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Significant support for Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail

There is strong community support for a Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service but a more qualified willingness to pay increased rates to help fund it, according to the results of a survey commissioned by Environment Waikato.

The preliminary survey results were presented in Hamilton today to the multi-agency Rail Working Group (RWG) which is looking at options for a service. The final survey report is due in about a week.

The telephone survey interviewed residents in Hamilton (56% of respondents) and Huntly, Ngaruawahia, Cambridge, Te Awamutu and North Waikato (all approx 9% each of respondents). People were asked to rate their support for a service on a scale from zero (no support) to 10 (extremely supportive). Scores of 6-10 were considered supportive, scores of 5 “neutral” and 0-4 unsupportive. Those scoring neutral could change to supportive or unsupportive depending on the detail of any service proposal.

Key preliminary findings include:

  •  81 per cent support for a Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service
  •  39 per cent support for funding rail via rates, 19 per cent neutral and 37 per cent unsupportive
  •  However, when specific numbers around rate rises were suggested, 85 per cent would accept an annual rates increase of $15-$20 to pay for rail; 68 per cent would accept $21-$24; 46 per cent would accept $25-$30; 30 per cent would accept $31-$35 and 10 per cent would accept more than $35
  • The average acceptable return fare was $36
  • 50 per cent were likely to use a service and 10 per cent were neutral on whether they would.

Rail Working Group chairman Cr Norm Barker, from EW, said: “Parties involved in the RWG will now have to assess the survey results in more detail to help them decide how to progress the issue.

“Environment Waikato will work closely with partner agencies to decide on the best way to proceed.

“Today’s meeting has asked various parties to look further at two services a day from Hamilton to Auckland to provide for work and social travel needs.”

Cr Barker said the RWG was due to hold three meetings over the next few months to help it decide on recommendations for advancing a Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service.

“EW staff will also be briefing EW’s council on the issues given the potential for a service to have implications for our 2011-12 annual plan and future rating proposals.

“I am committed to working through the issues to do with passenger rail in a constructive way with all the parties involved so that we come up with the best decision we can in the circumstances.

“I would personally like to see a proposal for Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail in the draft EW annual plan for 2011-12.”

A presentation on the preliminary results is available at http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Regional-services/Transportation-planning/Hamilton-to-Auckland-rail-working-group/.
 
Cr Barker noted there would be a number of other important factors to weigh up as the RWG and EW considered the future of passenger rail in the region.

  • The survey company Versus says it can’t extrapolate from the survey data how many actual passenger trips a year there would be. That’s something that will need further consideration and research.
  • Generally more people are suggesting they would use a service for “social” reasons than work. That may have timetabling implications if a service went ahead.

 

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