This page is a generic guide of helpful resources during a disruption. For specific information about current disruptions, see Service Alerts(external link).
We'll keep you updated
Alerts and updates will be shared as soon as possible on our website, app and PA announcements. Where possible, staff will be on-site to direct and assist passengers. We recommend adding your regular services to your favourites in your MyMetlink(external link) account and enabling push notifications in the Metlink app and in your mobile device notification settings.
Disruptions often are caused by things outside of our control, such as freight train breakdowns, severe weather and emergency situations.
What to expect during a disruption
When disruptions happen on the bus network, we may need to close or move some bus stops and detour buses around the area affected. This can cause delays and cancellations to services. Buses can get stuck in heavy traffic, resulting in significant delays and cancellations.
When there is a major disruption on the network, train services may run with reduced seating (fewer cars), be cancelled, or be replaced by buses. It takes time to get services running again, due to investigation time and operational complexities. We do our best to source alternative or replacement services when possible. We understand this can be extremely inconvenient to passengers, and we thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation.
Disruptions on the Wairarapa Line
Some unique elements on the Wairarapa line create additional issues when services are disrupted, and can take much longer to resolve.
- Safety restrictions for gas levels in the Rimutaka tunnel require extra waiting time before trains can resume. This includes freight trains that share the line with passenger services.
- Lack of a signalling system north of Featherston requires manual paperwork to be signed off by Train Control before trains can restart, meaning extra delays while waiting for paperwork to come through. The lack of signals also means that multiple trains cannot operate between Featherston and Masterton at the same time.
- A significant amount of work and investment is required to improve the infrastructure of the Wairarapa line, meaning that buses often replace Wairarapa Line services while planned maintenance work is done.
Service changes and finding options
If your service is disrupted, other services may be able to get you where you're going. Use the journey planner to see other suggested routes. Please note, some disrupted services may still show in journey planner results, since it can take time for the system to update with cancellations.
Please note, if a reduced or alternative timetable is put in place to manage a disruption (for example, a Saturday timetable running during a weekday), timetables on the website and app and real-time departure screens will not reflect these changes. Updating timetables usually takes several days of complex processes to sync the different systems that run the network. Updates and changes to services will be noted in Service alerts(external link).
Buses replacing trains stop locations
Buses replacing trains stop locations can also be found on train station real time departure pages by clicking "Stop information".
If travelling with a bike or pram during a disruption
If capacity allows, bicycles may be carried on a cycle rack if the bus is fitted with one, otherwise only folding cycles may be carried. All folded prams can be carried on board the bus replacement services when stored in the luggage areas, non-foldable prams may not be able to be carried on all bus replacements, please talk to on-board staff when boarding.
If you need other assistance
Staff on-site or on-board are your best first contact. If you need other assistance or cannot find a Metlink staff person, the Metlink Service Centre may be able to help. Opening hours apply.
Causes of delays & disruptions
Many factors outside of Metlink's control can impact services. Buses can get caught in traffic, as they share the same streets as other vehicles. Roadworks and events may also require buses to detour from their usual route. Harbour Ferries are most often impacted by weather, as they are not able to operate in large swells or high winds.
Trains, although not affected by vehicle traffic, can be impacted by many things, such as mechanical problems, freight train traffic, speed restrictions due to high temperatures, and even slippery leaves on the tracks, which can cause significant disruption to train services. Causes of these issues can take time to identify and resolve. Safety of passengers is our first priority. Any mechanical or safety issues or emergencies will be fully investigated and resolved before train services can resume.
Disruptions impact on trains, rosters and staff, and there can be significant flow-on effects of unscheduled changes and delays to later services or passengers further down the line. Trains and staff may be left in the wrong locations or lines may be blocked. Trains may be full or near full, meaning they cannot collect any more passengers due to load restrictions. When we replace trains with buses, buses may get stuck in traffic.
Disruptions on the Wairarapa Line
Some unique elements on this line create additional issues when services are disrupted. Safety restrictions for tunnels, limitations of signalling systems north of Featherston, and a significant amount of work required to improve the line means that buses often replace Wairarapa Line services and unplanned disruptions can take much longer to resolve.
Train drivers are instructed to reduce speed on some parts of the track or the whole track if there is damage or repairs are underway. This is to ensure passenger and train crew safety. It often means that services don't run to the scheduled timetable and impacts on later services on the line. Matangi trains can travel at speeds of around 100km/h. Speed restrictions can reduce speeds to 40km/h or slower. After an earthquake or weather event the trains may be instructed to reduce speed to 40km/h to ensure there has been no damage to the tracks.
Current speed restriction notices
Wairarapa Line: There are ongoing speed restrictions on the Wairarapa line while maintenance work on the track continues. We are working with KiwiRail to reduce the ongoing impact to customers, but it is likely that there will be speed restrictions on the line for the foreseeable future. To reduce the impact on journey times we have recently removed the need for trains to stop at Maymorn and Matarawa stations unless there are customers on the platform or want to disembark from the train.
Safety restrictions for gas levels in the Remutaka tunnel require extra waiting time between trains (usually an hour) before trains can resume. This includes freight trains that share the line with passenger services.
Points allow the trains to be guided from one track to another to change direction or route. These are used at some stations, railway junctions and sidings. When a set of points stop working they require the train crew or KiwiRail to electrically isolate and manually operate the points to ensure it is safe for the train to proceed over them. This process must be repeated for each set of faulty points and this can cause significant delays. The train crew may have to restore power to the defective points and manually return the points to their previous position after the train has passed over them leading to further delays.
A signal relays information to the train driver on the state of the line ahead. These are red, yellow and green lights which provide direction on speed or tell the driver to stop. If a signal stops working the train staff follow procedures to safely pass. The driver may have to contact the control centre and get the okay to proceed. The train is also likely to travel slower through the area controlled by the signal as an additional safety measure. If a driver passes a stop signal it is a serious safety breach. The service is halted while the driver is replaced and an investigation is conducted.
Signals faults often require manual paperwork to be signed off by Train Control before trains can restart, meaning extra delays while waiting for paperwork to come through. This also applies to areas of the network where there are no signals.
Trains are machines and they do break down. We have a regular maintenance programme for each vehicle but they do sometimes break down when in service. It can be a compressor failure which means the brakes lock or doors won't open or close properly. We get repair crews, replacement trains or buses out as soon as we can. At peak times we operate as many of our vehicles as possible to meet growing demand and can't always send replacement trains quickly.
Your safety is top of mind and you need to follow the instruction of the train crew on waiting inside the vehicle until it is okay to move to another train or bus. If you are stuck on board a train during a disruption pleased be assured that you are in the safest place you can be, the train crew and Network Control must ensure that the track and surrounding area (including the overhead power lines) is safe before evacuating a train and passengers will only be moved from a train as a last resort – we will always look to getting the train moving again rather than evacuating a train.
Depending on where the breakdown has taken place it could be some time before the train gets moving again or before the train is evacuated – in these situations the train staff will constantly be keeping you up to date with progress and if you have any concerns please feel free to speak to any of our on-board staff.
If the top surface of the tracks (called the railhead) is cracked, bent or otherwise damaged, trains may be temporarily put on hold until an inspection can be done. Once the inspection is done, the problem will need to be fixed before trains can run. This can cause speed restrictions, delays or cancellations.
Train drivers can report suspected track faults, which can cause delays to other services. This is to ensure everyone's safety.
Matangi trains are electric and powered by overhead lines. If there is a power cut or something hits the overhead lines, the trains won't run. We do have auxiliary power supplies which will mean that the trains will continue to operate even if there is power cut in the suburb they are passing through. If a vehicle carrying a high load hits the power lines these will need to be repaired before services can resume. We ask you to remain inside the carriages until we are certain that there is no danger of live power lines.
The Wairarapa services and KiwiRail passenger and freight services are diesel which is why they can continue to operate when we have a power failure.
We share the rail network that runs through the Wellington region. KiwiRail operates freight and passenger services. A broken down freight train can cause delays as the Metlink services may not be able to pass. Sometimes the freight service will need an additional locomotive which takes time to organise and dispatch.
If there is an incident near the track, the Police, Fire and Ambulance can close the line. These incidents might include a trespasser, a car crash or spill, or medical incident involving a passenger or one of our staff at a station or on board a train. It may include turning the power off in that section of the line. We need to give them the space to do their job, and once they are finished we need to make sure the track is undamaged and safe to use before services can return to this section of track.
We know you can't beat Wellington on a good day but we also know that we are very exposed to winds and storms. Train services can be disrupted by snow, slips, floods, fallen trees, and other debris on the tracks. In severe storms we have had issues with flooding at stations as well. We monitor severe weather warnings and alert customers when weather has impacted our train or bus services.
Hot weather may see speed restrictions in place if tracks become heated and there is a risk that they are out of alignment. Cold weather can mean that ice forms on the tracks causing slipping or on overhead wires meaning that they arc. The software on the Matangi can recognise some of these issues and slows the train to a safe low speed.
During the colder winter months ice can form on the overhead wires which supply electricity to each Matangi carriage. The ice can cause arcing (bouncing and sparking) or limit the amount of power being provided to each carriage causing fluctuations in the power supply. Matangi have software designed to safely protect them from these electrical fluctuations by temporarily blocking power to prevent any damage to the train. If this happens repeatedly then the train needs to be reset which can cause delays.
The Wairarapa services do not experience issues with ice on the overhead wires as they are hauled by diesel locomotives so do not depend on the overhead wires to run. However, delays to the Hutt Valley Line trains may affect Wairarapa Line trains.
Hot weather can create issues for the rail network. Rails in direct sunshine can be as much as 20°C hotter than air temperature. Because rails are made from steel, they expand as they get hotter, and this can cause misalignments. The rail network is monitored by a remote system, which measures the temperature of the track and the air temperature. When these reach a certain point, usually 40°C, heat inspections are carried out. Temporary speed restrictions are introduced in selected locations as a precautionary measure.
Work is done throughout the year to prepare the rail for warmer weather in summer and to minimise the impact of speed restrictions due to heat. An extensive amount of heat de-stressing takes place across the network each year. Heat restrictions are a common problem with rail networks around the world.
Worksites are often setup near the tracks so that KiwiRail can perform maintenance work on the line without cancelling services. Services must run at reduced speed past these worksites for the safety of the workers around the site.
The Wellington rail network is closely monitored, particularly when we have earthquakes. We use GeoNet’s MM rating (Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale), which measures the intensity of a quake. The base shaking data comes from 300+ strong motion accelerometers which have been installed as part of the EQC-funded GeoNet programme. Any seismic activity which records an MM rating of over 6 means that the National Train Control Centre contacts local staff for an assessment of how the quake was felt in the area and what measures should be taken to ensure the safety of everyone on the network (both customers and staff). We have developed response criteria for levels of ground-shaking based on rail damage from previous earthquakes as well as research with GNS. A response plan is developed and agreed.
If the earthquake intensity is severe, the initial response plan may include immediate stopping of all trains to allow a review of the Peak Ground Accelerations (PGA) measurements and damage inspections if necessary. Lesser intense earthquakes may require speed restrictions to be temporarily put in place.
Trains need traction with the track to work. Falling leaves can stick to damp rails, and passing trains compress them into a smooth, slippery layer that reduces the ability grip. Dew, ice, frost and salt spray/waves can also cause tracks to become slippery.
When the tracks are slippery train drivers have to brake earlier when approaching stations and signals to avoid overshooting, and accelerate more gently to avoid wheel-spin and ensure your safety.
Leaves or debris on the tracks
Leaves, rubbish or other debris can interrupt the connection between the wheel and the track. Again, for safety reasons, we need to leave longer gaps between trains, which also causes delays.
Debris can fall near or around the tracks, and interrupt the connection between the wheel and the track. Debris needs to be cleared in order for trains to run safely, and this can cause delays.
We conduct regular inspections of our trains and have structured maintenance programmes for our fleet. There are occasions when a higher number of trains require maintenance and repairs. This can cause services to have fewer than normal carriages or on rare occasions, a service to be cancelled. You will see "reduced seating" in some of our alerts or service updates. This is likely due to a reduced number of carriages, causing more crowding. You may want to wait for a later service.
Last published: Tuesday, May 30, 2023 at 12:20 PM