Train campaign may not gain traction

STEVE EDWARDS
Last updated 15:26 03/06/2014

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Commuters could face a long wait for trains in Morrinsville, says Hugh Vercoe, despite a push from rail campaigners for a link to Hamilton.

A Waihou constituency representative on the Waikato Regional Council and head of the regional transport committee, Vercoe does not expect a proposal involving a passenger train service from Hamilton to Morrinsville to gain any traction with authorities.

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Jon Reeves told Fairfax that regional rail services from Morrinsville to Hamilton could easily be a reality as Auckland's 40 diesel passenger trains and railcars will be replaced during the next 18 months by the new electric rolling stock.

"The diesel trains would be very suitable for the flats which make up a large part of the Waikato region."

The passenger train proposal included links from Hamilton to Morrinsville, Cambridge and Te Awamutu.

A Morrinsville service "makes sense", Reeves said. "It would give people a chance to live in rural communities and commute to the city."

He took the group's submission to last week's WRC budget hearing in Hamilton, with a council decision yet to be released.

Hugh Vercoe said the NZ Transport Agency and regional council do not have any money earmarked for such a train service. "I don't believe there is a great deal of support to increase rates for this," he told Fairfax Media after the hearing last week.

"There would have to be a change of government focus."

Vercoe said Morrinsville already has a bus service to Hamilton that is not always well patronised.

A "user-pays" system for a rural rail service would not cover costs, he said. "Who pays the difference?"

Vercoe said the fundamental question is what does the community want?

"Would people use the service in enough numbers?"

Matamata-Piako District Council chief executive Don McLeod said: "Council has not considered the possibility of a rail network to Morrinsville and would need to know more about what was proposed, what this means for Matamata-Piako District Council, and the potential benefit to our district."

The railway line between Morrinsville and Hamilton has been used in recent years for freight, connecting to the Fonterra dairy factory at Waitoa. From Waitoa to Thames the unused railway corridor, including the stretch from Te Aroha to Paeroa, now hosts the Hauraki Rail Trail.

The Campaign for Better Transport wants to know what residents and businesses in Morrinsville think of a regional passenger service connecting the town to Hamilton Central, potentially with a station at The Base (Te Rapa).

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Email: Jon.Reeves@BetterTransport.org.nz.

STATION HISTORY

The original Morrinsville Railway Station, off Studholme St, was opened on October 1, 1884. Morrinsville Historical Society spokesman Mike Gribble said it was a "very big station" at the junction of the Rotorua/Thames line, hosting passenger and freight trains. A footbridge over the track, opened in 1913, connected the station with the town from the end of Canada St. The station building was demolished in 1984 and a smaller-scale building, still used by KiwiRail, erected in Marshall St. -

- Waikato

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