Ham-Auck Train May Go To Papakura Only


A twice-daily Auckland to Hamilton commuter rail service could be up and running as early as next year.

And Auckland transport officials are putting up the best option from their perspective as being a Silver Fern service to Papakura from where commuters would transfer to the usual Auckland train service leaving for the city centre and other stations on the urban network every 10 minutes.

That’s the word today from Norm Barker of Environment Waikato who adds a few terms and conditions to the prediction it will be up and running in a year.

He says if “logistical, operational and infrastructural details could be worked through, a twice-daily service could be up and running as early as next year, but only if there was community support for funding it.”

Baker is the group chairman of the working group looking at the feasibility of a new Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service.

At its latest meeting, it has asked for further investigations into three options for advancing the inter-regional service:

The three options are:

  • A refurbished Silver Fern railcar service from Hamilton with people transferring onto the existing Auckland MAXX urban rail service, preferably at Papakura, to complete the trip into Auckland’s central Britomart station.
  • Extending some existing Auckland MAXX services, both peak and off-peak, so the services that currently start in Pukekohe could originate in Hamilton. This option would require the addition of two commuter carriages specially fitted-out for longer journeys.
  • A composite service using the Silver Fern railcar to Pukekohe or Papakura where the railcar would be coupled to the MAXX service into Britomart. This option poses the most challenges and would be most unlikely to proceed to a final recommendation.

Baker said that until the working group sees the detailed analysis of the proposed service and costings for carriage refurbishment, platform and other infrastructure upgrades, it’s too soon to say if that is the Papakura suggestion is the best option.

Silver Fern

The working group agreed each option would ideally need to provide for an early morning commuter service and a mid-morning service for shopping and leisure trips to the city, with both returning later in the day. It is estimated the trip would take 2 hours 15 minutes.

The working group will agree on a preferred option in August or September this year, with councils formally consulting with the public during the first half of the 2012 calendar year.

The group is chaired by Environment Waikato and includes Hamilton City Council, Waikato and Waipa district councils, KiwiRail, NZTA and Auckland Transport.




  1. ingolfson says:

    Unsure about this - as we have seen in recent years, not all rail trials work, especially if they are “too little, too few”. I would love for this to work, but can’t they do three or four services daily, so people can be sure of getting a train back if they miss one? Or would that require more than two sets?

    Also, what is the problem with running the service all the way to Newmarket? I thought only Britomart was the problem?

    As I said - hope it works, but may be a so-so thing.

  2. Diego says:

    I wish this service would start asap. The idea of terminating the service at Papakura, is a bit shortsighted as 2.15 hs from HLZ to Britomart seems a bit too long, and commuters will carry on prefering to drive. I guess to make it more viable for passengers to be interested in this service would be to continue the service all the way into Britomart, or in the worse case scenario up to Newmarket. I believe they could do this service in 2 hours max., stopping in a few stations.

  3. dsadasgdf654645 says:

    If people are forced to transfer then it will be a failure. It must go the whole way. I think that extending existing services with additional carriages suitable for long distance would attract the most passengers but would probably be the most expensive.
    Theres no room for express trains left so it would be an all stops service. Get CBD loop built ASAP and triple track the southern line. Then it would be possible to run expresses again and have enough station capacity.

  4. damian says:

    Bit of a joke if it stops a papakura and at 2.15 it will be quicker for most to drive.

    You need CBD to CBD in under 2 hours otherwise there is no point. I wish they would stop making half hearted attempts to get people to use rail.

    Also, why in August and Sept. I cant see people standing on the platform in Ham or walk to and from the stations in the cold. Fail

  5. Scott says:

    Although I wouldn’t care I don’t think the bulk of the population would be too keen on transferring to a commuter train with a suitcase or two (especially at peak hour).

  6. Rationale says:

    It really comes back to the Britomart capacity problem which is both the entrance “Tunnel” and platform capacity. This could be solved relatively easily with a short term fix. This is by lengthening the 2 lines that are to be used for the CBD loop to hold at least another several SD sets or equivalent length each.

  7. Nick R says:

    I still can’t really fathom why they cannot get this right into Britomart with a little attention to timetable. Really all we are talking about is one extra train at peak hour (the second train would arrive after the peak and presumably not be a problem).

    Haven’t they just finished a bidirectional signalling project that allows for another four trains an hour at peak, can they not use one of those slots?

    The CBD tunnel will not help this at all, all the tunnel trains plus any diesels trying to terminate at Britomart will still be constrained by the exact same two track throat tunnel as before. This is just a microcosm of the foolishness of using Britomart’s track capacity for the CBD tunnel, rather than building the CBD tunnel tracks in addition to what we already have.

    The simplest and best solution here is a Silver Fern railcar (specifically designed for intercity services) from Hamilton to Britomart in two hours, just like they used to. Just make this happen, not dick around with transfers on the city fringe!

  8. Commuter says:

    I must say that I do wonder whether the proposal that an intercity train terminate in the outer suburbs of a city is an attempt by Environment Waikato to design certain failure of the service. Intercity services, as the name suggests and as opposed to commuter services, travel from city to city; they don’t travel from a city to somewhere in the outer suburbs. I realise that KiwiRail are used to running freight trains and AT/Veolia are familiar with commuter services but surely they can tap into knowledge from somewhere about how to run an effective intercity service?

  9. Gary Young says:

    How about a limited stop service originating in Hamilton but timed to be passing Papakura at the currently scheduled time of an existing Papakura - Britomart commuter train?

    There would then be no need to add a new slot in the current timetables.

    As an aside, why can’t the old underground station in Hamilton be re-opened? You would then have a genuine CBD to CBD service. One can but dream…

  10. Nankai says:

    More solutions:
    -the “62-minute hour”, as used at London Liverpool St in the 90s, to allow more trains in to a terminus in the “hour”
    -run it semi-express to Newmarket then hang a left up the Western (gets the reversal away from downtown): Greater Auckland commuters will appreciatre the express service and the Southern-Western connectivity
    -there’s always good old Strand

  11. Rationale says:

    Nick - if you referring to my suggestion about extending the tracks inside Britomart, then I’m sorry you’re wrong. The peak hour is exactly that - about an hour or so. The extra trains that can be stored coming in - so they don’t have to go out again in the morning in the peak period and congest the tunnel. Conversely they can be inside Britomart ready to go without coming in before they go out.

  12. mark says:

    “I still can’t really fathom why they cannot get this right into Britomart with a little attention to timetable.”

    Uhm - how? Even more trains will not improve Britomess. If they miss their slot, there will be two choices: Piss of all the business travellers by waiting 30-60 minutes for the next one or piss of all the local commutters by giving the Hamilton train priority, and throwing your suburban timetable into disarray.

    As much as I’d like a Hamilton train service - not at the risk to Auckland suburban services please. Perfect example of why we need the CBD tunnel.

  13. Kon says:

    I’m at a loss as to whether the fast CBD - CBD option is so important as everyone thinks. I would open up the idea for unemployed and working people in northern Waikato towns getting a reliable commuter service into the South Auckland region?

  14. Nick R says:

    Mark, the BiDi signalling is supposed to allow for 24 trains an hour per direction. This is enough for six an hour on the three main lines (i.e. every ten minutes each), two an hour on the Onehunga line (one every half hour) and still have four slots an hour remaining.
    Using one of these for the Waikato connection still leaves three slots an hour to accommodate delays.

    A single track flyover from the down main out of Britomart to the down in the Parnell branch is all that is needed to grade separate Quay Park junction. If this occurs then we could run up to thirty trains an hour into Britomart.

    As far as inconveniencing suburban commuters (slightly) for the Hamilton service, I would actually approve of this. Intercity rail will be incredibly important for Auckland in the future, and the Waikato run will be the test case for this. I have no doubt it will be very successful, but only if it is run properly. If we say ‘boo hoo no space at Britomart’ and flag the route or do something drastically stupid like terminate it in Papakura then we will never see any more intercity rail to Auckland. At no point in the future will there be more space at Britomart, so we need to establish a precedent now of running intercity trains to where the should go (the downtown rail terminal). If this precedent is established then future developments in the rail network will be designed to also accommodate intercity trains terminating in the CBD. If this precedent is not established then there will be no hope intercity trains.
    Who is going to build a brand new city terminal for one Waikato train an hour, no one! We need to used the existing city terminal for these, and expand the suburban system around it.

  15. mark says:

    “If this occurs then we could run up to thirty trains an hour into Britomart.”

    I like ideas that will get over our current constraints at Britomart, but a train fly over will cost many millions, probably 20-50 mil - though I just pulled that number out of my hat, admittedly. So not going to happen soon.

    The 24 trains with 4 slots free - Nick R, I have no problem with you having more knoelwdge of that than I do. But it’s pretty academic when something/someone has fu***d up, and there’s X trains waiting to get in. If there’s a Hamilton train also waiting, that just means X+1 trains, with subsequent extra delays fo all the rear ones.

    I don’t quite see why intercity trains at this stage will be so important in your view - they will carry a pittance of our total patronage, and while that will be somewhat factored by higher fares, I don’t think they should take centre stage unless we can be sure of fitting them in efficiently.

    I’d rather have Auckland’s train system do one thing well, rather than more things half-assed. And if you look at our current service reliability / delays (other recent post), even our suburban services are still pretty half-assed in important metrics.

    So if the Hamilton train has to stop at Newmarket, so be it (but please not Papakura).

  16. Nick R says:

    Intercity trains at this stage will be something of a loss leader. I understand that scheduling in one 96 seater Silver Fern over a suburban train that might carry five hundred people seems silly, but I’m thinking strategically here.

    If we can get two Waikato services a day up and running in the next year…then in ten years time we might have two Waikato trains an hour at peak, plus a few a day to Tauranga, Rotorua and perhaps several a day to places like Helensville, Wellsford/Whangarei and the towns of the central north island. If the Waikato proves successful then a network covering the upper north island is perfectly realistic in the medium term.

    Howver, if we can’t get the Waikato service up and running properly soon, then in ten years time we will have just what we have today. No slots, no demand, too hard they will say. One Overlander tourist train a day and thats it.

    As for Quay Park it would need a 400m long single track curved flyover, with some adjustment to the existing tracks. Pulling numbers out of the hat I would say low tens of millions. Not too bad for something that could boost capacity by 30% or more. The CBD tunnel report proposes thirty trains and hour per direction, so this flyover will be essential if that tunnel is to be built.
    But I think this will be necessary around the time the EMU fleet starts to arrive in numbers, so we should aim to build it within a few years from now.

    Auckland has a five platform central city terminus designed to take diesel powered trains, so lets use it!

  17. Carl says:


    good luck with that, that will just have more people wanting to drive.

    sorry but that is a joke

  18. Nick R says:

    Ever driven from central Hamilton to downtown Auckland at peak times Carl? Good luck doing that in under two hours!


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