A petition supporting the introduction of a Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail service, signed by 11,500 people, was presented by the Campaign for Better Transport today. Here’s the full press release:
11,500 Say Yes to Waikato Trains
This morning the sustainable transport group the Campaign For Better Transport presented the largest railway petition New Zealand has seen for decades in a bid to have commuter rail services between Hamilton and Auckland. It was also the largest petition on a local Hamilton and Waikato issue in a decade.
11,500 people signed the petition which is calling on the Government and its agencies, such as NZ Transport Agency and Environment Waikato, to establish the much sought after rail services.
The petition entitled “Waikato Trains NOW!” was presented to Hamilton List MP Sue Moroney by Jon Reeves, the Campaign Manager in front of an audience of over 60 members of the public. One company was so passionate about the benefits of commuter rail for her business and the region she asked all her staff to come to the presentation.
The petition was run by a huge team of Hamilton supporters of commuter rail, so it has now become a huge local issue. Jon Reeves said “the presentation of this well received petition is just the start of our Waikato Trains NOW! campaign. If we do not see any positive results from both Environment Waikato and the Government soon we have other plans to help then realise what the people and businesses of Hamilton and the Waikato want. We certainly have strong public support for the trains and it is time both the regional council and the Government jump on board.
The petition was presented to Hamilton List MP Sue Moroney, who has actively supported the idea of commuter trains between Hamilton and Auckland and would like to see them start this year. We hope that other MPs such as David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe will support the idea and support their constituents.” said Reeves.
Hamilton City Councillor Dave MacPhearson and the Mayor of Hamilton, Bob Simcock, both spoke of their support for the obvious benefits to the city and the region.
The Waikato Trains NOW! campaign is calling for three return services from Hamilton to Downtown Auckland (Britomart Station) via Newmarket. The trains would connect with direct Auckland Airport shuttle buses at Papatoetoe station and would also be the transfer point for visitors of Middlemore Hospital. The services would use Silver Fern railcars which KiwiRail currently has available. They would be refurbished with WiFi for business commuters.
The trains would also help boost Waikato businesses and could be used to showcase local wineries, cheese and chocolate products to commuters and tourists a like. Catering would be Hamilton sourced as well as the need for local staff to man and drive the trains. This is an additional bonus of having Hamilton commuter trains. And as a final touch the CBT want the abandoned Hamilton Central underground station to be reopened to enable business commuters and tourists to travel from downtown Hamilton to downtown Auckland direct and relaxed, without traffic congestion, road accidents or parking problems.
“I would like to thank residents of Hamilton, Ngaruawahia, Huntly and Te Kauwhata for jumping on board and supporting this petition. I would also like to thank all our Waikato team for talking to thousands of people and letting them know who supports commuter rail and who does not”.
This is a great idea for so many reasons, and I can see a service between Auckland and Hamilton being popular for a number of different types of trips. For a start, there are those who live in Hamilton (or nearby towns) and work in Auckland – apparently quite a number of people do that amazingly long trip each day. Then there are those whose work takes them between cities: for business meetings or whatever other reasons – I think this would be a pretty significant number of people, hopefully catered for by a 9am service leaving Auckland heading to Hamilton, which returns from Hamilton to Auckland at around 3.00 – enabling people to conduct their meetings between 11am and 3pm.
The big advantage of being able to make this trip by train is that the time spent in the train can be productive. I see high quality carriages with tables so that people can work away on their laptops, or do a bit of paperwork before meetings. Hopefully the train would have inbuilt WiFi, although over time that might not be so essential as more people have mobile broadband.
And then of course it will be useful for tourists. Considering that a commercially viable train operates between Palmerston North and Wellington – both smaller cities than Hamilton and Auckland respectively – surely one would think in the longer run this would work financially. With 11.500 people signing a petition in support of such a service, one would hope that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality.