Waikato politicians, transport officials and rail advocates have today experienced first-hand a Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail trip.
The rail working party was established last September following strong public interest for a passenger rail service.
As part of its investigations into the feasibility of a service, the working party has been exploring detailed timetabling options, infrastructure requirements, and costings prior to making a decision on a preferred option.
This morning more than 40 people, including rail party members, councillors and members of parliament, departed Frankton Railway Station on a Silver Fern train.
The train terminated at The Strand railway station in Parnell, which has been under consideration as a possible end point for the service.
As well as experiencing first-hand the features of the Silver Fern railcars and the trip by rail to Auckland, today’s one-way rail trip was used by the group to look at potential stops at The Base, Ngaruawahia, Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Tuakau, Papakura, Newmarket and The Strand.
The Hamilton-Auckland Silver Fern service could take 96 passengers and reach its final destination in approximately 2 hours, with the train reaching maximum speeds of 100km/h during the journey.
Working party chairman Norm Barker described the rail trip as the ideal opportunity to experience what the service would be like for Waikato residents.
“The working party and other passengers were able to view where train stations and platforms could be built, as well as those that exist but which would require upgrading,” Cr Barker said.
“We passed in comfort through stunning Waikato countryside, including ecologically significant areas such as the Whangamarino wetlands. I think the tourist potential that such a scenic experience might also deliver was a pleasant surprise.
“Today’s journey also gave all stakeholders the opportunity to be fully engaged in discussion which could take the Waikato one step closer to getting a Hamilton-Auckland service,” he said.
In Auckland, during the meeting which followed the train trip, the working party discussed:
- the development of a business case to apply for NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) funding
- whether a regional rate would be levied by Waikato Regional Council to fund operating costs for the service
- Auckland Council contributing funding due to the likely benefits, including the easing of congestion on its motorways
- the preferred train stops for the service and possible off-peak travel times.
Cr Barker said the party would meet again later this month to finalise recommendations to be provided to the partner councils in September.
If the proposal is approved to go through to formal consultation, it would occur during the first half of next year as part of the 2012-2022 Long Term Plans. Then, if endorsed by the public, details for the implementation of the service would need to be worked through before the service would begin.
The working party comprises representatives from Waikato Regional Council, Auckland Council, Hamilton City Council, Waipa District Council and Waikato District Council, as well as members representing the NZ Transport Agency, KiwiRail, Auckland Transport and Campaign for Better Transport.