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Published: 2011-05-09 00:00:00

A Silver Fern railcar service from Hamilton to Auckland’s inner city Strand station (the old main station) is now the preferred option for getting Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail up and running.

“The Silver Fern option to the Strand may be best for now, as the railcars are available, there is space available at the station, and it would not involve the major costs associated with platform extensions needed for other options,” said Rail Working Group chairman Norm Barker of Waikato Regional Council.

“It may allow us to start a limited service initially and if it was successful we could improve it over time.”

The multi-agency working group, meeting last week, instructed officials to do a more detailed investigation into the Silver Fern option, with a view to getting a service going subject to funding arrangements being in place.

While the Silver Fern option into the Strand would not put commuters into Auckland’s preferred central Britomart Station, the Strand station is only a very short distance from the CBD and the possibility of a link bus was discussed. The Strand is due to be re-furbished for the rugby world cup.

Cr Barker said the working group also asked officials to keep looking at an alternative service involving extending one of Auckland’s commuter services to Hamilton to create a Hamilton-Britomart service.

“It seems sensible not to put all our eggs in one basket in case there are glitches in using the Silver Fern or the Strand,” said Cr Barker.

He said he was very pleased the working group had been able to settle on a preferred option.

“It’s a sign we’re making real progress on getting together a package that could potentially be formally signed off by the Rail Working Group.”

The next step in the process will be for officials to develop a report for the working group to consider. If a proposal is agreed to, the working group could then make recommendations to councils about including funding for a service in Long Term Plans.