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Published: 2011-10-27 00:00:00

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.

The council 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.

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 we cannot consult while the options for funding the proposed trial are uncertain,” he said.

“We need more information about the funding of the trial and also to hear from all our partner councils,” he said. The issue will be considered again on November 23.

Waipa District Council has formally advised it is not supporting the proposal, while Auckland Council is not going to consider funding unless the service can be shown to clearly produce benefits to Aucklanders.

Hamilton City Council was also considering the recommendations today and Waikato District Council will discuss them next week.

Although the New Zealand Transport Agency has indicated it will not fund the rail service, it has said it is open to considering a funding application supported by a robust business case.

Waikato Regional Transport Committee and rail working party chair Norm Barker said 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 proposal is for a Silver Fern service between Frankton railway station in Hamilton to the Strand and Newmarket in Auckland at peak times. The off-peak service could operate between Frankton in Hamilton and Britomart railway station in Auckland.

It is proposed the 96-passenger Silver Fern railcar would stop at a station to be built at The Base, as well as at stations in Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Tuakau, Papatoetoe, The Strand and Newmarket.

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

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.