Labour MP Jamie Strange confident Hamilton-Auckland commuter train cash coming

A long-awaited passenger rail service could be running between Hamilton and Auckland by the end of next year, an MP says. 

Uncertainty around the proposal spread after it wasn't included in Grant Robertson's first Budget in May, but Hamilton Labour MP Jamie Strange is confident it's set to get the nod.

He expects a formal announcement to be made by NZTA in September. 

If it goes ahead, the rail connection would be one of the first Government rail promises to see fruition.  

The Hamilton-Auckland rail service proposal was first considered and rejected in 2011. 

Now, the decision is left with NZTA which chooses where to dedicate the cash. 

"From a local point of view, I'm feeling optimistic," Strange said. 

Wifi on a Hamilton-Auckland train would enable commuters to get some work done, or watch Netflix.

Wifi on a Hamilton-Auckland train would enable commuters to get some work done, or watch Netflix.

Talks between central government, councils, KiwiRail and NZTA have been ongoing. 

"If NZTA choose to fund it ... I think it will be highly likely we'll be able to roll it out by the end of [next] year.

"It will just be a process, it will just be having enough people to refurbish the carriages, upgrade the stations and that sort of stuff."

Is the long talked about rail link approaching? Labour MP Jamie Strange thinks so.

Is the long talked about rail link approaching? Labour MP Jamie Strange thinks so.

He's expecting a train to be up and running this term. 

"The key thing is under the previous Government, going back a long way, the land transport fund ... it used to be that it could only go on roads. But Minister Phil Twyford has changed that so it can now be used on rail as well.

"It's a priority for this Government."  

Transport Minister Phil Twyford wasn't available for comment but in a written statement a spokesperson for Twyford said the Government is committed to supporting the Auckland-Hamilton corridor. 

"Including through investment in modern transport links such as a regular passenger rail service. Local councils involved in this work have committed in their long term transport plans to supporting this initiative."

But it's ultimately a decision for NZTA, which makes investment decisions relating to the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), the statement said.  

"NLTP, which reflects the new transport priorities of the this Government, is due to be announced in September 2018." 

NZTA couldn't add much on the rail service proposal as it was in the decision making stage, a spokeswoman said. 

Hamilton City Council is taking the lead on commuter rail, but approached the regional council to rate city ratepayers for a two-year trial costing $8 million per year, prior to government funding.

Both councils supported the rail service and were told the commuter rail was a priority. 

It would give those making the grid-locked commute between Hamilton and Auckland a cheaper, faster and more productive means of getting to and from work. 

Strange, who has been liaising with KiwiRail around internet on the train, is looking for feedback around whether Wifi would be necessary. 

"The general consensus is that Wifi would be a better option."

But the finer details still need to be hashed out to avoid potential internet hogging issues. 

Having the rail corridor will unlock growth between Hamilton and Auckland, Strange said. 

It would link two thirds of the Golden Triangle of Hamilton, Tauranga and Auckland. Long term, Strange hopes there will be a rail service between all three. 

"It's the idea of transport leading growth. 

"So, the previous government did a great job with the expressway and then this government is prioritising regional rail."

- Stuff


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