25 April 2017
The reality of a regular train service between Hamilton and Auckland is one step closer as The Rail Opportunity Network (TRON) moves to go public with its plans this weekend.
Speaking on Free FM this morning, media spokesperson and passionate rail advocate Susan Trodden explained how the group intended to get the issue ‘up close and personal’ with decision makers. ‘’This weekend TRON is inviting the public to come and hear what we have been doing in the background over the past twelve months’’ she said. ‘’We want people to come and learn about the plans to move this project forward, and answer the many questions that both proponents and naysayers have been challenging us with’’.
When questioned on the viability of a commuter service, Ms Trodden was realistic. ‘’We know that in the short term a rail service might not turn a profit – but it’s important that the bigger picture of viability is understood by our decisionmakers’’ she explained. ‘’We know through a recent extensive survey that there are in excess of 3000 car trips being made each week between Auckland and Hamilton by regular commuters. That’s a lot of wasted time that employers are missing out on, a whole lot of stress for the drivers who are completely at the mercy of Auckland traffic, and we haven’t even started on the conversation about the health and safety , or social impact aspects of people spending so long getting to and from work’’.
There has been much discussion and misinformation surrounding the viability study completed by Waikato Regional Council and this will also be addressed at Sundays event. A panel of experts will be present to answer questions including explaining the technical requirements of a train service, and the group will also be presenting a petition for Central Government that already has more than ten thousand signatures on it in support of commuter rail.
‘’Key organisations such as the University of Waikato, Kiwirail and Tainui Group Holdings are also keen to see conversations progressed ‘’says TRON Chair, Rob Weir. ‘Our role is to be advocates for the service and we look forward to seeing real progress this year’’.
The TRON launch event will be held at the Frankton Hotel in Commerce Street from 3 pm until 5 pm. At four o’clock there will be the opportunity to move outside and greet the Northern Explorer as it makes its way from the Frankton Railway Station to Auckland.
Thoughts from Tim Kerwin, train expertand passionate rail-ist
1.Hamilton to Britomart
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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..
- 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:
Hamilton Central – Frankton – The Base – Pokeno – Pukekohe – Papakura – Middlemore (for hospital? and transfer to eastern line trains) – Newmarket – Britomart.
Britomart – Sylvia Park – Middlemore – Papakura – Pukekohe – Pokeno – The Base – Frankton – Hamilton Central
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.
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?