Train draws closer

Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Row­land

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.

Photo / Greg Bowker

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.

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