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Published: 2014-05-27 00:00:00

The establishment of a passenger rail service between Waikato and Auckland will be considered in the development of two transport planning documents currently under review.

The issue was today discussed by Waikato Regional Council during deliberations on the 2014/15 Annual Plan. 

Three submissions received on the draft annual plan requested the regional council to reconsider the establishment of a passenger rail service between Waikato and Auckland. 

During today’s meeting, councillors noted that such a service would be considered as part of the review of the regional public transport plan being undertaken this year. The regional transport committee will also discuss it in the development of the regional land transport plan. 

Public feedback will be sought on both draft transport plans later this year. 

The proposal to establish a Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service was put on hold in 2012, following an investigation into its feasibility by a rail working party. 

The working party comprised representatives from the regional council, Hamilton City Council, Waikato and Waipa district councils, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, KiwiRail and the NZ Transport Agency. 

For 12 months the working party worked through a number of issues, preparing its final recommendations report in September 2011. The report was sent to all partner organisations, which were asked to formally endorse the working party’s recommendations. It was also sent to all councils within the Waikato region for their information.

The preferred option for the proposed service was a Silver Fern stopping at Frankton, the Base (Hamilton), Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Tuakau, Papatoetoe, the Strand and Newmarket. 

At the time, the annual operating cost for two daily return services was $1.97 million, with a start-up cost of $970,000. It was expected fares revenue in the first year would reach $740,000, leaving a funding gap to be paid by Waikato ratepayers. 

Waikato Regional Council, decided not to fund the rail service because the proposal would have a high financial impact on ratepayers in a difficult financial environment, and all partner organisations of the rail working party had declined or shown reluctance to fund the proposed service. 

However, the regional council did at the time agree to keep a ‘watching brief’ on any further developments which could see it resurrected. 

The 2014/15 Annual Plan is due to be adopted on Thursday 26 June. Visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/annualplan to read the annual plan submissions.