Back­ing for rail in Waikato

South Waikato News - - Community Cookbook - EL­TON RIKIHANA SMALLMAN

A com­muter rail ser­vice be­tween Hamil­ton and Auck­land is pick­ing up a head of steam, but Trans­port Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges says it will still be some time be­fore a train pulls into the sta­tion.

Bridges was at the sod-turn­ing of the $115 mil­lion Longswamp sec­tion of the Waikato Ex­press­way near Te Kauwhata on Fri­day when Waikato Dis­trict Mayor Al­lan San­son made a plea for rail to be part of the so­lu­tion to in­creas­ing bot­tle­necks on State High­way 1. ‘‘It is go­ing to hap­pen,’’ Bridges said. But it’s not go­ing to hap­pen overnight, he added. The eco­nom­ics don’t stack up and work is de­pen­dent on the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the Auck­land rail­way lines to Pukekohe.

‘‘Once you do that, the case just be­comes more and more com­pelling for more work fur­ther into Hamil­ton,’’ he said.

‘‘The truth is, it will be some time be­fore it makes its case eco­nom­i­cally, but with some sub­sidy from the re­gional and lo­cal coun­cils and work from Ki­wirail and the Gov­ern­ment, it’s cer­tainly not out of the question.’’

Four-lan­ing the 5.9-kilo­me­tre Longswamp stretch is the sev­enth and fi­nal sec­tion of the ex­press­way to get un­der way.

It is one of four sec­tions of the $2.1 bil­lion Waikato Ex­press­way un­der con­struc­tion in 2016, in­clud­ing the Ran­giriri, Huntly and Hamil­ton sec­tions.

Once com­plete, they will cut travel times be­tween Auck­land and Ti­rau by 35 min­utes.

How­ever, at Huntly and Ran­giriri, at peak times, traf­fic comes to a crawl.

But San­son said with the Waikato Dis­trict ex­pect­ing a pop­u­la­tion in­crease of 26 per cent, over­tak­ing Queen­stown as the na­tion’s sec­ond­fastest grow­ing re­gion, Auck­land’s morn­ing traf­fic could end up on his doorstep.

‘‘As Waikato keeps gow­ing, the pop­u­la­tion keeps mov­ing for work or for what­ever rea­son, that bot­tle­neck, I’ve said to the min­is­ter in the past, will ac­tu­ally be at the top of the Bom­bays and that’s not go­ing to do any of us any good,’’ San­son said.

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