Hamilton Train Plan Bites The Dust


Nice idea but no money.

The Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail service plan has now stalled in its tracks with no sign of anyone putting up the money needed.

Hamilton City Council has voted 7-4 in principle to support the proposed service, but will not commit finances to it and says it believes the time is not right to fund it.

Chris Allen, General Manager City Infrastructure, said : “With its decision today Council has indicated to staff that with its current fiscal challenges, allocating substantial funding to this project would not be appropriate.”

In the last week or so other Councils have come to the same conclusion. Waikato Councils needed to come up with the money to fund a two-year trial of a Waikato to Auckland Silver Fern train service.

  • Waikato Regional Council deferred a decision on whether to include a Hamilton to Auckland rail service in its 2012-2022 Long Term Plan, opting to wait for “more information from its funding partners.”
  • Waipa District Council has already formally advised it is not supporting the proposal.
  • Auckland Council’s transport committee  made it clear that at this stage any Hhamilton to Auckland train service had to be funded by Waikato Councils as there were no direct benefits to Auckland, other than bringing Hamiltonians into the city.
  • NZTA has given clear signals that while they would consider an application, the project would not get a subsidy from the National Land Transport programme.


The proposed annual cost of the service is $1.97m with fare recoveries of $0.74m. Hamilton ratepayers and those within 10km of the city would be paying $16.63 for it or $8.32 with an NZTA subsidy, according to the working report.

That report had patronage estimates for the proposed peak service at about 130 passengers a day. Fares could cost up to $24 one way, with the trip from Hamilton to Auckland taking about two hours. There would be stops at Frankton, The Base in Hamilton, Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Tuakau, Papatoetoe, the Strand and Newmarket. A slot at Britomart could happen only if the Overlander left later for Wellington.

Forget the train, driving to Hamilton is still the way

The Hamilton Council now says the project to provide supporting rail infrastructure will be identified as an unfunded project in the draft 10-Year Plan. The public will then be able to give feedback on the proposed service as part of the consultation process.

Funds previously collected, totalling $256,000, have been retained in a specific reserve for passenger rail infrastructure if the project is pursued.





  1. Dlyan says:

    Bring on the CBD and a government that will provide a faster service. That’ll bring about the change.

  2. Jon R says:

    So National´s local Hamilton MP´s David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe have managed to stall the train service again.

    No surprises they were not pushing NZTA to support rail, but to throw 2 billion dollars at the Expressway ( not due for completion until 2019).

    National is also against the Auckland City Rail Link.

    So, a vote for National is a vote against passenger rail.

  3. rtc says:

    Great nice that we have a government with such foresight.

  4. Rob says:

    When you vote in monkeys, that’s what you get.

  5. Matt says:

    Mirroring the Waikato the Manawatu, Horowhenua and Kapiti might lose the Capital Connection too. http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5898258/Otaki-commuters-fear-loss-of-critical-rail-link

    Between the Capital Connection, the Waikato Express and the Overlander surely something can be done to give a better than daily Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington service, electrify the whole of the North Island trunk line, and give NZ a future in rail.

    Every MP, mayor and regional council head honcho on the line should get together at a summit and work out a deal that delivers something clever.

  6. Geoff Houtman says:

    How can Auckland Transport say “no direct benefits to Auckland, other than bringing Hamiltonians into the city.”

    Isn’t using Hamilton as a dormitory town and relieving housing pressure on Auckland a benefit?

  7. BD says:

    That bloody sucks only just found out that the Hamilton City Council doesn’t want to support it now it’s only a matter of time before the project gets dropped and the short-sighted councillors shove the need for the Waikato Expressway down our throats. Well we know there are loads of National Bandwagon MP’s down there.

    This isn’t 21st century thinking this is political BS

  8. Paul in Sydney says:

    Will KiwiRail step up to the plate and run it as per the Capital Connection?

    I think I know the answer

  9. Geoff says:

    “Will KiwiRail step up to the plate and run it as per the Capital Connection?”

    Not without strong public pressure and a sustained campaign targeting them.

    I’ve always thought it strange that a rail campaign calling for a rail service, didn’t target the rail provider! Such a shame when you consider the massive funding now being made available by us all, to KiwiRail.

    A lost opportunity, and one that won’t return, when KR is eventually sold off, and public funding ends. It’s important that all campaigns for freight and passenger funding get in soon, while still in public ownership.

  10. Jon R says:

    Still waiting Geoff to launch his first ever public campaign.

  11. Geoff says:

    I think my three year effort to counter your ideological standpoint here, which has been read by all of the relevant councils, was quite successful at ensuring that passenger rail wasn’t turned into a revenue-gathering exercise at the expense of ratepayers. We all campaign in our own ways Jon.

    New Zealand needs more long distance passenger trains, and funding will be allocated if the prospects stack up, as the many projects currently being funded prove. If CBT wants to start a new campaign, that looks at the bigger picture of seeking a model that can be applied nationally, by all means I’ll help out.

  12. Jon r says:

    Love your pro-active approach there Geoff. However don’t take credit for things that you haven’t succeded in.

    Your dreams of self funding commuter rail are very right wing idealogy. Suggest National will be an excelent fit for your vote.

    Looking forward to seeing you starting a real campaign for once. Though l know some people are all talk.

  13. tuktuk says:

    No inter city commuter or long distance rail service in the western world (or developed Asian world) is self funding. In contrast, purely tourist focussed services (ala Rocky Mountaineer, Tranz Alpine, Swiss Glacier Express and The Ghan) are profitable. However, the fares for passengers on these trains is somewhat higher than what can be charged for a regular long distance passenger train.

    Compare the standard fare per km between the Tranz Alpine and Capital Connection rail services. Consider that on average, it is likely that an 8 carriage Capital Connection will be carrying many more part journey passengers and discounted passengers then a typically well loaded 12 carriage Tranz Alpine. Consider also that those Capital Connection carriages and the investment tied up with them are in operation for just 4 hours a day, Monday - Friday.

    I will speculate to say that in the past, the Tranz Alpine has earnt enough money to cover costs for other more marginal parts of the Tranz Scenic operation. With the Christchurch earthquakes, the revenue stream from the Tranz Alpine has taken a massive hit. Along with I suspect a “more commercial” approach to locomotive hire charges, this is why the Capital Connection for example is now under such pressure.

    It has been apparent that the current Waikato proposal has not had support from Auckland or the central government.

    In the long term, as has occured in the similarly car crazy USA, New Zealand regions and the government will together have to commit to funding long distance rail. In the USA, for many years states such as California, Washington/Oregon, states in the North-east, have partnered with the national operator Amtrak to fund and operate long distance rail.

    For the Waikato, this will require a comprehensive regional development strategy and track infrastructure programme (including funding assured access into downtown Auckland, stations in the right places in the Waikato, permission to boost revenue with pick-ups to/from Auckland and Pukekohe and Papakura, trains and track adequate to ensure that required sub 2 hour timetable).

    One way forward at this point may be to build a regional development strategy with figures to support for example, lineal development alongside the Waikato - Auckland rail corridor. It would be interesting to look at the basis for Victoria’s regional rail investment programme. The business case for what is effectively a key aspect of Victoria’s regional development programme may in future help provide a template to persuade New Zealand Inc. (including Auckland) that supporting a Waikato passenger rail investment is a good thing.

  14. Geoff says:

    Good post as always Tuktuk.

    Jon R, your last post just goes to show how little you understand the plight faced by passenger rail in New Zealand. And as always, your description of my viewpoint is totally incorrect, and as always you link me to the National Party even though you know I do not support them.

    I think you have a lot more in common with your own perception of an “evil SJ and the National Party”, because it is you who has campaigned for passenger rail to be operated under a high cost structure that nobody can afford. That’s why the nation’s leading railfan groups have not openly supported your campaign, as the campaign has essentially supported the viewpoint of those rightwingers who claim rail is too expensive.

    I on the other hand believe New Zealand should have a sustainable reasonably priced national passenger network, operated by a company who actually wants to run passenger trains.

    It’s a shame your ideology causes you to see rail supporters as the enemy. Your campaign might have been more successful if you had listened to those who spend their entire lives focussing on rail matters, and their are many such persons available.

    At the end of the day, your campaign failed, because it tried to increase the cost structure while also distancing itself from the funding presently available for rail. It was an oddly unbalanced approach.

    We do not have more passenger trains because it’s small business. KiwiRail can’t be bothered with the concept, just as they can’t be bothered finding 30 small freight customers in Gisborne, only considering large customer prospects instead.

    There are various options for the lobbyists, from lobbying KiwiRail to better serve the public view that there should be more passenger trains, to lobbying for open access so that other companies can have a chance, to lobbying end-user companies. There are several other companies interested in running passenger trains after all, but they can’t get their foot in the door.

    So where next Jon? Give up, or try again from another angle? If CBT wants to give it another go, I’ll help out if you want that help.

  15. Jon R says:

    You make many unsubstantiated claims.

    Remember, having been actively involved in transport for many years, including setting up new air line routings in Europe, I am probably more qualified through experience than you to talk about operating transport services.

    Remember, I am pro-commuter rail services for the community. You are pro-odd ball commuter services which operate once a day, never more.

    There is a funding structure in place, it is called the NZTA. It, of the National Party lead Govt, have put all it´s eggs in the Waikato into a motorway project. It is the National Party´s decision not to take a tiny portion of that funding and place it into operating the Hamilton commuter rail services.

    It is the National Party who is opposed to the Auckland City Rail Link tunnel which is stranging Auckland and potential Waikato train services. It is Steven Joyce blocking these from happening.

    If you vote for Steven and the Nats, expect no new passenger rail. If you expect cash starved Kiwirail to magically find money for passenger rail, then you are simply “p _ _ sing up the wrong tree”.

  16. Geoff says:

    I don’t see any evidence at all of Auckland and the Waikato being strangled of rail services. On the contrary I see big investment at both locations, and all along the line in between. I also see brand new locomotives running between Auckland and Hamilton every day, and so much brand new rolling stock that they have more than they currently need, with large rakes of new wagons lined up in various yards.

    KiwiRail has money. They have numerous business plans in play and they are growing the company. The government, contrary to your assertions, is onboard with those plans.

    You are right that the Waikato train is a small price compared to the expressway funding, but it is also a small price compared to railfreight funding.

    Perhaps you believe the government is pro-freight rail, and anti-passenger rail? That would be odd.

    You need to understand it isn’t the government that is the problem. It’s the KiwiRail board, who see no reason at all to invest in new passenger services. Likewise they have little reason to, as nobody is putting any pressure on them to do so.

    In terms of the CBT campaign, it was excellent in regards to public awareness, petitioning, and bringing together potential stakeholders. It just failed to direct all that pressure where it was really needed - at KiwiRail.

    KiwiRail need reminding that their ultimate owners - the public of New Zealand - want and expect a better passenger operation, and that it should factor into the funding allocations more than it currently does.

    KiwiRail hates bad publicity. They have overturned decisions before when bad press hits the headlines, as bad press threatens overall funding which is reliant upon happy campers in government, who in turn are reliant upon happy campers who keep them in office. Toll learned that lesson back in 2006 when public pressure saved the Overlander just as the sustained campaigns were beginning to become toxic to the company’s overall well being.

  17. Jon R says:

    It is the National Party who is opposed to the Auckland City Rail Link tunnel which is stranging Auckland and potential Waikato passenger train services. It is Steven Joyce blocking these from happening.

    It is Steven Joyce who the Kiwirail board answers to.

    It is Steven Joyce who has come out publicly against Hamilton Rail.

    It is Steven Joyce, a powerful unelected man in the National Party who directs NZTA into what they can fund.

    It is Steven Joyce who delayed Auckland Electric trains by 18 months from being ordered.

    It is Steven Joyce who demands a very touch business plan from Kiwirail who is operating on skeletal remains of funding (but he does not demand the same from our highway investments).

    Come to think of it, Steven Joyce has a lot to answer for.

    Must remember not to vote National - for a better transport future.

  18. Geoff says:

    Sorry, but your rant just doesn’t match reality at all.

    The state of rail in NZ is not determined upon whether or not a little railcar is running back and forth between two cities. That’s small fry and small money.

    There’s much bigger rail projects than that currently in progress, involving big money, as part of the biggest spend up on rail we have seen in decades.

    Strange you can’t see that. Perhaps you need to return from the other side of the world and see for yourself the rejuvenation of rail that is currently taking place here.

  19. AKT says:

    @Geoff @Jon R This is getting really boring guys.
    We get it. You guys disagree and have some sort of history.
    Please settle your differences outside. The exchange is getting so predictable I could write the next comment for you.
    It’s like overhearing an old married couple bickering.

  20. Jon R says:

    Haha, too right Jon C.

  21. Evan J says:

    I know its election year you guys, but give us a break. Labour and The Greens are quite capable of creating their own press releases without their supporters filling up chat groups with electioneering drivel.

  22. Geoff says:

    In fairness, I’m not promoting any political party. I’m a Greens supporter, but haven’t mentioned them once in the various postings.

  23. Simon B says:

    Geoff, just think you should call it a day.

  24. susan says:

    come back people who are good at lobbying. join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/We-want-a-commuter-train-between-Hamilton-and-Auckland/540059802708010
    and lets see if we can get some more debate and ”pressure” happening. I’m tired of hearing how bad things are in auckland, this is one way we can help!


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