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Significant infrastructure issues remain to be overcome before a Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service can become a reality, says the chair of a multi-agency working group looking at the issue.
“Many logistical and infrastructure challenges remain ahead, despite detailed work already by Auckland Transport, KiwiRail and Waikato local authorities. But we are making good progress on working through the complex issues involved in making a decision about what to do next,” said Cr Norm Barker of Environment Waikato.
His comments came after a meeting yesterday of the Hamilton to Auckland Passenger Rail Working Group, which heard details of a range of inter-related matters that remain to be addressed before a service proposal could be considered.
For example, the meeting heard from Auckland Transport – which supports a service - about a continuing lack of space currently to receive a Hamilton-Auckland direct train at Britomart or Newmarket stations during morning peak times. There were also a range of difficulties associated with other alternative direct options during the morning peak, and a return evening peak hour service.
The meeting resolved to ask various officials to come back to the group on 19 January with a detailed report on the various options.
Group members also welcomed moves to open up discussions between EW, Hamilton City, and Waikato and Waipa districts on cost sharing over any shortfall between fare revenue and service costs. KiwiRail said at the meeting a service would still require a contribution of more than $1 million a year above anticipated fare revenue to make it viable.
The group also heard from the New Zealand Transport Agency that if they wanted a service to be considered for Government funding then it needed to be in the next Regional Land Transport Programme covering the three years beginning June 2012. It would also need to meet agency funding criteria.
“On the one hand it was encouraging that there were many positive signals from Auckland Transport and KiwiRail yesterday about their willingness to work with the Waikato about getting a service going. On the other, the hurdles we face are not inconsiderable and will require a lot of detailed work if they are to be overcome,” said Cr Barker.
“All parties represented on the group are clearly committed to working closely together on addressing those issues so we can sort out where we are heading and when.”