may not be able to catch their regular service.
“Physical distancing and no standing means our fleets will still be operating below their maximum seated load and we thank passengers for their patience and understanding if they are unable to catch their first choice bus, train or ferry,” said Scott Gallacher, general manager of Metlink, Wellington’s public transport operator.
In Auckland, the AT Mobile app will inform passengers how many people are on a train, to know if there is space to board. People who must travel are also being encouraged to take public transport outside of peak hours, when possible, and employers are being asked to stagger their return to work plans.
Extra cleaning and hygiene practices are continuing across public transport as well as public communication practices to inform travellers of the new requirements.
“Please remember to keep up with physical distancing and the heightened hygiene focus which we have learned over recent months,” said Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
“And we need, all of us, to avoid any behaviour which might increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19. The last thing we want is to have to return to Level 3 or Level 4 lockdown.”
Trains on the Wellington network have returned to a full timetable, as of Monday, May 4.
Trains on the five lines that stretch across the greater Wellington region had been reduced while New Zealand was under level 4 lockdown restrictions and were only available to essential workers and those accessing essential services. With some businesses, schools, and early learning centres now reopened, trains are operating on a full timetable.
Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher said that services resumed on a staggered basis up until May 4.
“Returning to full timetables on bus and rail is great news for passengers and the recovery of the region. We have hundreds of people working behind the scenes to update systems and help get all of our drivers, trains and buses back into action.”
Extra hygiene measures will still be in place, and Gallacher encouraged those travelling to abide by physical distancing guidelines.
“We’re asking passengers to help us during this time and abide by the physical distancing measures in place even if that means missing out on their first choice train or bus as demands start to pick back up. Metlink’s real time information will be up and running as soon as we enter alert level 3 to help people plan journeys, and we’ll continue to update passengers with any developments on the Metlink website and app.”
Due to the physical distancing requirements, fewer people will be let on each service.
On the Wairarapa line, trains were replaced with buses, and the services have resumed being conducted by trains. In addition, some restrictions such as access to the luggage area have been put in place.
“As with all of our public transport services, we will continue to ensure the safety of our staff and passengers. It is important for customers to be aware of physical distancing practices on all trains and while at stations,” said Gallacher.
New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has opened an inquiry over a July 2 freight train derailment that occurred in Wellington.
The TAIC has opened the inquiry to investigate whether or not the incident poses significant implications for transport safety. The TAIC will then make “findings or recommendations to help improve transport safety” based on the outcome of the inquiry.
The derailment occurred on July 2 at around 7:40pm NZ time at a junction between yard and North Island Main Trunk line. Four container wagons were derailed in the incident.
While no injuries were reported as a result of the incident, it did cause significant disruption for Wellington’s network, with all train services save the Johnsonville line temporarily cancelled while repairs and removal works were carried out by workers from KiwiRail. More than 20,000 commuters were reported to have been affected by the issues yesterday.
Night works are set to continue over the course of the week to fully restore the network, which suffered damage to eight sets of points and other sections of track. Metlink Wellington announced that late notice bus replacements for Hutt Valley line will be in operation tonight to compensate for the works.