24 Nov 2011

Potential Hamilton to Auckland rail service left in limbo

10:07 am on 24 November 2011

The door appears to have been shut on establishing a commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland, with Waikato Regional Council declining to fund it.

It is estimated the service would cost $2 million a year to run and commuter fares would pay for about one third of that.

The regional council is not the only council to decline funding. Auckland, Hamilton City, Waikato District and Waipa District councils also not committing to it.

The Transport Agency and the Government have also declined to contribute.

Waikato Regional council spokesperson, Vaughan Payne, says the council could not afford to fund the entire amount.

"We would have had to look to ratepayers to meet that shortfall, having no central government support, and really we can't keep leaning on ratepayers,

"We're looking at probably $20 per property increase in rates which we don't think is affordable at this point in time."

He says the council will re-examine its position if circumstances change.

Campaign for Better Transport convenor Cameron Pitches says given that more than 11,000 people signed a petition calling for the service, the lack of funding from local and central government is a real blow.

Mr Pitches says what's really frustrating is that the Government is prepared to spend tens of millions on the Waikato Expressway but not a small amount on a commuter train service.

Green Party transport spokesperson Gareth Hughes said the party would contribute to a potential service, if in Government.

He said there would be demand for the service and would cost a small amount compared to overall transport funding.

Labour list MP Sue Moroney, who lives in Hamilton, says while Labour hasn't committed money for a service if it's elected, it does support the proposal.

She says many of the local authorities have had the area's National MPs talking them out of supporting the project.

Hamilton East MP David Bennett, of the National Party, denies he's been working behind the scenes to scuttle the project.

"We're not elected council members, they make their own decisions with their own information."

Mr Bennett says he's sure the service will go ahead at some point.