Waikato Rail Looking More Unlikely


A setback today for plans for a Waikato to Auckland train service.

It comes because how it’s going to be funded is so up in the air.

Waikato Regional Council today deferred a decision on whether to include a Hamilton to Auckland rail service in its 2012-2022 Long Term Plan, opting to wait for “more information from its funding partners.”

It’s become clear in recent weeks that 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.

The Waikato Regional Council had today received the final report from the Hamilton to Auckland Rail Working Party recommending that a two-year trial of a passenger rail service between the two cities be included in the long term plans of the regional council, Hamilton City, Waipa and Waikato district councils.

Waipa District Council has already formally advised it is not supporting the proposal. Hamilton City Council is considering the recommendations  and Waikato District Council will discuss them next week.

Waikato Regional Council Chairman Peter Buckley acknowledged the rail working party had been established to look at the feasibility of the service and develop a proposal for formal consultation with the public.

But he added: “We cannot consult while the options for funding the proposed trial are uncertain. We need more information about the funding of the trial and also to hear from all our partner councils.”

The issue will be considered again on November 23.

Auckland Council’s transport committee  earlier this month put a damper on the plan after considering what was being proposed.

The Council, already under financial pressure to find funding for its own transport projects, made it clear that at this stage any hamilton to Auckland train service had 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 Regional Council is still hanging out hope that although the New Zealand Transport Agency has indicated it will not fund the rail service, it will be open to at least considering a funding application supported by a robust business case.

STRAND: Arriving in Parnell makes a Hamilton train service even less appealing

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.

Patronage estimates for the proposed peak service are that  there could be about 130 passengers a day. Fares could cost up to $24 one way, with the trip from Hamilton to Auckland taking approximately two hours.

One suggestion that came forward at this month’s Auckland Council committee 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.

Auckland Councillor 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.

A strong advocate for the train service, Waikato Regional Transport Committee and rail working party chair Norm Barker, argued that it was important the council ‘kept the faith’ with the large number of people who wanted a rail service.

“We should include the rail proposal in our LTP and our regional transport plan and apply for funding to NZTA – it’s about putting forward a strong case for our regional priorities.”

The working party comprises representatives from Waikato Regional Council, Auckland Council, Hamilton City Council, Waipa District Council and Waikato District Council, as well as members representing the NZ Transport Agency, KiwiRail, Auckland Transport and Campaign for Better Transport.





  1. Kon says:

    I do hope this gets of the ground as there will be excess rolling stock when electrification is completed. Using the Silver Fern just as a stop gap, with perhaps more frequent services terminating in South Auckland for working commuters and South Aucklanders wanting to commute other way to the Waikato. For passengers wishing to go further they should be able to cross the platform and board a connecting EMU for other stops into Auckland CBD.

  2. Rtc says:

    New Zealand is really becoming a basket case transport wise - billions are available if you want to build a road for cars to Hamilton, If, however you want a couple of million to fund a train service there’s no funding available at all. Depressing, I don’t see how NZ will handle oil shocks in the future.

  3. DanC says:

    Hamilton to Papakura with timed connections with Hamilton buses and Papakura to Britomart trains. I would like to see this service go all the way to Aucklands CBD but if that’s going to get canned then Papakura will have to do.

    At peak an hourly express - Hamilton to Papakura

    A 2 hourly service needs to exist in the future and it’s stops should include;

    Hamilton - Northgate - Ngaruawahia - Huntly - Te Kauwhata - Pokeno - Tuakau - Buckland - Pukekohe - Drury - Papakura

    but for now a peak hourly express service - Hamilton to Papakura. And a two hourly service out of peak.

  4. Publius says:

    The idea is good, but it has too much against it for it to be successful.
    Train slower than the bus, stops at second rate stations where people dint want to go, old carriages. Really, it’s better to not even bother.
    Besides this is one service that really should not need a subsidy.

  5. Geoff says:

    “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.”

    Bingo, there is already a fast PT commute available. It may not serve Te Kauwhata or Tuakau, but then that doesn’t matter, as Te Kauwhata doesn’t even have the demand to justify a mini bus let alone a train, while Tuakau would be better served by extending the MAXX trains there.

    Attention needs to turn to providing a rail service to Tuakau, Waiuku and Huapai. More value for money and more potential.

    Hamilton was never a goer. Too expensive, too slow, and no demand that isn’t already catered for.

  6. richard says:

    Perhaps a tunnel under the Bombay hills is needed for long distance trains. Long term it would save heaps of fuel and perhaps 15 minutes off the Auckland Hamilton rail time. The existing Main Trunk would then become a branch for the steel mill and suburban trains to Pukekohe and Tuakau

    At present the road has a massive advantage by distance alone

  7. Jon R says:

    Good idea Richard. But you are talking about railways, so the National Govt would squash that idea immediately.

    Road tunnel under the Bombays? Get the bulldozers there now……

  8. Railman says:

    Unfortunately until we have a Green transport minister, I doubt rail will ever get the funding it needs to be competitive with the car or bus in NZ. There just isn’t enough political will in central govt, and despite the proven environmental, social and economic benefits, National and Labour’s ideologies seem fixated on road building and bus lanes. Rail services should always be faster and more convenient than driving or coach, and in many countries they are. 130 passengers a day seems far too low a projection for a viable long distance rail service between two major population centres like Auckland and Hamilton.

  9. Rtc says:

    Buses never will provide the capacity or trip reliability that a train running on its own right of way provides - it’s idiotic that long distance trains in NZ have no financial support whereas roads are 100% subsidised.

  10. Geoff says:

    “Unfortunately until we have a Green transport minister, I doubt rail will ever get the funding it needs to be competitive with the car or bus in NZ”

    You insinuate that rail funding should be based on ideology rather than a project of substance.

    Rail has plenty of funding, in fact more now than ever before. But the projects where funding has been requested are all freight-related, because it’s the freight industry who has lobbied for that funding, and proven their case.

    Nobody is lobbying for passenger rail funding. Not the passenger transport industry, not the tourism/travel industry, and not even the rail lobby groups. Thus, no funding is allocated, despite the government making funding available.

    The exception of course is the new carriages for the South Island trains. Lots of money tied up by the tourism/travel industry in those services, so the government has stumped up with the cash, proving that when funding calls are done properly (and not just pushing an ideology) it will be funded.

  11. Jon R says:

    Geoff “Nobody is lobbying for passenger rail funding. Not the passenger transport industry, not the tourism/travel industry, and not even the rail lobby groups. Thus, no funding is allocated, despite the government making funding available.”

    Just how inaccurate can you be? Very much so is the answer. CBT has been pushing NZTA to fund Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail….while the National Party MPs have blocked this happening by applying pressure to ensure none is made available.

    National Party had 11,500, mainly Waikato residents demanding commuter rail. In reply National MP David Bennett effectively gave every single one of them the one finger salute, or “the bird” if you like.

    National is against passenger rail in NZ. It’s trucking and roading lobby funding partners are ensuring that is the case.

    From what I have witnessed, a vote for National is a vote for no medium or long distance passenger rail.

  12. Geoff says:

    Jon R, the funding going into the hundreds of rail projects to support freight initiatives is granted because it is demonstrated how those projects will be financially viable for the business.

    If financial viability wasn’t demonstrated, funding would not be granted.

    The CBT Hamilton train campaign, to the best of my knowledge, has not demonstrated how funding would be financially beneficial to KiwiRail.

    Lobbying on ideology alone will not secure funding.

  13. Jon R says:

    Well, believing you are a common sense man, I hope I do not have to spell out, just to you, why funding passenger services will help Kiwirail justify investment in passenger services and other infrastructure requirements associated with them?

  14. Geoff says:

    You’ve missed the point Jon R - Fonterra for example has demonstrated that its business will grow with better rail services, so KiwiRail is able to have confidence that it too will benefit from that growth. A business plan is put together, the government agrees, and funding is granted. There’s no passenger equivalent of that scenario taking place, beyond the benificiaries of the South Island tourist trains giving confidence to Tranz Scenic to push for funding for new trains - which again, the government agreed to fund.

    If there was an industry demonstrating to KiwiRail that it would make money from a new train elsewhere, then KiwiRail would have the confidence to seek funding for it, but that isn’t happening. And judging by the fact that the government has been willing to fund most requests by KiwiRail for new project funding, it’s a shame nobody is, because there is untapped market potential out there.

    Lobbying the government directly is nonsensical, as they are not in a position to fund on ideology alone. They can only fund what KiwiRail requests, and KiwiRail only requests when it has a sound business case that delivers. To get that, lobbying should be directed at those who matter - the travel and tourism industries. Show them the potential, and they too will want a product to market. Give KiwiRail something that gives them confidence to proceed to a business case, because that’s the only way to get funding.


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>