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Published: 2010-06-02 00:00:00

Environment Waikato councilors have agreed to a series of steps aimed at further assessing the potential for a commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland.

During annual plan deliberations today, councilors decided against making a financial contribution to a service now, noting it would require a special public consultation process before such a contribution could be made. But councilors agreed to further investigation of the proposed service and a community survey.

Cr Norm Barker, who chairs the Regional Transport Committee, said afterwards: "Clearly there’s some significant local support for a service but central Government has indicated it is not keen on helping fund one for the present.

"If one does eventually go ahead we need to involve Auckland and others in assessing demand and in contributing to the costs of Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail."

Councilors agreed to further consideration of a service during current reviews of the Regional Land Transport Strategy and the Regional Passenger Transport Plan, and during the development of the Regional Rail Strategy. These processes would assess a service’s priority alongside other competing passenger transport services.

Also, the chair of the Regional Passenger Transport Committee was to convene a special working party involving EW, local Waikato councils, Auckland Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency to look at options and determine the willingness of various parties to contribute financially to a service.

As part of the review of the Regional Passenger Transport Plan, a community survey (including Auckland) will be undertaken, looking at potential demand for commuter rail, and what rates and fares people would be prepared to pay.

Councillors also agreed that EW would advocate with the transport agency for more passenger transport funding generally in the region.

"These decisions indicate clearly how EW is taking steps to establish actual demand for a commuter rail service and what our regional partners are prepared to bring to the table," said Cr Barker.