‘Big bucks’ needed for city rail link plan

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE -

Hamil­ton Mayor An­drew King is all for a pas­sen­ger rail link, as long as Hamil­ton ratepay­ers don’t pay for it.

‘‘If Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment wants to get in­volved and write big bucks then we will be happy to take it.’’

He said it was the the re­gional coun­cil’s re­spon­si­bil­ity, not the ratepay­ers re­spon­si­bil­ity.

King said with the com­mute tak­ing two and a half hours it was hardly worth the cost. It needs to be sped up to about an hour, he said. The track also needs to be elec­tri­fied.

‘‘It’s a mat­ter of pro­tect­ing the Hamil­ton ratepayer. We’ve got to be dili­gent and wise with our ratepay­ers money.

‘‘At the end of the day we’ve got to keep in mind that only 160,000 peo­ple live in Hamil­ton.’’

Waikato Cham­ber of Com­merce chief ex­ec­u­tive Wil­liam Durn­ing also said he was un­sure whether the city had the mass to make a com­muter rail crit­i­cally vi­able.

He be­lieves fo­cus should also be on freight, say­ing it will be naive to throw the dol­lars we in­vest in in­fra­struc­ture at just one thing.

‘‘Theres a sig­nif­i­cant amount of freight moved by rail ev­ery day, and if it wasn’t for rail, our roads would be con­gested.

‘‘At the mo­ment, be­cause of the way the track is laid out from Auck­land to Waikato, both facets are shar­ing the same rail.

‘‘Busi­nesses that move freight will be com­pet­ing for that same track space. It can’t be an ei­ther or, we need to con­sider both as­pects,’’ he said.

‘‘The Waikato Cham­ber of Com­merce is all for hav­ing the right in­fra­struc­ture to en­able Waikato busi­nesses to not only grow and do well for them­selves, but for the coun­try over­all.’’

Hamil­ton woman Hong Zheng wrote a let­ter to the Hamil­ton Press, sug­gest­ing a fast train ser­vice would ben­e­fit both cities, and will at­tract more in­vestors to Hamil­ton.

‘‘With Auck­land boom­ing now, Hamil­ton should take this op­por­tu­nity to speed up build­ing its fu­ture as a mod­ern city.

‘‘New Zealand pro­motes a pure and clean green im­age on the world stage. If you look around the world, you can see that a fast train is a far bet­ter so­lu­tion for traf­fic con­ges­tion and re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion.’’

She said the fact that New Zealand doesn’t have any fast com- muter trains was be­lieve’’.

‘‘Think­ing that build­ing more high­ways will solve the prob­lem is un­re­al­is­tic and short­sighted. More high­ways are never go­ing to match the fast-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.’’

Zheng said she un­der­stood cost was the main is­sue, but that politi­cians and busi­ness peo­ple were needed to cre­ate a shared vi­sion for the fu­ture.

‘‘Any cost will be worth­while, after all, look at the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge,’’ she said.

‘‘It paid off its debts over 50 years. You don’t see any­body com­plain­ing about the bridge’s costs be­cause the project de­liv­ered real en­dur­ing ben­e­fits and Syd­ney will be proud of their bridge for gen­er­a­tions to come.

‘‘Hamil­ton has loads of smart peo­ple, a won­der­ful river, and rich vast land. Imag­ine our fu­ture city with a fast train and a splen­did mod­ern train sta­tion that is in­stantly recog­nised as an iconic Hamil­ton build­ing.

‘‘How won­der­ful it will be for our chil­dren and their chil­dren’s chil­dren.’’

Ki­wiRail said it was keen to see more use of rail if com­mer­cially vi­able.

‘‘There is no doubt that as Auck­land’s catch­ment ex­tends south that a de­mand for a Hamil­ton-Auck­land com­muter rail ser­vice will grow.

‘‘How­ever, it’s very un­likely this type of ser­vice would pay for it­self. There would need to be sig­nif­i­cant on­go­ing fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment from lo­cal in­ter­ests for it to be a vi­able propo­si­tion.’’ ‘‘hard to

Hamil­ton’s Hong Zheng reck­ons a com­muter rail link be­tween Hamil­ton and Auck­land would bring New Zealand in line with other ma­jor city trans­porta­tion sys­tems.

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