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Possible but needs a lot of investment
I have noted a Herald article about Auckland metro rail passenger numbers at record levels while ferry numbers are dipping (it will be the fares) this morning. Check “Rail clips the ticket as ferry trips fall away” for more on that story.
Tauranga to Auckland by Rail?
Before the last Labour Government (1999-2008) ditched the service the Silver Fern rail car use to run a daily service between Tauranga and Auckland that would take around 3.5 hours each way. As a kid I use to catch it when holidaying with my grandparents who reside in Tauranga and the trip wasn’t that bad – even though it took an hour longer than going by car.
There have been numerous attempts since the service was scrapped to reinstate the service but the infrastructure investment alone would be costly to allow dual freight/passenger running again. None-the-less a new attempt via a study is being pushed to reinstate the inter-city rail service.
From Sun Media:
Posted at 7:01am Sunday 30 Mar, 2014 | By Luke Balvert firstname.lastname@example.org
The re-instatement of a passenger train between Tauranga and Auckland continues to gain strong interest from a group of city firms currently shelling out more than $100,000 a week on commuting costs.
A Priority One study investigated 37 targeted corporates and other businesses in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty to find what their inter-city travel requirements, practices and costs are and whether they would be interested in the concept of commuting by rail.
Corporates and businesses commuting the most include Zespri International, BECA, Comvita, Sharp Tudhope and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.
Travelling by road means several hours of unproductive time, while flying can be costly and still requires a trip into the city from the airport – both expensive and time consuming.
Together the 37 firms currently spend $104,558 in travel costs and staff time on weekly commutes, including $71,550 in unproductive staff time, $23,408 in driving mileage and $9600 in air travel, including taxi fares.
Priority One project manager Annie Hill says in the last few years interest has been generated in reinstating the passenger train service, with firms supportive to align with business needs in Auckland.
Of those that travel at least once a week to Auckland, 88 per cent say they would consider using the service. But they note the service would need to be faster than driving, have wi-fi capabilities, not be too expensive, and have reasonable departure times to suit business needs.
So we have a problem and that is the inter-city commute between Auckland and Tauranga. Passenger rail between Auckland and Tauranga could work but as it was noted in red: “the service would need to be faster than driving, have wi-fi capabilities, not be too expensive, and have reasonable departure times to suit business needs.“
So the infrastructure (tracks, signals, points and eventually rolling stock) will need to be brought up to scratch before even attempting to run passenger rail between the two cities again.
Annie says despite the survey, giving New Zealand Transport Agency via SmartGrowth an economic viewpoint on the cost, the chances of a commuter service are very slim in the next 20-30 years as the rail lines do not have the capacity.
With freight rail the current priority, the rail service would need a significant upgrade to accommodate a fast passenger service, says Annie.
Yep that is the case with the current set up of the lines at the moment. To get a viable passenger service between Auckland and Tauranga you would need to do the following upgrades first:
- The third main between Westfield and Pukekohe
- Double tracking between Pukekohe and Hamilton
- More passing loops between Hamilton and Tauranga with possible full double tracking in 30-years
- Reinstatement of Tauranga Station which would need to be on its own loop away from main line to allow freight trains to continue to move unimpeded
- Rolling stock to support three services a day in each direction between Tauranga and Papakura (you would transfer to an EMU to continue the trip north)
All this would take time and considerable investment. But with increasing freight trains to Hamilton and Tauranga from Auckland you could tie the investment in double/triple tracking plus more passing loops with freight as well as wanting passenger services as well. This would make investment in the rail system more viable. And with plans afoot around growth (residential and industrial) in the Golden Triangle (Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga) that is to occur over the next 40-50 years, passenger rail between Auckland (Papakura) and Tauranga is certainly not dead.
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