Train draws closer
A new passenger train from Hamilton to Auckland could be running by the end of the year after the Hamilton City Council received verbal confirmation from the Labour-led Government that they are sticking to their promise to bring a rail service to Hamilton.
The council and the Waikato Regional Council have set a deadline for the end of May to include the rail plans in both their long term plans.
Last Tuesday, Councillor Dave Macpherson, who chairs the growth and infrastructure committee, provided council with an update on the proposed service after meetings with central government.
Councillor Geoff Taylor said that they are also pushing for the oneway ticket to include the change over from Papakura to Britomart.
Councillor Siggi Henry was concerned about how long the train would take to travel from Hamilton.
“It is not that far to Auckland, so two hours and 20 minutes is a long time, so what is stopping it?” Cr Henry said.
“Is it infrastructure or the rail carriages or the locomotive is that the problem.”
Cr Macpherson said a number of problems will slow travel down, such as passing lanes for other trains, and Papakura to Britomart includes several stops along the way.
Councillor James Casson asked if it was a good deal for the ratepayers.
“You have got about 155 seats for the trains and a 55 per cent estimate for loading. You are looking at around about 80 people per trip and 160 per day out of a population of about 165,000 people in Hamilton,” Cr Casson said.
“That’s about 50,000 ratepayers in Hamilton are subsiding 80-odd people a day.”
“I think this is a very poor deal for our ratepayer.”
Cr Macpherson responded that recent surveys had seen a rise in people who would use the passenger service.
“There will always be a subsidy expected partly from government and partly from rates. Now whether people think that is a good idea or not then they should certainly submit,” Cr Macpherson said.
He said that the operational costs for the rail service would be roughly $8 million a year.
Councillor Garry Mallett said that this experiment had been tried before and he believed it would not work out economically.
“I think this thing economically does not stack up. The level of non user-pays will be unsustainable and if you try and make it user-pay the cost will be so much that the users won’t use it,” Cr Mallett said. “I can’t see a huge benefit.” “You say two hours and 20 minutes and then you still have to get to where you need to go, while in a car you can get relatively close to where you need to.”
Councillor Macpherson shot down Cr Mallet’s claim that it would be easier in a car.
“That’s assuming you can find a park where you need to go, which is about $24 a day according to the latest assessments.”
Councillor Mark Bunting asked if a service would be going from Auckland to Hamilton in the mornings.
Cr Macpherson responded that currently they do not believe there is a large enough demand from passengers going from Auckland to Hamilton for work compared to those heading from Hamilton to Auckland.
Councillor Leo Tooman asked how this service would affect the bus service that runs daily to Auckland.
“Currently we have 13 buses that depart from Hamilton every day.
“The first one leaves at 7am, takes one hour and 55 minutes to get there and only costs $17,” Cr Tooman said.
Cr Macpherson said that the passenger demand survey showed only about 20 per cent of people wanted to use a bus service over rail.
Hamilton City Council bought a park and ride site last year at Rotokauri and want 75 per cent of funding for the proposed service to come from central government.
The council has another meeting with central government on Monday on growth, but both the regional council and city council are stressing that they need to know if central government will pay up by the end of May.
One of Auckland’s new electric trains at Britomart in Auckland. A proposed new service from Hamilton will take commuters to catch the electric train in Papakura.