Concerns over whether enough travellers will use first commuter train between Auckland and Waikato

It's hoped the first commuter train to run from Hamilton to Auckland will encourage more people to commute between the two regions. 

Until now, the only option has been to drive, which often means spending hours each day in traffic and it's hoped people are ready to change their habits and embrace the new mode of transport named Te Huia. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday took Te Huia for a test drive before the train opens to the public early next month.

The $98 million project will have capacity for 150 passengers per train, and it has the potential to replace 73,000 return car trips each year. 

But there are concerns about whether enough commuters will use it.

"We fully expect that it will take time for us to build up that patronage, you'd expect that," Ardern says, "but it is very much built around those peak travel times that people will have commuting between here and Auckland".

The train will depart twice a day from Frankton in Hamilton at 5:46am and 6:28am. It will make two stops before the journey ends in Papakura. Those wanting to travel into Auckland city will then have to take another train to the CBD.

The drive from Hamilton to Papakura takes just over an hour, the train will take much longer at 98 minutes.  

But Transport Minister Michael Wood says the train will often end up quicker than driving.

"On a moderately bad day in terms of congestion on the southern motorway it will take you that long by car, and you'll have less certainty. You'll have certainty with how long this journey takes."

In Huntly, where the train will stop, locals can't wait to use it and there are hopes the new transport option will encourage more people to move to the region, where housing is more affordable. 

"Some people might use it to commute into South Auckland, we don't get a lot of people commuting into the CBD from here, but I'm also hopeful people from surrounding areas will come in and park and then use it to travel in," says Huntly Community Board Chair

David Whyte.

As for our Waikato born and raised Prime Minister she can't wait for daughter Neve to one day use the service: "It's mostly been buses for her to date and she loves them. So public transport's really been a big crowd-pleaser for her." 

Transport officials are hoping it's also a crowd-pleaser for Waikato commuters.