Auckland train disruptions: What went wrong
Feb. 12, 2020
KiwiRail is hoping disrupted train services can run normally on Thursday for the first time in three days, if tests on Wednesday clear signalling equipment damaged by fire.
The fire in switching equipment near Auckland's Newmarket Station is thought to have been caused by a fault in the power supply.
Wha would normally have been a simple fix has been disruptive because of its location on a critical part of the Auckland rail network.
KiwiRail said there were hundreds of similar switching boxes across Auckland and this was only the second such incident in more than a decade.
"For the thousands we have got operating [nationwide] it is a really unusual source of failure," Todd Moyle, KiwiRail's chief operating officer, said.
Moyle said the signal equipment boxes are found near level crossings, points and signals, but the fire struck one which controlled trains switching across three tracks and in and out of Newmarket Station where the southern and western lines intersect.
"We can usually take out a damaged module and put a new one in in half an hour. We are not used to having a fire that takes out a whole location," he said.
"I went out there first thing on Monday and the damage was extensive."
While services on the western line were soon returned to normal, the southern line has been restricted to a single track, also affecting the Onehunga line which branches off at Penrose.
KiwiRail has installed new and repaired equipment at Newmarket overnight and was testing it throughout Wednesday in the hope that commuter rail services run by Auckland Transport can be back to normal at the start of Thursday.
Moyle said the incident was unrelated to signal failures in January and June 2019.
The local switching equipment did not have back-up.
"We have a lot of redundancy and back-up in the overall system and management, but not in the localised field areas."
Auckland Transport said the timing was particularly frustrating, hitting the build-up to its busiest time of year from mid-February into March.
"There's a number of people who make decisions about whether they are going to use public transport as their main form of transportation – it's really important that service consistency is there," Auckland Transport's Stacey van der Putten said.
"It can change habits or break habits."
Auckland Transport could not yet say how the disruption had affected rail patronage.
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