Low patronage on Hamilton-Auckland rail service Te Huia's inaugural journey

The new rail service from Hamilton to Auckland has been lauded for providing an important connection between the regions, but there are concerns about why it doesn't drop passengers in the city.

The service, Te Huia, made its inaugural journey on Tuesday with around 90 passengers, although it can carry up to 150.

The first service left Hamilton at 5:46am, stopping near The Base shopping centre and Huntly, before arriving at its final destination in Papakura just before 7:30am. 

Two return journeys are on offer each afternoon from Papakura to Hamilton. Te Huia will operate only on selected Saturdays.

Newshub reporter Karen Rutherford was on the first trip and spoke to Huntly local Samuel Dysart, who works at the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland and was on the first service on Tuesday.

"Buying down here was the only way to get my own home, we moved from Auckland to Huntly two years ago - I will definitely be using the train if it works out."

Dysart said financially it'll cost about the same as running his car, although it will add a couple of hours to his daily commute. He will also need to change trains at Papakura to get to Britomart before catching a ferry to Devonport. 

"For me, it's about convenience, I can work on the train."

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency's $98 million investment will connect the two cities with two peak hour services north each weekday morning.

It's hardly New Zealand's answer to the bullet train. Te Huia will travel at up to 100km/h, but average 64km/h during the journey between the two cities.

However, Rutherford said other people have expressed concerns that the service stops at Papakura and to get into the city, passengers have to transfer to an hour-long commuter service.

Waikato Regional Council said it is "proposing to add an additional interpeak service to extend beyond Papakura into Auckland" and has begun consultation on the business case.

Kiwirail CEO Greg Miller said up to 73,000 return car trips between Hamilton and Auckland each year will be avoided by Te Huia running at capacity. That's fewer emissions, less congestion, and lower road maintenance costs.

Miller said rail has an important role in New Zealand's transport sector and provides a crucial connection between the regions.

"It's providing a hassle-free travel option that will help the two centres grow economically closer together."