Wellington Scoop

Metlink cancels peak-hour trains and apologises: “We don’t have enough train drivers”

Metlink yesterday announced the cancellation of six peak-hour train services to and from Johnsonville. Its reason: a driver shortage which it said would continue till mid-year.

News from Metlink – February 20
We are bus replacing three services and their returns during afternoon peak on the Johnsonville line due to a driver shortage. This driver shortage is forecast to continue to be tight until mid-2019, but we will update you weekly as the situation changes.

During peak on the Johnsonville line, trains depart every 15 minutes, but at this time we will bus-replace three services and their returns each afternoon.

We don’t have enough train drivers to operate our full timetable right now. Despite extensive planning, forecasting, recruiting, and training unfortunately we could not have foreseen this shortage. It takes 12 months to train new drivers in this safety-critical role. Our training school is full and we are taking extra measures internally to juggle the roster and use certified staff wherever possible and are working to return to a regular train timetable as soon as we can.

We are always interested to hear from new recruits who can successfully pass the aptitude tests to become a train driver, and invite those interested to apply. The next driver intake will be in April when our current trainees graduate.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, and are doing everything we can to get back to a full train timetable.

Afternoon Peak
Services replaced by bus from Wellington to Johnsonville
4:17pm – alternative train services depart at 4:02pm or 4:32pm.
5:32pm – alternative train services depart at 5:17pm & 5:47pm.
6:32pm – alternative train services depart at 6:17pm & 7:02pm.

Services replaced by bus from Johnsonville to Wellington
4:45pm – alternative train services depart at 4:30pm or 5:00pm.
6:00pm – alternative train services depart at 5:45pm or 6:15pm.
7:00pm – alternative train services depart at 6:45pm or 7:30pm.

The DomPost reports that Tranzdev chief operating officer Mike Fenton told regional councillors today the company was seeing unprecedented driver turnover. He said many of Tranzdev’s drivers had left to join KiwiRail, which paid more and was expanding its operations. It also gave drivers a change from driving electric trains.

Metlink spokeswoman Emily Liddell said Tranzdev expected to lose 12 per cent of its 100-plus drivers this year, up from its average annual turnover of 3.5 per cent.

NZ Bus told the council it was 20 drivers short and was struggling to attract applicants. Chief executive Zane Fulljames said the company was working with the council to identify services which could be “temporarily trimmed”. “We are going to be cancelling services on a daily basis, and it’s down to a shortage of drivers.”


  1. Roy Kutel, 20. February 2019, 22:36

    Well 9 months to train a driver is ridiculous. Unionisation gone mad! And the pay they get is way over the top. Most of the time they just lean on the dead man’s handle!

    Bus drivers should get more than a train driver. After all, they have to deal with bus passengers, cyclists and lime scooters.

  2. Gwynn Compton, 20. February 2019, 22:44

    The current model ain’t working. It actually felt like we were getting somewhere when KiwiRail was running the trains and the buses were largely unified. A public transport authority seems like a no brainer for Auckland and Wellington. Also why do we subsidise firms like Transdev to make money out of running our trains, when we could essentially pay ourselves by getting KiwiRail to do it. [via twitter]

  3. Morris Oxford, 21. February 2019, 8:05

    “We are bus replacing three services….”
    Do they mean “train replacing”?
    Are they in a muddle or what?

  4. Patrick Reynolds, 21. February 2019, 8:32

    Have they tried, I dunno, offering more pay and better conditions? Doesn’t supply and demand function here too? [via twitter]

  5. Farmer Bill, 21. February 2019, 9:14

    PR – and we the ratepayers pick up the tab! I pay enough for rail services I don’t use already! Hundreds of dollars a year. Passenger rail in the Wairarapa is virtually of no use for farmers! And don’t bang on about congestion because this side of the hill SH2 is perfectly adequate save the delays from rail crossings (and the extra danger they pose). Just bus the well paid white collar email shufflers to Featherston and save me a few hundred dollars a year.

  6. luke, 21. February 2019, 9:45

    Did Roy Kutel fail in an attempt to become a driver? He sounds very bitter. They are short, paying them less isn’t going to help.

  7. Roy Kutel, 21. February 2019, 11:33

    Luke – No I’ve never tried to become a train driver. Eyesight problems would bar me. But I wouldn’t mind a basic pay of $40/hr ($80,000 per year) before extras. And Yes I am bitter and twisted about the inefficient Wellington transport system that I have to subsidise through my ever increasing rates bill.

  8. Mike Mellor, 21. February 2019, 12:27

    Roy: probably a lot of people wouldn’t mind that money but I suspect that many wouldn’t pass the aptitude test for a demanding job that requires people to be both sticklers for rules (lots of them!) and have the ability to use their own initiative in an emergency. It’s very different from driving a bus, with its own unique complexities, not least being responsible for the safety of hundreds of people at a time.

  9. Roy Kutel, 21. February 2019, 13:24

    Oh for driverless trains!

  10. Dave B, 22. February 2019, 14:34

    @ Farmer Bill, I also pay rates for a large number of roads I never use. I can feel your pain.

  11. KB, 22. February 2019, 23:56

    LOL: “Tranzdev chief operating officer Mike Fenton told regional councillors the company was seeing unprecedented driver turnover. He said many of Tranzdev’s drivers had left to join KiwiRail, which paid more”
    If only there was some way Transdev could retain drivers. You know, something like paying the same or more than KiwiRail to retain and attract drivers. What a bunch of clowns must be running Transdev.

  12. Gary Froggatt, 23. February 2019, 9:01

    No use blaming the union Roy Kutel. NZTA rules dictate the number of hours required for train drivers to qualify – similar to airline pilots. Signons starting from 4.00am, 14-hour days and signoffs at 1.00am don’t help with recruitment. Bus drivers are even worse off as they are forced to work similar hours and in addition have a 4-hour unpaid book-off time on broken shifts. Metrolink forces bus companies to operate these hours through the moribund and draconian PTOM tendering system. NZ Bus offered to work with the GWRC to maximise timetable services and to provide more efficient driver rosters which would have been a win win result for the Council, the bus companies and the drivers.

  13. luke, 23. February 2019, 9:52

    the training for drivers was reduced many years ago and followed by an increase in operating incidents. It didn’t last for long.

  14. Roy Kutel, 23. February 2019, 12:49

    Perhaps not Gary but we can blame the Kiwirail manager who changed the split shift arrangements around 2010 effectively increasing driver and guard requirements by a third. The Kiwirail ‘manager’ responsible now works in contracting at GWRC.