2 Sep 2015

Commuters grill mayor on Pukekohe rail service

7:07 am on 2 September 2015

About 100 disgruntled Pukekohe rail commuters subjected Auckland Mayor Len Brown to a roasting over public transport at a local meeting last night.

Auckland switched over to an almost entirely electric train service last month, but a diesel shuttle has been ferrying commuters between Papakura and the southern terminus at Pukekohe, in south Auckland.

One of Auckland's 57 new electric trains at Henderson Station

One of Auckland's 57 new electric trains at Henderson Station - Pukekohoe commuters wonder when they'll get an upgraded service. Photo: Supplied/Auckland Transport

Pukekohe commuters say they're feeling ripped off - paying the rates, but getting a downgraded train service compared with the rest of the city.

One resident, Vicki Thomson, said she had been commuting to Auckland Hospital for the past nine years and was sick of being treated like a second class citizen.

Ms Thomson said she was too frequently faced with train delays, breakdowns and a lack of communication from Auckland Transport.

"Very irritating start to the day, particularly if you've got meetings to get into the city by 7:30. It's a real push, and we leave at 5:15 now to get into the city so that we can be there by 7, so that's a long commute."

Auckland City Council meeting. Mayor Len Brown

Mayor Len Brown (file) Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

She said it was as if Pukekohe did not even feature in the transport plans.

Another commuter from the area, Janet Walker-Kerr, said after catching the shuttle, there was a brisk walk to get to the connecting service - a brisk walk some people could not make in time.

"I watched a cerebral palsy guy struggle to get to the train on time ... the lift wasn't working, he got up, he got there - the train pulled out, the shuttle pulled out," she said.

Other complaints ranging from the stench on the diesel trains, to a general lack of faith that the line would be improved.

"I don't think this is going to happen for us out here, I mean we're sitting here with a station that leaks worse than a tea strainer," said one commuter at the meeting. "I hadn't been ice skating for a while until I got here."

Another said she feared for her safety.

"Two months ago I got assaulted on the train by a glue sniffer," she said. "I want to know what the purpose of the Maori wardens are and the security guards because they do absolutely nothing...I did actually approach one of the wardens and he said 'he's a friend of mine, what do you want me to do about it'."

Len Brown said it would cost about $120 million to run electric rail from Papakura to Pukekohe, including construction work on three bridges.

Auckland Transport general manager Mark Lambert said he was in talks with the electric train manufacturer to see if whether could put enhanced battery technology into the existing trains, so they could get to Pukekohe.

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