Passengers between Hamilton and Auckland can jump on Te Huia this November
The new Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail service will be testing out the tracks in August and authorities are already looking at new train projects.
Once trial runs are complete, 150 passengers will be able to commute between Hamilton, Huntly and Auckland from November 2.
Waikato regional councillor and chair of the rail governance committee Hugh Vercoe told Stuff they are also looking into a rail service that connects Hamilton city with Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Te Awamutu and Morrinsville.
“It can be done, all the infrastructure is there. So all you’ve got to do is get an engine, put a carriage on behind and away you go.
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“There are no big costs, so we’d really like this to get going,” Vercoe said.
Before the Hamilton-Auckland carriages get on the rails, a blessing with iwi, dignitaries and key stakeholders will be held at KiwiRail’s Hutt workshop in Wellington on August 13.
KiwiRail has been refurbishing the carriages since March 2019. They were delayed by a few months due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Vercoe said the fledgling service could be electrified in future and rerouted to follow the Waikato Expressway.
“A diesel train taking 88 minutes from Hamilton to Auckland is not the objective that we are trying to achieve. We would like to see regular public transport between Hamilton and Auckland on a continuous basis.”
Two return services will operate each weekday at peak travel times, with one return service on Saturday. The route will start from Frankton Station and travel via Rotokauri and Huntly Station before terminating at Papakura Station in South Auckland.
“At Papakura, you get off the diesel train and get on to the Auckland Transport network and electrified all the way to Britomart,” Vercoe said.
The travel time from Rotokauri to Britomart in Auckland will take just over two hours.
Cost estimates of establishing the service have been put at $91.37 million and includes the re-development work at the Rotokauri, Frankton and Huntly stations, work developing a maintenance facility at Te Rapa, rolling stock refurbishment, ticketing, wifi and other operations.
Of that cost, $79.8 million would come from the New Zealand Transport Agency and $12.57 million from the local authorities.
“Things can change very quickly when there’s a change in priority of where Government wants to spend their money,” Vercoe said.
The project is led by the Waikato Regional Council, working with KiwiRail, Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council and Auckland Transport.