Rail be­comes elec­tion is­sue

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE - KEL­LEY TANTAU

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?

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