Group want Hamilton to Auckland commuter train

TRON - The Rail Opportunity Network launched a petition asking for Parliament to support the proposal for a commuter train between Hamilton and Auckland.

Losing productivity is the main concern for a Hamilton chief executive faced with traffic issues commuting to Auckland.  Jacqui​ Green, chief executive of Wise Group, says her team travel daily to Auckland, with 12 staff in six cars.

If there is a meeting in Auckland central, staff leave 3 1/2 hours earlier in peak hour traffic, she said. Outside of peak hours staff leave three hours earlier.

"Times those 12 staff by lost productivity of approximately six hours a day, times that by five days and you've just lost a month of productivity.

"Twelve staff is an average day, often we have a lot more going both ways. We can't have staff continuing to do those sort of hours."

Green was part of a public discussion held on Sunday by TRON -  The Rail Opportunity Network group who want a commuter train from Hamilton to Auckland. 

She suggested a task force form across all political parties and businesses, to help get the commuter train. 

"It's time that we put aside the differences, and get a task force together, including businesses in the region, to look at this issue in a sensible way," she said.

"I resent that I'm here on a Sunday afternoon begging for a train. It's like I'm asking for a rocket to go to the moon."

Hamilton City Council mayor Andrew King and HCC councillors were present, as well as National MPs' David Bennett and Tim Macindoe, and Labour list MP Sue Moroney.

King said he gets to Auckland in an hour and a half regularly, but plans it outside of rush hours.

He believed Auckland has the train systems, and they need to bring their network south.

"Get it through to Pokeno to start with - have parking, pick up the traffic from Tauranga and Hamilton, and electrify it through to there," King said.

"As the money and budgets allow, then bring it from Te Kauwhata, Huntly and Hamilton."

He said in the meantime a diesel service could be used to get the train to where the Auckland network starts.

The technical aspects of the train service were also discussed, including routes, the number of daily services and the infrastructure of the railway tracks. 

Roughly half the group commute at least once a week to Auckland, while others said it would be good to use the train service for events such as concerts and sporting matches. 

An engineer for KiwiRail said he supported the project.

"Infrastructure-wise we sit on the best part of the rail network in New Zealand - the golden triangle - between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

"We have the best, well-maintained piece of network."

He said there were 120 carriages sitting in Taumarunui not being used after a "failed sale to an African country".

"The infrastructure we need is there right now. The carriages were built in the UK and designed for high speed specification, a lot of life span left in them."

Moroney will take the petition to Parliament, her last petition before she stands down come the next election.
She started campaigning on the issue in 2007. 

"That's 10 years ago that we've been talking about this proposal. How much have we grown since then? How much worse has the trip from Hamilton to Auckland got in that time?"