Transport campaigners are disappointed the new Hamilton-Auckland rail service will take longer than it does to drive between the two cities.
The $92 million service, which will start mid-next year, will see four trips a day between the two cities - two there and two back.
It will go from Frankton in Hamilton, stop at The Base and Huntly, and end in south Auckland's Papakura, where passengers will be expected to get on Auckland's transport network if they need to go further.
Campaign For Better Transport (CBT) spokesperson Graeme Easte said while it's a "positive" step to have rail links established, it could have been done better.
"The trip time at around two-and-a-half hours is longer than the trip times of services of previous services running between Hamilton and Auckland," because passengers going to the central city will have to transfer at Papakura.
- NZTA approves Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service business case
- Government scraps National's plan for KiwiRail diesel trains
- Government weighing up Auckland to Hamilton passenger rail service
A previous service which operated nearly two decades ago went right up to Newmarket. It was cancelled when operator Tranz Rail decided to exit the passenger rail market and couldn't find a buyer. It was reported only 30 people a day were going from Hamilton to Auckland.
Since then, Auckland's train network has switched to electric, while the Hamilton-Auckland service will initially run on diesel.
The CBT also criticised the new service's lack of stops.
"The service also does not stop at Tuakau, Pokeno or Te Kauwhata. These towns have experienced substantial population growth in recent times and many of the new residents work in Auckland and would appreciate a public transport alternative that would get them to work."
Those places are earmarked for future stops, if it's a success, as is the airport potentially in the long-term.
Hamilton City Council growth and infrastructure committee chairman Dave Macpherson said the long-term aim is to get the new service "all the way to Britomart" in the Auckland CBD.
"We're determined to get this started, get people to start using rail as a reasonable alternative."
- Auckland's rush-hour traffic the worst in Australasia - report
- Auckland Council votes for regional fuel tax
- $28 billion plan to fix Auckland's transport unveiled
He told Newshub at the weekend Auckland's congestion gets further south every year, and this will relieve some of it and give Aucklanders priced out of the housing market another option.
The Waikato Regional Council estimated last year by its third year of operation, more than 100,000 people would use the new service annually.