A new train service connecting Hamilton and Auckland commuters has officially been launched today.
The government invested over $80 million for the service with another $12m coming from local authorities.
The service, called Te Huia, will begin in early April and will run return from Frankton to Papakura twice a day during the week, and once on selected Saturdays.
At today’s official launch, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was a clear need for the commuter train.
“We fully expect that over time we’ll build patrongage and bring passengers but it is really travelling at peak times and it is travelling between two growing cities where we know people are living and working across the two.”
The service was expected to reduce traffic congestion at peak times, she said.
Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington said the region is about to enter an exciting new era of public transport.
“It will be a crucial connection between the two major centres of Hamilton and Auckland for up to 300 people each weekday,” Rimmington said.
“It will help to make roads safer, give people the stress-free travel and reliability they need between Waikato and Auckland, and the opportunity to either work or relax between destinations.”
KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller congratulated its council partners on the upcoming start of the service.
“It’s taken courage, commitment and a large investment by the councils and central government, and also a great deal of work by KiwiRail, to realise the vision of a passenger service between Hamilton and Auckland,” Miller said.
“It’s exciting that it’s now so close and all of KiwiRail joins me in wishing the service well, and encouraging the public to leave their cars at home and to take the train instead.
“As New Zealanders show increasing concern about greenhouse gas emissions from transport, rail is able to provide a more sustainable option in connecting New Zealand and New Zealanders.”
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said the service was a “great start” and would provide a solid foundation on which passenger rail between the cities could expand and improve over time.
“The key now is making sure people are encouraged to jump on board and use it. Working people will see it as a mobile office, where they can get to and from Auckland safely and comfortably while they work. And it’s a brilliant option for families who will be able to relax and really enjoy the ride.”
Te Huia is estimated to remove up to 73,000 return car trips between the two cities annually.