A new era in public transport for the Waikato is being celebrated at a special launch event for the new Te Huia passenger rail service today (Thursday 25 March)
It is being followed by three open days* this weekend, where people will get the chance to hop on board the carriages and talk to staff to find out more about the service.
Today’s event includes formalities at the new Rotokauri transport hub in Hamilton, followed by a blessing of the Raahui Pookeka station in Huntly. Dignitaries include Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Kiingi Tūheitia, Transport Minister Michael Wood, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, MPs and opposition party members, regional, city and district councillors, local mana whenua, KiwiRail leadership and other distinguished guests.
Waikato Regional Council Chair Russ Rimmington said, “The Waikato is about to enter an exciting new era in public transport, with Te Huia set to roll out for the first time on Tuesday, 6 April.
“It will be a crucial connection between the two major centres of Hamilton and Auckland for up to 300 people each weekday,” Cr Rimmington said. “It will help to make roads safer, give people the stress-free travel and reliability they need between Waikato and Auckland, and the opportunity to either work or relax between destinations.”
He said the service had been “a long time in the making and is a triumph of collaboration. Led by Waikato Regional Council, we have worked closely with our council partners, as well as Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail to deliver a comfortable ride at the right times, with all the bells and whistles passengers want – free wifi, USB and power points for charging devices, and a café bar”.
Cr Rimmington acknowledged the vision of central government to enable development along the Hamilton-Auckland growth corridor and a connection between New Zealand’s job hubs.
“Providing better regional connections is a focus for the Waikato Regional Council, and Te Huia is only the start of big things, as opportunities are investigated to expand the service and make it faster.”
Total funding for the five-year project is $98 million – $85.8 million is coming from central government via Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, with local government contributing the remaining $12.2 million.
Of this, about $68.7 million has been used to purchase and modify the rolling stock for the service, as well as to reinstate a maintenance facility at Te Rapa, construct a new modern transport hub at Rotokauri and upgrade the existing Huntly and Frankton stations, and other capital works.
KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller congratulated its council partners on the upcoming start of the Te Huia service.
“It’s taken courage, commitment and a large investment by the councils and central government, and also a great deal of work by KiwiRail, to realise the vision of a passenger service between Hamilton and Auckland,” Mr Miller said.
“It’s exciting that it’s now so close and all of KiwiRail joins me in wishing the service well, and encouraging the public to leave their cars at home and to take the train instead.
“As New Zealanders show increasing concern about greenhouse gas emissions from transport, rail is able to provide a more sustainable option in connecting New Zealand and New Zealanders.”
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said the service was a “great start” and would provide a solid foundation on which passenger rail between the cities could expand and improve over time.
“The key now is making sure people are encouraged to jump on board and use it. Working people will see it as a mobile office, where they can get to and from Auckland safely and comfortably while they work. And it’s a brilliant option for families who will be able to relax and really enjoy the ride.”
Waikato District Council’s rail governance working group representative, Cr Eugene Patterson, said Te Huia will “change the face of public transport in the region. We are thrilled to see this service become a reality and look forward to seeing people using our station Raahui Pookeka, in Huntly.”
Waikato District Council Mayor Allan Sanson added: “We have big plans for the future of the station, including an improvement to our park and ride facility and the relocation of the original railway station, which currently sits at Lake Puketirini, back to the new rail platform. Here it will get a new lease of life as an art museum that will proudly showcase our region’s rich history through carvings by local iwi and art by local schools.
“Waikato District Council is proud to have worked on Te Huia and we hope that generations to come will enjoy the train service.”
Steve Mutton, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s rail governance working group representative, said his organisation was also excited about the launch. “We’ve worked alongside our partners to ensure the funding was in place for this, including the creation of the Rotokauri Transport Hub and upgrades to Frankton, Huntly and Papakura stations.”
*Public open days
This is a chance for a sneak peek of the new Te Huia train service before it officially hits the tracks! Find out about the service, get a Bee Card and AT HOP card sorted, and jump on the train to have a look around – it’ll be parked up at the stations for the duration of the events.
- Saturday, 27 March: 10am-12pm, Raahui Pookeka | Huntly.
- Saturday, 27 March: 2pm-4pm, Frankton.
- Sunday, 28 March: 12pm-2pm, Rotokauri transport hub.
About the service
From Monday to Friday, Te Huia will depart Frankton at 5.46am and 6.28am, stopping at Rotokauri and Huntly. The return service will depart from Papakura at 4.42pm and 6.25pm. Bee Card fares are $12.20 from Hamilton and $7.80 from Huntly. Cash fares are available.
For the first few months, Te Huia will operate on select Saturdays only, starting with 17 April due to limited availability of the rail track as a result of Auckland rail project and Metro maintenance work.
More information about the service is available at tehuiatrain.co.nz.
About the project
The passenger rail service project is led by Waikato Regional Council, working with partners KiwiRail, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council, Auckland Transport and the Ministry of Transport.