Group says support there for trains
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.”
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.