'Wasteful spending': National rubbishes Hamilton to Auckland train service trial

The proposed Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service trial, expected to cost nearly $80 million, is being labelled as "wasteful spending" by National.

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the business case for a five-year rail service trial between Hamilton and Auckland had been approved by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

The trial's total cost, including the service operated by KiwiRail, is estimated to be $78.2 million, including $68.4 million from the NZTA and $9.8 from local authorities.

It is expected to start in 2020 with a four-carriage train, with toilets and WiFi that can carry 150 passengers each way.

But National is criticising the project as a waste of money.

"I think anybody can see an extra 150 people on a diesel train isn't going to make much difference to the overall congestion on the Southern Motorway," said National Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith.

However, Hamilton's Mayor Andrew King is giving the rail service the thumbs up, saying the city is growing at a rate of 80 people a week, and many want a convenient commute to Auckland.

"It means that we have an alternative mode of transport to get to Auckland on a nicely fitted-out train with the internet, with a cafe service, with a beer service on the way home."

The service would leave Frankton in Hamilton, stopping at The Base shopping complex in Rotokauri, then Huntly, before arriving in Papakura. There may be future stops added at Te Kauwhata, Pokeno and Tuakau.

Average house prices in Huntly are between $350,000 and $450,000, and it's hoped the rail link will lure Aucklanders looking for an easy lifestyle and commute.

Running it will cost $5.85 million per year, with 75 percent of that will be funded by the NZTA and the remainder split between passenger fares and Hamilton ratepayers.

Tickets will cost around $30 each way, according to Mr Twyford.


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