WRC on board with commuter rail plan
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.
The train will start at Hamilton’s Frankton station before proceeding to a new park and ride at The Base.