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Pressure needs to be applied to officials to get the Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail as close to Britomart Station as possible, submitters to Waikato Regional Council's long-term plan say.
The Rail Opportunity Network (TRON) chairman Rob Weir and spokeswoman Sue Moroney called on regional councillors to "put the acid" on KiwiRail and Auckland Transport in the passenger rail proposal and squeeze as much out of talks as possible.
"We are here to ask you to do everything you can to get the termination point closer to Auckland," Moroney said this week.
Rail advocates have called for a realignment of the single track through the Whangamarino Wetland.
"Our plea is: Don't take no for an answer. Sometimes when officials are given these issues, if they can make it as simple on them as possible, they will be inclined to do so."
* Labour to spend $20m on commuter rail between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga
* Passenger rail service a 'matter of priority'
Council is proposing to rate Hamilton residents to fund a two-year trial of a passenger rail service between Hamilton and Auckland.
The preferred of three options would see ratepayers charged an extra $6.45 for every $100,000 to the capital value of their property, capped at $2.5 million of capital value. The cost of a one-way fare between Hamilton and Britomart is proposed to be $16.10.
The trial would see two return services to Auckland each day leaving the Frankton station at 6am and 6.40am and arrive at Papakura, where passengers would have to swap trains to Britomart.
But Moroney said termination at Papakura leaves the service teetering. It needs to go further north to the Manukau or Ōtāhuhu station.
"What we want is the best service for the people who are using it and at 2 hours 20 minutes, that is right on the edge of viability. It needs to be faster than that."
Regular Auckland rail services take 50 minutes from Papakura to Britomart, with carriages stopping at all 16 stations on the southern line.
"I don't think that's necessary for this service and with some clever and creative time-tabling, we can improve that trip considerably."
Hamilton ratepayers shouldn't be the only ones to foot the bill, she said. She cited evidence that property prices increase in areas near commuter rail services. She said other areas in the region should also pay.
Weir, a Hamilton lawyer who migrated from Auckland five years ago, said Auckland's gridlock is getting worse. People have to leave Hamilton at 5am to be at a 9am meeting in Auckland, he said.
"Auckland is broken in terms of its infrastructure. We don't need to be and can gain from Auckland's lack of biting the bullet and finding the money when it is only going to get more expensive."
Waikato Regional Councillor Fred Lichtwark called the rail service a no-brainer.
With 200 or more passengers on rail, about that many cars will be taken off the roads, carbon emissions will decrease, worker productivity will improve and there will be increased economy between the two cities.
But Cr Stu Kneebone questioned the validity of those claims. The current bus service does the same job, he said.
"There are commercial bus services taking people to Auckland from Hamilton for $20 with no ratepayer or taxpayer subsidy," Kneebone said.
"Every advantage you are quoting here can be equally gained by bus transport."
But Moroney countered that buses have the same problem as cars in gridlocked traffic on the Southern Motorway.
"It's a commuter train service and that's when the buses can't get through in that commuter traffic, period. That's where they get stuck," she said.
"Rail is the only mode of transport where you can guarantee you can leave at a time and arrive at a time. It's the certainty of being able to depart and arrive that no other mode can offer."
Cr Hugh Vercoe said discussions on termination points, the single track through the Whangamarino wetland and rolling stock is taking place.
"KiwiRail are very supportive of getting this going," Vercoe said. "It's progressing well and there is goodwill from this council to follow the government money.
"The Government has been told very plainly and clearly, if they don't front, it ain't going to happen. It's as simple as that."
This article first appeared on www.stuff.co.nz
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