A push for a daily commuter rail service from North Waikato to Auckland is gaining steam, with political leaders saying the idea is a "no brainer".
Re-elected Auckland Mayor Len Brown has vowed to make progress on a $2.86 billion underground city rail link his No 1 priority, saying the project would double the capacity of the existing rail network and slash travel times.
His comments have buoyed Waikato rail advocates, who are calling for a daily commuter rail service from Tuakau to Auckland to be put back on the political agenda.
Dee Bond, of the Tuakau and Districts Development Association, said the first goal should be to extend the daily Pukekohe to Auckland rail service through to Tuakau.
An estimated 200 people travel north from Tuakau to Pukekohe each day to use the train.
"The short-term objective would be to hang a service on the back of the trains that go to Pukekohe but ultimately we'd like to extend a daily service all the way to Pokeno and Mercer," Ms Bond said.
She said there was "massive support" for a daily rail service from North Waikato to Auckland, with 3500 residents in and around Tuakau signing a petition in support.
Green Party MP and transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said a daily commuter rail service from Tuakau into Auckland was a "no-brainer".
The city rail link would free up space for a Tuakau service, she said.
"It's pretty obvious that we can't continue to have the same level of single occupancy vehicle use as our population grows," she said.
"A commuter rail would also facilitate the development of satellite towns in a way that's less dependent on cars.
"All we need is a Government that understands the economic benefits."
Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson said he was a "big supporter" of a daily commuter rail service from Tuakau but the challenge was to convince Auckland Transport of its merits.
The council had a budget in their long-term plan to upgrade Tuakau's rail platform and Mr Sanson was keen to progress the rail service idea with Mayor Brown the next time they met.
"If we did manage to get a daily service down to Tuakau and proved it worked then we could keep dragging the service south into the Waikato. But the thing is we don't have to wait until Auckland finishes its rail loop.
"We could get the service running tomorrow if Auckland Transport worked with us," Mr Sanson said.
Alexander Siebentritt, general manger of Tuakau Hotel, which is located near the tracks at the top of the town's main street, said the area's poor public transport had frustrated residents.
"It is one of the things that has been fought for really hard for a while," he said.
"Public transport is an area where the town is lacking. They are trying to attract more people but without transport it will not happen."
Waikato Regional Council sitting chairman Peter Buckley said Auckland and Waikato were experiencing population growth and it made sense for a daily commuter rail link between the regions.
Tuakau and Districts Development Association chairman Gary McGuire said Tuakau's population of 4600 was expected to double in the next eight years. It was critical the town had strong transport links with Auckland.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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