Metro train satisfaction dips as service improves

Customer satisfaction with Wellington's metropolitan rail network is at a new low, despite the increasing reliability and punctuality of the service.

Greater Wellington regional council's first annual report on the performance of the capital's metro rail service will go before councillors today.

It says overall customer satisfaction has fallen 1 per cent over the past 12 months to 48 per cent, well below the high reported in 2008-09, when 66 per cent of Wellingtonians were happy with their rail service.

Cost, reliability and cycle storage at stations were people's biggest gripes this year, with just 32 per cent satisfaction.

People were generally happy with the ease of getting on and off trains, as well as their personal safety while on board, with satisfaction of about 80 per cent.

Overall satisfaction is expected to pick up next year, now that all 48 of Tranz Metro's new Matangi trains are in service, which should improve punctuality and reliability, according to the report.

Punctuality rose this year from 90 per cent to 91.5 per cent, the highest level for five years. Punctuality is measured by the number of trains arriving at Wellington Railway Station within five minutes of their scheduled time.

The report said the removal of many compulsory stop boards, which cause a minimum delay of three minutes each, coupled with new signals and fewer failures of points and overhead traction systems, helped to improve punctuality.

Increased mechanical problems with the ageing English Electric and Ganz Mavag trains, as well as a slower than anticipated introduction of the Matangi fleet, prevented an even better improvement.

Reliability, which measures the percentage of timetabled services that arrived - on time or not - improved marginally from 98.6 per cent a year ago to 98.8 per cent.

But this was below the 99.8 per cent reported in 2008. Again, mechanical troubles with ageing trains were a factor.

The report said Wellington's Tranz Metro network remained "relatively" safe, with 184 incidents reported in the previous year, or 0.07 per 100,000 train kilometres.

Incidents included trains passing a trackside signal without authority to do so, minor staff injuries, and near misses.

More serious safety issues are classified as "notifiable occurrences", of which there were six in the past 12 months. They included two deaths, a car and a bus lying stationary on the tracks, an assault on a Tranz Metro staff member, and a traction power outage.

Contact Michael Forbes
Transport and metro reporter
Twitter: @michael_forbes

The Dominion Post