Group says sup­port there for trains

Hamilton Metro News - - FRONT PAGE - Gary Far­row

The lobby group push­ing for the es­tab­lish­ment of a pas­sen­ger train ser­vice from Hamil­ton to Auck­land ques­tions what has been re­ported re­gard­ing ameet­ing with Auck­land Coun­cil to dis­cuss the is­sue ear­lier this month.

It says the as­sem­bly in fact made great state­ments of sup­port for fur­ther re­search into the project, and that only two coun­cil­lors voted against the con­tin­u­a­tion of con­sid­er­ing the plan.

The Rail Op­por­tu­nity Net­work (TRON) was in­vited to a plan­ning com­mit­tee meet­ing of Auck­land Coun­cil on June 6, and the group’s chair­man, Rob Weir, was given the op­por­tu­nity to speak and an­swer ques­tions as part of the con­ver­sa­tion around the devel­op­ment of a Hamil­ton to Auck­land pas­sen­ger train ser­vice.

“What sur­prised us was that the re­port that was in the Her­ald later that day didn’t re­flect what had hap­pened in the meet­ing at all,” TRON spokes­woman Su­san Trod­den told Hamil­ton News.

Al­though the ar­ti­cle sug­gested Auck­land Coun­cil had largely put the project on the back burner, Ms Trod­den said that was not at all the mood on the day.

She said all coun­cil­lors in the meet­ing, ex­cept for two, voted in favour of sup­port­ing re­search and a fea­si­bil­ity study into the train ser­vice.

“So we ac­tu­ally came away from that meet­ing feel­ing quite ex­cited and heart­ened by that re­sult.”

Mike Lee, a coun­cil­lor for the Waitem­ata and Gulf Ward, was par­tic­u­larly strong in his sup­port, hav­ing been in­volved for a long time in the Auck­land Trans­port con­ver­sa­tion, in­clud­ing ad­vo­cat­ing for the es­tab­lish­ment of the new sub­ur­ban elec­tric train ser­vice in Auck­land.

Sir John Walker, coun­cil­lor for the Ma­nurewa-Pa­pakura Ward, was also very sup­port­ive, and yet he wasn’t quoted in re­ports, Ms Trod­den said.

Un­hin­dered by this, TRON’s cam­paign is mak­ing grad­ual progress.

“We’ve been do­ing quite a bit of work in the back­ground which in­volves pulling to­gether a stake­holder group, which isn’t a for­malised group yet, so I can’t give you de­tails of who those peo­ple are,” Ms Trod­den said.

“But what I can tell you is that they’re the big play­ers and in­flu­encers that need to be on board with this. They’ve com­mit­ted to be­ing in a stake­holder group to drive the project for­ward.”

TRON says the call for the train has now taken on a life of its own, far greater than what the lobby group was orig­i­nally sug­gest­ing.

“In the be­gin­ning, we talked about, ‘Wouldn’t it be won­der­ful to have trains here, there and ev­ery­where?’” Ms Trod­den said.

“When the TRON lobby group was formed, we de­cided that we would fo­cus specif­i­cally on the

Hamil­ton to Auck­land pas­sen­ger rail. While that is cer­tainly the key to why we got started, it’s about look­ing at the broader in­te­grated trans­port strat­egy for the re­gion, and see­ing rail as part of that— and not just one train that goes back and for­ward be­tween Hamil­ton and Auck­land with peo­ple on it.

“The idea of it be­ing for com­muters is ac­tu­ally only part of the pic­ture— there’s stu­dents, there’s teach­ers, there’s school groups, there’s New Zealan­ders want­ing to move from one city to the other, and peo­ple vis­it­ing fam­ily, there’s peo­ple go­ing shop­ping, and on it goes. The ‘com­muter’ is an im­por­tant part, but not the only part, of that con­ver­sa­tion.”

The group does not want to stop peo­ple from driv­ing in cars or rid­ing buses be­tween Hamil­ton and Auck­land, but merely wants to see rail in­cluded as an al­ter­na­tive to al­low for an in­creas­ingly in­te­grated trans­port sys­tem, not just for Hamil­ton, but the whole of the north Waikato.

Ms Trod­den said in­te­grated tick­et­ing, which has worked well in the Welling­ton and Can­ter­bury re­gions, could be in­tro­duced, en­abling pas­sen­gers to travel from Hamil­ton to Auck­land on the long dis­tance pas­sen­ger train, and then eas­ily trans­fer to a bus or an Auck­land sub­ur­ban train without re­quir­ing the city’s AT HOP card.

The same could work for Auck­lan­ders trav­el­ling to Hamil­ton.

When asked what the cost could be for catch­ing a train be­tween the cities, TRON be­lieved it could es­ti­mate the tick­ets cost­ing $20 to $25 each way, which would com­pete well with the price of board­ing a bus or driv­ing the same route.

Add park­ing to that equa­tion, and the in­ter­city train would look like an even bet­ter op­tion.

It’s all about get­ting peo­ple in and out of the cities eas­ily and af­ford­ably, Ms Trod­den said.

“When you talk about mov­ing peo­ple, in­fras­truc­ture in­te­gra­tion and a ser­vice that will get peo­ple out of grid­lock, ab­so­lutely, Auck­land Coun­cil says ‘Yes, we need to get this study fin­ished and mak­ing sure that we’re on the right track here’,” she said.

On­go­ing tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion, Q&As and com­men­tary are be­ing posted to The Rail Op­por­tu­nity Net­work (TRON) website— tron.org.nz.

The group is cur­rently ac­cu­mu­lat­ing names of peo­ple who would like to gather more sig­na­tures for the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pe­ti­tions, and push­ing for the move­ment to en­cour­age its grow­ing pres­ence on so­cial me­dia.

“What’s im­por­tant is TRON have our lobby group seen as the key group in the Waikato, so what we re­ally want to see is any­one who wants to be part of this con­ver­sa­tion do­ing it through us.

“That way we don’t end up with sev­eral groups or sev­eral opin­ions, be­cause we’ve al­ready got the ear of coun­cils, we’ve al­ready got the ear of the govern­ment, the me­dia and so forth.

“It’s im­por­tant that there’s one voice, which is TRON.”

Photo / Andrew Bon­al­lack

A suc­cess­ful pas­sen­ger train ser­vice runs sev­eral times a day be­tween Master­ton and Welling­ton, and The Rail Op­por­tu­nity Net­work (TRON) wants to see the same be­tween Hamil­ton and Auck­land.

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