Cartoon by Andy Tristram of Kapiti Independent News

by Geoffrey Churchman

It’s rather fitting for the Jacinda government to name its new train after a bird that is now extinct. A commuter train service from Hamilton to Auckland is a good idea in principle, but this is not in practice.

The obvious thing to do would have been to have the train run express (no stops) to and from Auckland (Britomart) at the furthermost stop on the Auckland suburban network which is Papakura. But it doesn’t: in the morning it leaves Frankton (Hamilton) at 5:46 am and goes as far as Papakura arriving there at 7:25 am — then passengers have to change to an electric multiple unit for passengers on the Auckland network. There is a second train which leaves at the slightly more civilised time of 6:28 am and gets to Papakura at 8:07 am. So, it takes 1 hr 39 min to go from Frankton (Hamilton) to Papakura.

That’s OK for people who work in Papakura, but — and it’s a big but — there is another 50 minutes on the standard electric train to get to central Auckland.

Even the pro-Government Newshub acknowledges, “It’s hardly New Zealand’s answer to the bullet train. Te Huia will travel at up to 100 km/h, but average 64 km/h during the journey between the two cities.” The service began on Tuesday with around 90 passengers (only 59 of them paid fares), although it can carry up to 150.

Google Earth states that Hamilton to Auckland is “1 hr 22 min (121.0 km) via State Highway 1.” Hmm.

A lot of money has been spent on upgrading the highway system in the last dozen years, but not much on the railway system. Expectations that a left-wing government would see things differently have not been borne out. Here in Kapiti the Labour government says it will complete a 4-lane new highway past Levin, but as for double tracking and electrifying the railway there? Nah, catch a bus, says Labour’s Phil Twyford.