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Cost of rail connection too daunting for Council

The cost of retaining the Waikato Connection rail service to Auckland is likely to be too daunting for Environment Waikato.

Last week’s Corporate Services Committee recommended not proceeding with more information gathering to retain the service after learning the gap in funding was about $400,000. Tranzrail intends to end the service, which has run between the cities since June last year.

The full Council will consider the issue at its meeting on August 30.

Policy Group Manager Jeanette Black told the Committee that the Council had received very limited information from Tranzrail and West Coast Rail about the service and had to make a lot of assumptions about its future.

The service carried about 40 passengers a day from the Waikato, picking up more from Pukekohe onwards, and had a total capacity of 270 passengers.

While some funding to cover the gap could come from Transfund, that was not guaranteed and there would still be a large amount to be funded each year by Environment Waikato or other sources.

This money was not budgeted for. Since the announced ending of the service, Environment Waikato’s chairman and Chief Executive had met with a group of Mayors to discuss the issue and hear their views.

Staff and councillors had also met with Transfund and West Coast Rail, which was purchasing Tranzrail’s passenger services.

However in the absence of robust information on costings, patronage and funding shortfalls, it was difficult to progress the issue further, Ms Black said.

Environment Waikato continued to request more specific information from Tranzrail and West Coast Rail so it could make an informed choice about the service but neither had yet provided that detailed information.

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