Leaders unveil new rail service

King Tūheitia cuts the ribbon at the launch of Te Huia.

The new Te Huia passenger rail service launched this week will be a crucial connection between Hamilton and Auckland for an initial 300 people a day, Waikato Regional Council chairman Russ Rimmington says.

An open day ahead of the launch involved formalities at the new Rotokauri transport hub in Hamilton, followed by a blessing of the Rāhui Pōkeka station in Huntly.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, King Tūheitia, Transport Minister Michael Wood, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, MPs and opposition party members, regional, city and district councillors and KiwiRail representative attended.

“The Waikato is about to enter an exciting new era in public transport,” said Rimmington.

“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 called it a triumph of collaboration.

“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.”

The weekday Te Huia service will leave Frankton at 5.46am and 6.28am and stop at Rotokauri and Huntly. The return service will depart from Papakura at 4.42pm and 6.25pm. The journey between Hamilton and central Auckland will be two and a half hours with a swap in Papakura.

Almost $100 million has been made available for a five-year project – $85.8 million is coming from central government via Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and local government is contributing the remaining $12.2 million.

Waikato District Council’s rail governance working group representative, Cr Eugene Patterson, said Te Huia would “change the face of public transport in the region and Waikato District Council Mayor Allan Sanson said his council had big plans for the future of the station.

That included an improvement to the park and ride facility and moving  the original railway station, now at Lake Puketirini, back to the new rail platform as an art museum.

For more details go to tehuiatrain.co.nz.

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