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Waikato Regional Council to consider passenger rail business case

In the next major step towards setting up a Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service, Waikato regional councillors will meet next week to endorse a business case for national funding.

The start-up passenger rail service has been proposed to improve transport connections between Hamilton and Auckland, in particular for the growing number of commuters using this corridor.

“We want to establish a reliable and high quality train service between Hamilton and Papakura,” said Hugh Vercoe, Waikato regional councillor and chair of the Regional Transport Committee.

Stantec New Zealand was contracted to write the business case required by the NZ Transport Agency ahead of it considering whether to fund the service.

When it met on Monday, 5 November, the Waikato Regional Transport Committee voted unanimously to include the start-up passenger rail service in the Regional Land Transport Plan.

The next step in the process requires the respective councils – Waikato Regional Council, Waikato District Council and Hamilton City Council – to endorse the business case written on their behalf.

The councils will meet over November and December 2018, ahead of the business case going to the NZ Transport Agency Board meeting on December 14.

If national funding is approved it is expected the first train will roll out of Hamilton in March 2020. It is an ambitious timeline and any delays could impact this timeframe.

A key part of developing the business case has been to present a sound and robust financial case for the operational and capital expenditure required to get the service up and running.

Total funding needed for the project is $76.27 million over the first six years, from 2019 to 2024. Local government will contribute $9.46m of that with the remaining $66.81 million coming from central government's National Land Transport Fund.

Of this, $49.46 million will be used to upgrade the existing Huntly station and to construct the rail station at The Base and to purchase and modify the rolling stock for this service.

The operational cost of running the service is estimated to be $5.82 million per annum. This will be funded through passenger fares, a NZ Transport Agency subsidy of no less than 75 per cent (if approved) and Waikato Regional Council rates.

Funding for the service has been included in year 2 of the regional council’s 2018-2028 Long Term Plan.

Hamilton City Council is committed to the service, buying land near The Base in Te Rapa to provide a park and ride service. HCC has also allowed for funding in its 10 year plan to establish a rail station at The Base.

Waikato District Council has committed $250,000 to support a rail facility in its district, starting with Huntly rail station. 

The business case is available online at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/agendas(external link).

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