WRC on board with com­muter rail plan

Waikato News - - NEWS - Tom Row­land

Ap­plause echoed through the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil cham­ber on Wed­nes­day, af­ter the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors threw their sup­port be­hind the pro­posed Hamil­ton to Auck­land pas­sen­ger rail ser­vice.

The sup­port came af­ter coun­cil­lors were briefed by WRC chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Mike Gar­rett about up­dates to the rail ser­vices busi­ness case.

In at­ten­dance was Hamil­ton Mayor An­drew King, along with Hamil­ton city coun­cil­lors Dave Macpher­son and Ge­off Tay­lor, while Labour MP Jamie Strange was also present.

WRC coun­cil­lor Russ Rim­ming­ton called it a his­toric day for the coun­cil, and urged his col­leagues to sup­port the rail ser­vice.

“It is a ter­rific day, that the pow­ers that be, bring this to­gether to say right, lets give this a crack,” Mr Rim­ming­ton said.

“This is a mo­men­tous day, please sup­port this.”

Coun­cil­lor Barry Quayle stressed to coun­cil­lors this was just the start of a vi­sion.

“If we don’t start now, then it will def­i­nitely be too late. It is one step on a jour­ney,” Mr Quayle said.

“Yes you can crit­i­cise the num­ber of peo­ple that might use this, but that is not what we should be look­ing at it. We should be look­ing at the greater vi­sion that we’re ac­tu­ally step­ping for­ward on part of a trans­port cor­ri­dor which is es­sen­tial to the growth of New Zealand.”

Coun­cil­lor Bob Sim­cock asked Kiwi Rail rep­re­sen­ta­tive David Shep­pard at the meet­ing what was the fre­quency of the train break­ing down.

“We would on av­er­age have a break down per­haps twice a year, and we are also able to pull from a pool in the Palmer­ston North re­gion to cater for that,” Mr Shep­pard said.

“If there was a de­lay of more than hour, then you would be go­ing on the buses.”

Coun­cil­lor Jane Hen­nebry was the only mem­ber of the coun­cil to vote against the ser­vice.

“The orig­i­nal talk of a train com­ing to Po­keno, I could had fully sup­ported that,” Ms Hen­nebry said. “That is what I be­lieve should had been our first step in a fully elec­tri­fied ser­vice from Auck­land to Hamil­ton.”

Coun­cil­lor Hugh Ver­coe said this is the start­ing point the re­gion needs.

“Some peo­ple call it a dirty diesel, but it is a train, it is a train that will move peo­ple from A to B,” Mr Ver­coe said.

“If Govern­ment does not fund this, then it will fall over im­me­di­ately, but Govern­ment has given us all the sig­nals that they do sup­port this.”

Af­ter the meet­ing, Mayor King told Hamil­ton News this was the first step in the right di­rec­tion.

“It’s im­por­tant that we take this op­por­tu­nity, the train is vi­tal to the fu­ture of Hamil­ton,” Mr King said.

Mr Strange said the time has come for the re­gion to em­brace rail.

“The com­ment made in coun­cil that this was tried five years ago, well there wasn’t po­lit­i­cal sup­port from cen­tral Govern­ment,” Mr Strange said.

Waikato District Coun­cil will con­sider the busi­ness case on Novem­ber 28, be­fore Hamil­ton City Coun­cil con­sid­ers it on De­cem­ber 6.

The NZTA board will then make its de­ci­sion on De­cem­ber 14.

Photo / Terry Su

The train will start at Hamil­ton’s Frank­ton sta­tion be­fore pro­ceed­ing to a new park and ride at The Base.

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