Hamilton-Auck Rail Not There Yet


Will the proposed two-year trial of a Hamilton to Auckland Silver Fern train service actually happen?

This site has been strongly in support of it but the more discussion about it , the more fishhooks seem to emerge.

Getting Auckland City and or Transport to help fund is one of those minefields.

With NZTA not throwing any funding to it, it will up to ratepayers of Waikato Councils to subsidy it but a contribution from Auckland has always been expected. Originally it was proposed Auckland would fund 40% of it but no specific percentage has now been placed on it other than an expectation that Auckland would help.

Hamilton residents may enjoy getting to Auckland by rail

Nice for Hamilton. What’s in it for us?
The problem for Auckland Councillors selling the idea is that the proposed service is not structured to show great benefit to Auckland.
The preferred option of the working party set up to investigate it is for a two-year trial of a Hamilton to Auckland service via the Eastern Line through Sylvia Park/Glen Innes to the Strand Station and carrying on to Newmarket as the termination service for the peak service.
There will be only 6 peak metro services per hour on the Eastern Line compared to 8 an hour between Penrose and Newmarket and 14 an hour between Newmarket and the Strand.
It can’t go further than the Strand because of the absence of spare peak train slots at Britomart and February’s new timetable which includes 10-minute peak services on the Western Line and the opening of the new Manukau Line.

The Strand is not a great end destination

The Strand as the destination? Really?
The Strand is not a proper station, but an emergency stop pushed through for the RWC in case needed. It is isolated from the CBD, has little shelter and means walking or finding means to get from the Strand to the city. A bus service would be provided to take people to and from the Strand and Britomart but again no one has worked out who will pay for that and provide it.
Earlier thinking had a single stop at Papatoetoe to enable passengers to transfer to Auckland metro services and the route 380 bus to the airport.

How about Tuakau in the mix?
But another option Auckland Transport has been discussing independently is the extension of the existing Pukekohe terminating / originating train services to and from Tuakau – an additional distance of 7.5kms. This would provide a direct Tuakau to Britomart service using existing Britomart slots and rolling stock but would require the existing platform at Tuakau to be reconstructed at a cost to the Waikato District Council.
Pedestrian access could be provided at-grade at Tuakau avoiding the significant cost of overbridges with ramps or lifts to meet Building Code requirements disability access. This would require an additional rail crossover and signalling at Tuakau to allow trains to change lines as the nearest crossing loop is at Mercer requiring an additional 24kms of running distance and operating cost so trains can change direction. The crossover is needed to run the service extension to Tuakau with the constraint of the pre-electrification Auckland metro rail fleet. Again the crossover would need to be funded by the Waikato councils.

How about Pukekohe?
A report to Auckland Council’s transport committee reveals that while Auckland Transport has been supportive of the proposal it considers it of critical significance that the anticipated 15% annual growth in Auckland rail patronage is “managed well” and any Hamilton service doesn’t compromise the operation of the Auckland network including the completion and commissioning of electrification.
It says one way to extract more capacity from the current system could be to use any spare capacity on Hamilton trains to carry Pukekohe passengers to Auckland, allowing some metro rail capacity to be redeployed elsewhere where most needed on the network to cope with increasing passenger demand.
“If Auckland were to pay for passengers carried within Auckland, then Auckland Council would be paying for an outcome (actual passengers moved) rather than an output (train movements). This would have the additional effect of improving the economics of the Waikato service. The benefits Auckland Council would be paying for would be directly tied to the number of passengers carried on the service within Auckland. “

Is anyone going to use it?
If funding from Waikato and Auckland Councils does appear, the service would begin in the 2012/3 financial year. The working party guesses likely peak patronage per direction to be in the range of between 65 and 142 per trip with the central forecast at 109 passengers a trip. Based on a middle point between the low and central forecasts, it’s considered a subsidy of $1.23m would be needed in the first year.

The suggested timetable is:
Hamilton 6am, the Strand 8.20am, Newmarket 8.27am
Hamilton 2.30pm, the Strand 4.45pm
The Strand 9.30am, Hamilton 11.45am
The Strand 5.30pm, Hamilton 7.45pm
Unknown is whether on top of the long travel time from Hamilton, the train encounters delays caused by the need to follow all-stop metro trains in their Auckland leg.




  1. Robincole says:

    Two hours twenty minutes is a joke. If they cant do better than that it will be like Helensville all over again. They need to aim for two hours.

  2. Patrick R says:

    Better it isn’t started until it can be done properly, as it could well fail and kill the idea for good. But does that mean waiting for the CRL for there to be space at Britomart? Or how about terminating at Papakura or even Manukau with timed transfers? Ok may be slower if your destination is Britomart but does offer the flexibility of any stop along the way for different destinations and doesn’t need the way too suboptimal Strand station….?

  3. dash says:

    I’ll repeat what I said earlier, something no one seems to take notice of. Build a combined cruise ship terminal/long distance railway station on the waterfront along with the proposed pedestrianisation of Quay St and opening of the waterfront to public access.

  4. Jon C says:

    @Patrick R To quote:
    “Until the construction of the CRL there will be no further spare peak slots at Britomart even for additional peak Auckland urban train services.
    “While this is not an issue for the 2 year trial any continuation of the service would depend on a number of factors including the City Rail Link being in place to free up additional slots.”
    Of course that still does not prove the need for the City Link.
    “I’m not saying it is not going to happen, it is just not going to happen in a heartbeat.

    “The ratepayer of Auckland needs to know what they are on the hook for, because central Government is not going to pay for it.”

  5. Geoff says:

    I’ve been warning for years that the project will be mired down with such a complicated and expensive approach, which is what subsidized inter-regional services are.

    The lobbying should always have targeted KiwiRail, from day 1, to run a Capital Connection type service, with some side lobbying of councils for basic station facilities. The cost is much lower under the cheaper commercial model, and the only hurdle to overcome with it, is convincing KR (through lobbying) to start it. My view is that hurdle is easier than the greater number of hurdles under the current proposal. When patronage grows, you could look to add extra services etc.

    If this trial actually happens as proposed, it will likely be a failure, and a further attempt will not be made for decades to come. It will be slow, it won’t use Britomart, and to avoid treading on Veolia’s toes it will not serve Pukekohe or Papakura unless Veolia gets compensated, whch will make an already expensive operating model, even more expensive.

    The previous Hamilton train took 1hr 58min, so proposing a 2hr 27min service just confirms how badly conceived this plan is. Repeating all the mistakes made last time is one thing, but adding in more mistakes such as adding so much time just defies belief.

  6. Giel says:

    Seriously 2 hours 20 minutes to Auckland ex Hamilton must be a joke. Thirty years ago it was under 1 hour 50 minutes and how much has been spent on the DART since then? Go figure…..Also what about the $100′s millions KR are spending on Auckland to Wellington speed upgrades for freight. Seems like someone is way of the pulse of what’s needed here. A new name perhaps for this train - KiwiSnail

  7. Kegan says:

    @ Giel

    “Thirty years ago it was under 1 hour 50 minutes and how much has been spent on the DART since then? ”

    That’s probably part of the cause. The various upgrades over the years have lead to a system that people use, which leads to more frequent suburban services. So any express service is going to end up stuck behind an all stopper and can’t get into Britomart (’cause that’s chocker)…

    “Also what about the $100′s millions KR are spending on Auckland to Wellington speed upgrades for freight.”

    That’s been justified on that basis. Why would KR waste it on upgrades for a proposed passenger service that is unlikely to make much?

  8. Giel says:

    Kegan you miss my point. With a $Billion plus spent on Auckland Metro so far it seems to me very odd that 1 or 2 express services can’t make their way into Auckland passing a few all stops services. Seems poorly conceived that there are no crossover points were an express services can pass an all stops service - you don’t need 3 tracks to do that with modern computerized train control just a bit of bi directional running on up and down mains at critical spots or alternatively a couple of passing loops. Seriously I don’t understand why this hasn’t been done. We need to sqeeze more out of the beast or it is SnailRail here we come.

    Why would KR waste money on a passenger service unlikely to make money - well they are spending Billions on a freight network that won’t ever make much especially Auckland Christchurch the biggest looser of all - any way surely passenger services will benefit from the freight upgrade - seriously if they don’t someone needs to ask the hard questions now.

  9. Kegan says:

    @ Giel

    “you don’t need 3 tracks to do that with modern computerized train control just a bit of bi directional running on up and down mains at critical spots”

    Please cite specific examples where this has been done with similar frequency services and similar mix of traffic.

    “alternatively a couple of passing loops. ”

    Would need to be quite long to avoid significant dealys to stopping services & would start to look rather like a third line …

    “Auckland Christchurch the biggest looser of all”

    Source please.

  10. Giel says:

    Kegan - Dual bi - directional line running is already in place on the Auckland network in some places. Britomart to Quay Junction for a start - in the tunnel (where there are only two tracks) there are numerous instances when a train going in the same direction as train you are on pases you - also Newmarket to Kingsland - this is not new stuff. Yes a third line is ideal long term but a few bi directional line running sections at strategic locations will provide a interim capacity increase for a few limited well timed express services if they go via the Strand. Aucklands density in both directions at peak times would easily accomodate that.

    As for crossing loops - This is exactly how the Shinkansen in Japan works for Nozomi (express) v Kodama or Hikari (stopping) trains works. They have have crossing loops at stopping stations. They don’t need third tracks most of the time - just good timekeeping. It just needs to be wanted that’s all and you don’t need Sinkansen type investment costs either - just some application of a can do attitude and judicous targeted capital and a reliable train service. This hapens in many parts of the world already where a third track can’t be justified for long running sections - do a Google on it.

    “Sources Please” Surprised you don’t know this - It was well canvassed in media about Tolls / Tranz Rails plans for Auckland Christchurch due to its poor ecomomic viability (large losses) and the threat to close Picton Christchurch and central NIMT was one of the main reasons why Rail was renationalised by Labour in the first place.This is not news to anyone following the NZ Rail scene but the following link may help you understand NZ rail issues.


    Oh and this doesn’t mean it is not right to keep it for national strategic reasons just that you need to know what you are up against in order to mitigate the poor economic issues. And the network is a shared network and Auckland Hamilton is a subset of the NIMT (mostly double tracked Auckland Hamilton) and yes passenger service average speeds will benefit from freight targeted upgrades.

  11. Evan J says:

    You have to be a wee bit circumspect when quoting figures from politically motivated think tank organisations such as the NZ Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation (ISCR). Another organisation from the other end of the political spectrum could probably come to an entirely different conclusion using the same figures. That particular study was done a couple of years ago now and was widely discussed at the time. The principal author was a guy called Dave Heatley with a background in software development, assisted by Lewis Evans with degrees from the USA and Canterbury in agriculture economics and science, and Glenn Boyle with degrees in economics and finance from Texas and Canterbury.

  12. Ben says:

    Summarising from my FB comments when I was asked by an Auckland Councillor about this.
    Right first thing first - I am what they call a rail nut.
    With that out of the way, this is my thoughts on the Hamilton-Auckland Rail Service. DON’T DO IT!
    I have looked at the whole thing and The Strand is one way of turning off any inter city commuters. As for Britomart, I have checked the Berthing Plans for Britomart and finding a slot even on the little used platform 3 would be hard without the CRL (Overlander hogs the platform). Look stick to bus, car and aircraft for now - a lot more infrastructure investment needs to be done first before anyone starts such an venture

    When that was commented on and someone said a LRT system I commented further by saying

    Well if the LRT is separated from the Heavy Rail or a 3rd Heavy Rail Line was created so that passengers services do not foul freight services, then I say a winner and what are we waiting for.
    [Wait this is not Vancouver nor Sim City 4 - dreams dashed]

    So in short, no point yet until the infrastructure is in place which seems a little way off yet

  13. Jon R says:

    Geoff always good to have a rehash of comments from you on this topic.

    “The cost is much lower under the cheaper commercial model, and the only hurdle to overcome with it, is convincing KR (through lobbying) to start it.”

    In the highly unlikely event cash strapped Kiwirail did follow your suggested model we could expect three things:

    1) Poor service, may be once a day instead of two minimum.

    2) Higher fares as from a commercial perspective KR would need full cost + profit to be re-couped from passengers.

    3) No guarantee a trial could run for two years, it could be two months, two weeks or two days. Thus not allowing time for the patronage to be built up. Last time this ran it was about 6 months.

    I think you need to consider the above before making rash statements.

    When I first proposed this service on behalf of the CBT to the Waikato District Council and others, the full plan presented was Hamilton Underground to Britomart, back in early 2009. This was after some discussions with KR CEO about it.

    Ideally I would like to see this into Britomart and into Hamilton Underground station - that would really be the perfect service. From my place in Switzerland at present I can only watch developments. I am reserving my thoughts on The Strand for the time being.

    KR really does have no spare finance to take on this project, as it has a couple of thousand wagons which need replacing along with mainline locos and other infrastructure projects to keep on top of. The investment by the Govt. is only giving KR the bear minimum funding (unlike roading projects which get a lavish amount thrown at them by the Govt).

    Lobbying a starved of cash service provider may sound like a very good idea Geoff, but when reality strikes you realise blood does not come out of a stone.

    I do suggest that rather than continuously throwing bricks, Geoff does something constructive, for once, in the field of lobbying. On that issue I only ever hear silence from him.

  14. Geoff says:

    Jon, I was writing letters to the editors on rail issues well before you came on the scene.

    Regarding your points, the Capital Connection is not a “poor service”. It’s very popular. It also doesn’t have high fares, at least the fares are set at a level that results in a well used service. In fact people are still choosing to pay higher fares than they otherwise would if they travelled on an EMU.

    I disagree that KR can’t afford it. The price of constantly rejecting an ongoing public campaign is more costly.

    Look at the many frivolous things they throw money at, like an extra motorised crossover at Morningside for RWC use. It’ll get used for a month. It would be fair more useful at Tuakau, so trains could turn back from there, but then Tuakau doesn’t come with the high price of bad publicity like a meltdown at Morningside would.

    KR will make money available if it keeps the public onside. The cost of running an existing railcar between Hamilton and Auckland is a tiny drop in the bucket, and a price they would be paying by now had the campaign targeted them from 2009. They would not have been prepared to have Auckland and Hamilton residents reading the likes of Brian Rudman lambasting them for rejecting what the people funding the Turnaround Plan want.

  15. Jon R says:

    Letters to the editor and running multi-leveled public campaigns are two different things. I look forward to you initiating and undertaking the latter for once.

    Poor service can be viewed in a number of ways. You have chosen to focus on the existing service. I focus that term on the fact it offers very poor service in the form of alternatives to driving. A single daily service is poor in terms of frequency. In fact it is at the bottom in the terms of frequency ( only no service beats that ranking). Nothing to be proud of in terms of a public transport service.

    Now you are becoming to be confused, RWC funding is something completely different to other Kiwirail funding. It is part of the DART package the LABOUR Govt initiated ( note LABOUR, not the Nats).

    Comparing apples with apples might help your arguement.

    Geoff, did I not read you are running the public campaign for multi-level Kiwirail fares on the Coastal Pacific? Can you tell us when your kick off date for that?

  16. Geoff says:

    Jon R, you’re wrong again. If you look at the annual proportions of DART funding you will see the grants to KiwiRail have come from Labour up to 2008, and from national since 2008.

    Secondly, the extra Morningside crossover was only identified in early 2011 as being needed. That would be quite a trick for Labour to have funded back in 2008, a project that wasn’t even identified until 2011! BUT, you have confused the topic, as we are not discussing the merits and pitfalls of Labour or National.

    Your campaign for the Hamilton train is not the sort of thing I would be interested in. I’m not in favour of making rail services ultra expensive.

    Perhaps you could answer some of the questions I’ve put to you numerous times that you don’t appear to have an answer for?

    What is your view of the Hamilton train not dropping people off northbound, or picking up southbound, at Pukekohe (pop 20,000), nor Papakura (pop 45,000), nor allowing a transfer to local services at Papakura, nor serving Ngaruawahia (pop 5,000)?

    What to is your view of there being no PT option to get to the station in Hamilton, forcing most users to have to drive from home at 5:30am, instead of 7am like they would at present if they want to be in Auckland CBD by 8:40? Why do think people will replace a 3 to 3.5 hour commute with a 6 hour commute?

  17. Jon R says:

    Not sure of the major significance you place on these questions, but obviously they are the key ones for your peace of mind.

    As far as pick ups and drop offs. I would actually say the extensive studies by the various councils,NZTA, Kiwirail as parties to the Rail Working Group with local community input are best to decide what is needed. I like this process as it bring many experienced people together to discuss the pros and cons. No point going around in endless circles is it?

    Actually, my view point on Hamilton transport is they need to re-open Hamilton Underground, though you would know that from visiting the votetrains website or many public meetings we held. Naturally, as the RWG parties know, alot of people with cars could park at Te Rapa which is located in the north of the city of Hamilton, then take the train in what is called a “Park and Ride”. Park and rides have proved popular in many places in Auckland, around New Zealand and overseas.

    As far as you question on commute times, obviously you will know this is not finalised yet. So times you have posed in your question are only speculative. Best you wait to see what develops over the next 6 months when, I believe, more concrete information should come to hand.

    I am not a fan of those who promote poor service frequencies of public transport. Quality through frequency will provide more alternatives to driving, more connected towns, better quality of living, and help reduce oil consumption. Not to mention environmental benefits and finally help reduce traffic accidents.

  18. Geoff says:

    Jon R wrote: “As far as pick ups and drop offs. I would actually say the extensive studies by the various councils,NZTA, Kiwirail as parties to the Rail Working Group with local community input are best to decide what is needed”

    I understand the dropping of Pukekohe and Papakura is not by choice, but rather is a reluctant concession to Veolia. Obviously Pukekohe and Papakura would be significant contributors to a rail service to/from Hamilton. Their exclusion removes potential patronage, and also removes the option of a Papakura connection with local services.

    Clearly Ngaruawahia would be a much more significant contributor than Te Kauwhata.

    Interesting you don’t have a personal view on these matters. I guess these obvious flaws in the proposal are a bit hard to swallow?

    Yes, times haven’t been finalized, but unless you think there’s a chance of someone pouring in a few billion to provide a massive track upgrade, the commute time from home to CBD with this proposal is going to be close to 3 hours, or 6 hours return.

    Few people will replace a 3.5 hour daily commute with a 6 hour commute.

  19. Jon R says:

    “I understand the dropping of Pukekohe and Papakura is not by choice, but rather is a reluctant concession to Veolia. Obviously Pukekohe and Papakura would be significant contributors to a rail service to/from Hamilton. Their exclusion removes potential patronage, and also removes the option of a Papakura connection with local services.”

    Yes, well obviously you are talking to sources who are no part of the Rail Working Group. Therefore not likely to have been key decision makers in this process.

    “Clearly Ngaruawahia would be a much more significant contributor than Te Kauwhata”. Please see the data from the RWG findings.

    “Interesting you don’t have a personal view on these matters. I guess these obvious flaws in the proposal are a bit hard to swallow?” See answers above.

    “Yes, times haven’t been finalized…..” Good you understand that.

  20. Geoff says:

    “See answers above”

    You didn’t actually provide any answers. Unless you do provide them, then what I’ve heard stands.

    “Good you understand that”

    Yes, I understand the proposal will offer customers an almost three hour one way journey from home to destination. Timetable confirmation is not necessary to understand that.

  21. Jon R says:

    See RWG findings available from WDC. It is your best source of information.

    If you choose to believe random heresay, then that is your choice.


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