Waikato Needs To Find Money


The Waikato Councils will be on their own for now to come up with the money to fund a two-year trial of a Waikato to Auckland Silver Fern train service.

Auckland Council’s transport committee had an update this afternoon on what was being proposed but made it clear that at this stage it was to be funded by Waikato Councils as there were no direct benefits to Auckland, other than bringing Hamiltonians into the city.

The working party which has been considering the service had hoped for funding contributions from the Auckland Council and the NZTA.  NZTA has given clear signals that while they would consider an application, the project would not get a subsidy from the National Land Transport programme.

The proposed annual cost of the service is $1.97m with fare recoveries of $0.74m. Hamilton ratepayers and those within 10km of the city would be paying $16.63 for it or $8.32 with an NZTA subsidy, according to the working report.

Details about the proposal are in an earlier post.

One suggestion that came forward at this afternoon’s discussion was whether, instead of the peak time train arriving from Hamilton at out-of-the-way Strand station, the old Auckland railway station in Parnell, it could get a berth at Britomart if the Auckland-Wellington service was rescheduled.

That service, the Overlander, takes up a peak time slot as it leaves Britomart at 7.25am.

Committee chair Mike Lee said that moving the Overlander timetable to  after 9am would benefit the Overlander as it meant tourists getting that train would not have to get up so early.

He said it was essential that the Hamilton service get a slot at Britomart – something  presently denied because of the limitations of the dead-end Britomart station and the demands of the Auckland metro train service ; demands which will increase to capacity in February with the opening of the Manukau line and a new 10-minute peak time Western Line timetable.

Mike Lee also said that KiwiRail needed to work with Waikato Councils to find a way to make the journey quicker especially as it would compete with bus services.

The proposed 6am service from Hamilton would not arrive at the Strand until 8.20am and then passengers wanting to go to the CBD would have to wait for a bus to there or walk. That is longer than when a Hamilton service was tried a decade ago.  Palmerston North to Wellington is a similar distance at 141 kilometres but is scheduled for 2 hours 5 minutes even though it too has to negotiate part of its way nearer Wellington with metro commuter train schedules.

The 7am  InterCity bus express from Hamilton to Auckland, stopping at Huntly, Manukau and Sky City, takes 1hr 45am, arriving at 8.45am and would be far more competitive.

The stations proposed for the Waikato rail service are Frankton, The Base in Hamilton, Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Tuakau, Papatoetoe, the Strand and Newmarket.

At least one former ARC Councillor at the meeting was haunted by the Helensville train service , which began in July 2008 and was canned at Christmas the following year. It got an average of 43 passengers per day on the thrice-daily service. The subsidy paid by the ratepayer and taxpayer per person per journey was a whopping $45.72 compared with a then regional average of $5.02 a journey.

Cr Sandra Coney, referring to the cancelled Helensville service, said that had not been helped by the “halfheartedness of the transport agency” (at the time) and had led to low patronage. She asked why it would take a two-year trial to find out if this service would work.

The last Helensville train

Council principal transport planner Darren Davis said the failed Helensville service had not been helped by the speed issues because double tracking of the Western Line was being done at the time. He said it was the working party that had decided on the two-year trial to give it a fair run. He said Tuakau, one of the stops had a potential commuter market from those who are living in lifestyle blocks there but commute to Auckland.











  1. Ben says:

    I must be fatigued at the moment. But can we just wait for now please. I think Auckland needs to clean a few things up with the rail network first before we go intercity.

  2. Jon R says:

    I do like Mike Lee’s suggestion of moving the Overlander to 9am. Probably the best suggestion that anyone with knowledge of rail has made.

    That would mean the Overlander should get a faster exit out of the Auckland network as it would be less likely to be held up by suburban trains as it is now.

    On the other hand Kiwirail would need to look at speeding up the Overlander schedule overall (and it really does need to slice an at least an hour off the current timetable).

    I do like constructive thought processes on this topic, like this latest suggestion, something devoid by certain train spotters.

  3. Gibbo says:

    Yes it needs to go into Britomart - not sure if a later arrival at the other end would be ideal for Overlander unless PAX were offered some sort of dinner time meal.

    Also reckon that if Waikato ratepayers end up stumping up the bucks, that they s/be offered a couple of half-price tickets (non-transferable) per household per year, to soften the blow & limit any backlash. It would also get people to try the service & it could bring in repeat customers. I guess the only downside could be that discounted tickets could jeopardise fare recovery levels. But surely only a limited percentage of Hamilton ratepayers would take up cheap tickets.

  4. Jennifer says:

    So - just make one or two Western line services a longhaul route Waitakere (or Huapai) direct to Pukekohe (or Tuakau) via Newmarket bypassing Britomart, and vice versa, and free up slots for a Hamilton service.
    Having used the Overlander, arriving later in the day isn’t all that good, I don’t support the idea of a later start time.

  5. Matt L says:

    Jennifer, why should western line commuters have to suffer a degraded service for the sake of a handful of Hamilton commuters. Lets not forget that it is Auckland ratepayers that paid for Britomart, it is Auckland ratepayers that have paid huge sums of money already to get upgrades happening and will be paying huge track access fees every year.

    You are also suggesting that priority be given to a train of around 100 instead of one with potentially 500 on board.

  6. Pubilus says:

    As much as I would really like this to work I don’t think the time is right. Best to reconsider after CRL or the 3rd port track is done.
    No point having a half-baked service that is inevitably canceled and so won’t be reconsidered again for even longer.

  7. richard says:

    The Overlander could leave later and take a couple of hours off its schedule to Wellington? Surely it could travel a little faster than it does and still arrive at the same time.

  8. AKT says:

    @Richard damn good point. The journey is far too long by international standards.

  9. tuktuk says:

    Anecdotally, the Overlander schedule appears to have plenty of fat in it during the winter time…a different story in summer however where there still seem to often be massive delays. Presumably due to Heat 40s.

    I am interested in how KR currently schedules the Overlander around freight services. Does it receive priority over freight trains? In the USA, it is well known that certain freight railroad companies have a reputation for parking Amtrak trains while giving their own freight trains right of way. Hopefully this is certainly not the case in NuZild.

    I am also interested in what price an Auckland-Hamilton Silver Fern railcar is being charged (internally within KR) for track use. I heard somewhere that it was going to be charged the same rate as a standard full length passenger train or a freight train. Is this correct?

    In the UK, the whole area of track fees based on time and estimated wear and tear on the tracks is considered very vexatious. The regulations around this have been a big driver of the trend in the UK to favour MU designs over traditional locomotive hauled/pushed carriages.

    Clearly, an Auckland-Waikato passenger service will benefit hugely from triple tracking through the sections of the Auckland southern and eastern corridors where it is financially feasible to do so. This will bring the schedule back down to a more competitive 2 hour timeframe. In an ideal world a funding package for a passenger service would include a contribution toward that triple tracking….

    Turning back to the US, upgrading existing tracks to provide greater capacity and speed for freight and passenger is seen as cost effective and a WIN/WIN for freight companies and passengers.

  10. Jon R says:

    I think the National Park stop should be deleted, saving 25 or 30 mins. Leaving later from AKL could save 10 mins, other work on the NIMT to reduce travel time would help. Up rated bogies to 110 KM/H …if it is possible might help.

    Despite this helping the Waikato services, it would make the Overlander more palatable for all as well.

    Of course, open to constructive comments on this issue.

  11. Martin says:

    Coming from the Waikato I know there are a couple of major bottle necks that slows everything down.

    Take my home town Ngaruawahia for instance: 6 road/rail crossings, rail network unfenced so trains have to pass slowly and only a single track bridge which has caused numerous issues for the NIMT in the past which desperately needs replacing after a Tranzrail incident there in the late 90s.

    There are also a few single line sections in need of double tracking too between Hamilton and Papakura.

    Fix these sorts of things and freight, The Overlander and proposed Waikato/BOP and possible Taranaki (future) services will greatly sped up.

  12. Geoff says:

    On some days of the week the Overlander regularly arrives in Wellington up to 35 minutes early, so it’s already faster than the timetable, thanks to the Waikanae double tracking. So there’s a reduction right away, without actually having to change anything but the timetable. Cut out the lunch stops, and reduce the redundate time allowance to a more realistic level, and you could easily get the time down to a flat 10 hours. Would require some way of getting a crew break in though.

    Jon Reeves, you welcome constructive comments, so here you go:

    1) Ditch the base (no residents) and add Ngaruawahia (pop 5,000).

    2) Add Pukekohe as a drop off northbound, and pick up southbound. That’s a no-brainer.

    3) Add Papakura as a drop off northbound, and pick up southbound. Another no-brainer.

    4) Berth the railcar at Britomart on the same track that the 2-car Onehunga shuttles berth on.

    5) Forget the Strand, it serves no purpose. Go straight to Newmarket via Penrose, then either connect with the existing Link bus, or keep going to Britomart. Link bus from Newmarket would be no slower than a special bus from the Strand, and would cover the CBD more, and be cheaper to operate, since it already runs (zero extra cost).

    6) Start and end at Claudelands for the half of Hamilton that lives on that side of the river.

  13. Giel says:

    The Overlander departing Auckland later should work well as in the mid 1990′s it used to leave Auckland about 8:45am and arrive Wellington at about 7:30pm. The Wellington based Overlander left at 8:20am and arrived Auckland about 7:00pm and they crossed at Raurimu. This was before the long lunch stops at National Park and issues caused by Heat 40′s in summer so those constraints should be easily gone now. Solves double shift Auckland crew problem that Overlander currently has for Auckland base crew with early start and late finish at Tranz Scenics Otahuhu depot in Auckland.

    Issue is that the 7:27am Overlander departure ex Britomart is way to early for arrival for a commuter train ex Hamilton - the constraint as I understand is service arrivals
    after 7:30am but before 9am so not sure how that will change by releasing 7:27 am Overlander departure as don’t we need a slot around 8am to 8:30 am?

  14. Pim says:

    With the new signalling system, if we do everything right, shouldn’t we be able to get the akl-ham service to switch tracks during it’s journey? And the same with the overlander, wouldn’t that save at least 30 minutes of being stuck behind commuter trains?

  15. Giel says:

    Pim - I agree with you in principle but some extra works would be required with additional crossovers at strategic locations on the NIMT north of Papakura to switch between up and down mains, This would allow a bit more of dual line running on those up and down mains at key points. The key is to have your trains run to time otherwise it can cause more problems for trains coming the other way if you miss your “slots” for crossover to the bi-directional running blocks. We have a way to go on that score yet I think.

  16. The Trickster says:

    As a former “Tron” boy whose parents live down there I’ve got a couple of thoughts to add to yours…

    1) Ditch the base (no residents) and add Ngaruawahia (pop 5,000).

    Disagree - as direct catchment there isn’t, but it would be a strong park and ride facility for everything north of Forest Lake Road which is where most of Hamilton’s growth has been in the last 10 - 15 years. I know my parents would be far more willing to use the easily accessable Base than drive into the main station at Frankton, try and find a street park and use the train.

    Agree on adding Ngaruawahia though.

    5) Forget the Strand, it serves no purpose. Go straight to Newmarket via Penrose, then either connect with the existing Link bus, or keep going to Britomart. Link bus from Newmarket would be no slower than a special bus from the Strand, and would cover the CBD more, and be cheaper to operate, since it already runs (zero extra cost).

    Strongly agree (along with the option for using Britomart)

    6) Start and end at Claudelands for the half of Hamilton that lives on that side of the river.

    Strongly agree again.

  17. Patrick says:

    Does anyone know what do they intend to use as a station in Hamilton?

  18. Jon C says:

    @ Patrick A new one at the Base shopping centre

  19. Tim says:

    @Jon R - The Current bogies under the overlander are rated at 120km/h - and old DC loco is limited to 95km/h (because of the bogies)

  20. Jon R says:

    Thanks Tim…so we just need a better loco…and, of course, better track et voila!

  21. Geoff says:

    @Tim, I’m pretty sure the Overlander bogies are rated for 100. The new P13 bogies being built for the AK’s are rated for 125.

    @Jon R, you would need more than just a better loco, as the track would also need to be maintained at a higher level to enable 120k running. Since the freight operation won’t benefit, the extra track maintainance cost would need to be paid for solely by the passenger operation. Such extra cost would be too big of a burden. The economics don’t even appear to have stacked up for 110k running of the EMU’s, as I understand the existing 100 max within suburban Auckland is to be retained (i.e., the talked about increase to 110 or 130 will not be happening).


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