Stop start go – where could the train begin and end?

Thoughts from Tim Kerwin, train expertand passionate rail-ist

1.Hamilton to Britomart

Pros –

  • Direct service into current and developing rail hub of Auckland City. Access to Ferries, Queen Street and hub of the City Rail loop for transiting passengers.
  • Direct Hamilton to Auckland Rail Service.
  • Purpose built passenger friendly station.
  • Cater for tourist day trips to and from Hamilton (due to proximity of AKL city)


  • Diesel locomotives not permitted to enter Britomart due to the aged and out of date dirty air extraction system. This cost would have to be met by AT as they own Britomart. Currently, AT are not interested in updating this equipment.
  • Unless the trains are set up as “push/pull” (meaning they are able to be driven from either end) then there is the need to “turn” the train as Britomart Station is a dead end station. This would mean once the train has arrived at Britomart it would then need to reverse out and turn then reverse back into Britomart ready for departure south. 

Option 2, Hamilton – Newmarket – The Strand (old Auckland station) – Hamilton

Pros –

  • Still a direct service to Auckland but using the Strand for the Auckland City station. This would still allow for transfers at Newmarket to go to West Auckland or Britomart.
  • If the train were to travel via the Strand, this would allow the train to travel to Auckland via Ellerslie/Newmarket, down to the Strand then continue on to Otahuhu and south to Hamilton via Glen Innes/Sylvia Park etc.. Offering a direct service to all of the southern and eastern line stations for the worker or for the day tripper (shopping malls etc). At Otahuhu, the eastern line breaks away from the southern line. This creates a “Balloon” effect with the track thus allowing the train to go up one side of Auckland, go around and back out the other side alleviating the requirement to turn (as in the Britomart cons) See attached route map.C, Ideally located right next to the Vector Arena for concerts etc…
  • The Strand is currently used by the Northern Explorer thus making it a Intercity and tourist hub for rail transport. I guess the equivalent model (although not that accurate on size, capacity or frequency) is Melbourne – Flinders Street Station is at the bottom of Melbournes main street and is for suburban trains. Southern Cross Station is located further away from downtown Melbourne and is used for intercity and long distance passenger. This is serviced by suburban trains, buses and trams unlike Auckland. But similar in concept. 

Cons –

  • Not a direct service into Britomart meaning passengers traveling to Britomart would require a train transfer at Newmarket.
  • The Strand station is not greatly accessible to downtown Auckland. Bus transfers would be needed. This is why we moved away from that station and built Britomart.
  • Talk of removing the Strand Station in next 10-15 years for new sports stadium.

Option 3, Hamilton – Papakura – Hamilton

Pros –

  • A, Would be a relevantly uninterrupted service (clear of 90% suburban trains) from Hamilton to Papakura.
  • B, Would not need to enter greater suburban area requiring time slots etc..

 Cons –

  • Little or no facilities to turn the train to allow it to return to Hamilton (unless train was a “push/pull” service)
  • Passengers would have to give up the comfort of a intercity style train to a packed suburban train atmosphere. As well as simply having to get off one train and onto another which will add time. Having to transfer would greatly impact the appeal of the service.C, Already adding more passengers to the suburban network with current electric fleet between Auckland and Papakura, meaning passengers would experience an uncomfortable ride for the first hour until they arrived at Papakura to transfer onto the Hamilton train to travel south at the end of their day.
  • Not appealing to tourists or day trippers (or workers) if they have to pay 2 fares. one for Hamilton Service and one for suburban trains. Also for day trippers, there is still the need to get to Papakura before transferring onto Hamilton Train. 

Therefore, it would be my view that option 2 is the best option for ease of planning and getting the operation underway with little necessity for resources within Auckland. Whilst a transfer will still be required to get into Britomart, this would only be a short 6 minute run from Newmarket to Britomart as opposed to a 58 minute run from Papakura to Britomart in a packed suburban train. 

Option 2 also allows us to continue of from the Strand station around to Sylvia Park and back to Hamilton thus servicing Central/East and South Auckland in one hit.

 Britomart would be the ultimate but perhaps something that could have a better business case for if the Hamilton to The Strand station service runs successfully.


We have two current stations.

1, Hamilton Central, under Victoria Street and Kmart. This station is currently mothballed and could be made available. It is accessible from the Main street and many other parts of Hamilton including the main bus terminal (which is why it was built there originally).

2, Frankton Station. Still in use, could be used as a park and ride facility for passengers from West Hamilton side. Requires no deviation from the mainline to Auckland.

3, The Base – Plenty of railway owned land there to build on. Tracks currently run directly behind The Base. Could provide Park and Ride for Hamilton North and new developments.

 So some ideas for the train journey based off the 3 options above could be:

 Option 1.

Hamilton Central – Frankton – The Base – Pokeno – Pukekohe – Papakura – Middlemore (for hospital? and transfer to eastern line trains) – Newmarket – Britomart.

 Reverse Train

 Britomart – Sylvia Park – Middlemore – Papakura – Pukekohe – Pokeno – The Base – Frankton – Hamilton Central

 Option 2.

Ham Central – Frankton – The Base – Pokeno – Pukekohe – Papakura – Middlemore – Newmarket (transfer here for Britomart) – The Strand – Sylvia Park – Middlemore – Papakura – Pukekohe – Pokeno – The Base – Frankton – Ham Central.

Option 3

Same as above but terminating at Papakura thus requiring transfer for all scenarios.

 I think an indicative time for passenger stops is set at 3 minutes for long distance passenger. so add this to the non stop journey time.   Option 2 is my preferred for ease of getting it up and running. It is easier than Option 1 but a little more difficult than option 3 but option 3 will kill it in my opinion.

 What are your thoughts?


5 thoughts on “Stop start go – where could the train begin and end?”

  1. All of your scenarios seem to ignore the fact that there is already a fast and frequent “push’pull” diesel service from Pukekohe to Papakura, where the wait for the onward electric train is minimal. These trains are fast and comfortable and should go further south. With minimal fuss and expenditure they could go to Mercer tomorrow where there is sufficient room for extra tracking to move from south to north bound lines. For those currently commuting by road the problems are north of Drury so a park n ride at Mercer would help. There are ten of these diesel units and only six are currently used so expansion of the service will not pose a problem.
    I question the level of home work as nowhere is Tuakau mentioned. Population 5000 now with new residential land zoning to more than double that. Waikato District Council predict Tuakau will become the second largest urban town in the district. Small steps!


  2. The underground city centre station was built on the site of the former main bus terminal. That’s the site now occupied by The Warehouse, to the south of the rail line, not on the north side where the current bus terminal is. It’s likely to be cheaper and more pleasant to build a station at the western end of the rail tunnel than to try to get access to that now.


  3. Option 2 would be a great, easy first step. Possibly just going from the Frankton Junction station rather than Hamilton Central to start with as that would remove some of the start up costs. Start simply and cheap just to get the service growing and then can improve it as time goes on. Great article.


  4. Option two seems like a great option, considering it covers both central and east Auckland, this will make the service more attractive to more riders. Getting the service online as quickly and cheaply as possible should be the priority and it can be improved as patronage increases.

    If possible, an extension of the diesel stopping service, that currrently terminates at Pukekohe, to pick up every station down to Mercer (or Pokeno at least) could service these growing areas and get a lot of people off the southern motorway. Then the Hamilton-Auckland express would remain just that, an express service stopping at the major stations between the two centres.

    I lived in England for a while and commuted an hour into London on the National Rail service which used express and stopping services too and the system worked very well. The tickets were around a similar price point as proposed with discounts for weekly passes, etc.

    I really hope this great idea will become a reality!


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