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Published: 2004-05-05 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s Regional Passenger Transport Subcommittee is backing Hamilton City Council’s initiative to promote light rail services for the city.

This week’s Committee meeting heard a presentation from City Councillor Dave Macpherson on proposals for a light rail service to main employment areas in the city. He said that when the railway was lowered through the centre of Hamilton about 1958, an underground station was built.

This crossed under Anglesea Street and had potential access from the new Warehouse and Centre Place. The eastern rail line passed close to Waikato University and Ruakura where there were more than 15,000 students and workers. The northern line passed close to Wintec Avalon campus and the Te Rapa industrial area.

There was a good future opportunity to provide an effective light rail service, both from the outlying towns and between Ruakura and Te Rapa to the central city underground station. Park and ride stations could be established in the Ruakura, Te Rapa and Melville areas next to the rail line where commuters could park their cars and take a shuttle light rail unit into the CBD.

Mr Macpherson said it was important that, when the Government bought back the rail lines, the opportunity for introducing these services on existing lines was preserved. A rail service offered one opportunity to reduce the rapid growth in traffic on city roads and keep increasing congestion manageable.

He said he wanted to see some progress, as Government had funds that could be used in this area.

"I hope we would be able to put a firm proposal to Government for a feasibility study with funding from the alternatives to roading fund.”

Cr Jenni Vernon said the proposal should be in the Long-Term Council Community Plans of both councils to ensure it stayed on the radar. The Committee agreed to support the promotion of light rail services around Hamilton, sharing the existing rail corridors with rail freight services. It will work with Hamilton City Council, other Waikato local authorities and Central Government to propose a feasibility study.