Friday, May 17, 2024

Heather du Plessis-Allan: It's D-day for the Te Huia train service

Well, it’s D-day for Te Huia.

Today's the day that NZTA has met and has decided whether or not to keep funding the train past the end of June. Unless NZTA gives them more money, it’s all over by the first of July.

And come on, it’s gotta be all over right? Because the case for this thing has never actually stacked up.

We subsidise every single passenger on that train to the tune of at least $92 per trip. Compare that to the other commuter train that runs in the North Island between Palmerston North and Wellington, the Capital Connection. The subsidy there is $26 per passenger, that's almost a quarter.

80,000 are estimated to catch Te Huia this year. By contrast, it's 110,000 for the Capital train. Can you explain to me how fewer people are catching a train into Auckland, a considerably bigger city?

Because why would you?

You can do that trip on the train from Hamilton to Auckland, it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes. Or you can jump in your car and travel for 2 hours - it doesn't make any sense.

The train only runs a couple of times a day for half the week, and then three times a day for the other half. And it doesn’t even stop at massive commuter suburbs on the way to Auckland, like Pokeno.

It’s gotta go. It’s an expensive, ineffective service.

But this is not a criticism of the idea of a train between Hamilton and Auckland, that is a great idea.

If we had a proper train running, it would mean we could take Pokeno, Tuakau, Pukeohe, Bombay and Mercer’s traffic all off the motorway and encourage more people to live in those less expensive places - and maybe even move to Hamilton.

But we’ve got to do it properly. It's got to be faster than a car, it’s got to stop at the right places where people live and it's got to run more frequently.

I'm certain that if it was done properly, many more people would use it.

So killing Te Huia is not killing a great idea, it's just killing the poor execution of a great idea.

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show HERE - where this article was sourced.

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