Rail becomes election issue
Commuter rail is on track to become an election issue as political opponents battle over the best transport option to connect Hamilton and Auckland.
Labour’s Hamilton-based list MP Sue Moroney says rail could reduce travel time, reduce emissions and foster business between the two centres while National’s Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe says commuter rail is a ‘‘mid-term’’ goal and not something that will happen in the near future.
Moroney, Labour’s transports spokesperson, said the costs should be shared between councils, the Government and through ticket revenue.
‘‘Councils are worried they’ll be bullied into paying for this alone but they should not be the sole funders of it.’’
KiwiRail has a Scenic Journeys Northern Explorer train into Hamilton every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The journey to Auckland still takes two-and-a-half hours by rail.
Moroney said research was underway to determine updated costs of a daily rail service and it would include travel time.
‘‘The reality is that you can’t get from Hamilton to Auckland in under 3.5 hours. A train cuts through that congestion and that’s the real benefit.
‘‘Businesses face a loss of productivity because people are stuck in commuter traffic from Hamilton to Auckland.’’
She said rail could also open up opportunities for the regions educational insitututes.
‘‘This will definitely be front and centre of my election campaign this year,’’ Moroney said.
Macindoe said completing the Waikato Expressway and improving the road between Hamilton and Tauranga should be the priority for transport.
‘‘My view is that those projects are more pressing but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue looking into the commuter rail service.’’
He thought a short-term goal would be to work with the Waikato District Council’s plan on setting up park-and-ride stations, allowing people to drive to northern parts of the region, then commute by train into Auckland.
He agreed commuter rail should not be heavily dependant on ratepayer or taxpayer money.
‘‘My hope is that we will see a commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland but I don’t see it in the short term.’’
Commuter rail or car, which is the best mode of transport into Auckland?