The establishment of The Rail Opportunity Network (TRON) to re-examine the possibility of a commuter rail line from Hamilton to Auckland is sure to bring the possibility back into the spotlight for the upcoming local body election.
But there are questions over whether enough has changed since the original proposal was explored and rejected in 2011.
Hamilton-based Labour MP Sue Moroney is a key spokesperson for the group, and said the housing crisis in Hamilton and influx of Aucklanders meant more people than ever were flocking to Hamilton for affordable housing while retaining their jobs in Auckland.
"My concern is we don't have the infrastructure for that movement," she said.
Ms Moroney dismissed fears a commuter train would only increase Hamilton house prices further as Aucklanders were attracted by an easier commute.
"It will make Hamilton more attractive - that's a good thing as long as we have appropriate infrastructure."
Rail was the only way to cut through the congestion of the Southern Motorway, she said.
The findings of the 2011 Rail Working Party report were often misrepresented, she said.
"What it found was the demand was absolutely there and that was in 2011. That was before we had this massive surge coming down from Auckland.
"What that 2011 working party report found was that the preliminary business case was very strong, and they said a proper business case ought to be pursued and the local councils didn't go ahead and do that."
Ms Moroney said political pressure from central government played a large part in this decision.
"All the people who will put barriers in the way of getting the right thing done are I think coming from a ideological position on this," she said.
"I've battled this now for eight years where people who just don't like rail and want to promote roads will bring up every little barrier they can find for this proposal. It's true that to make exciting things like this happen you need the political will."
Ms Moroney said while there was not a berth available at Britomart there was at Newmarket, and with Auckland considering the Central Rail Link to open up new lanes to Britomart, Newmarket would become a prime transport hub to every part of the city.
"We could have something up and running within six months if we set our minds to it."
The productivity of workers on a train was an added strength for Moroney. She said Frankton and the underground station below CentrePlace should both be looked at as starting points, describing the latter as perfect for its proximity to the bus station. An added stop in Pokeno would be a logical option, with new housing developments gaining momentum in the area.
Hamilton public transport joint committee co-chair Lois Livingston said the 2011 had recommended a two-year trial which had fallen over, mainly due to a lack of political will in the Waikato Regional Council. She said strong support from residents was bolstered by a groundswell from Labour and Greens, and even National was murmuring about a train.
WHAT OUR MAYORAL CANDIDATES SAY
Mr Pascoe said it was time for a revisit, and said he had been having discussions with councillor Martin Gallagher about possibly land-banking areas around railway stations for park-and-ride opportunities. "We are trying to identify some spots around the city where the Council, NZ Rail or land owners are future proofing the possibility of a commuter rail link."
Mr Pascoe said the railway may begin with a trip from Tuakau or Drury to Auckland and gradually be spread to Hamilton.
Mr King said the idea was trialled five years ago and said the heavy subsidies for seats made it infeasible. He said uptake was minimal and the lack of berths at Britomart was damaging. "It was uneconomical and it was pulled because it didn't work financially."
He said in a day there were around 12 buses running every day to Auckland which were running without subsidies.
"When you have two private bus companies taking you up there for under $20, dropping you off at Papakura where you can get a train into the centre - when the system we had going couldn't get into Britomart anyway, I would question it.
"There's a whole lot of reasons Hamilton just isn't ready for it. Our population back then was 140,000 people now we're around 155,00 people - we don't have the population to justify this sort of thing at this stage."
Mr Simpson said there was a need for a commuter rail between Auckland and Hamilton to improve the quality of the environment, productivity and ease of travel.
"The number of commuters between Hamilton and Auckland has nearly tripled over the past 15 years from 969 in 2001 to 2500 today, and this is set to continue to grow at a rate that requires Hamilton to actually start to plan for commuter rail in the future," he said.
"The increase in workers commuting between Hamilton and Auckland means the CO2 emissions being generated are also on the increase. This means that a commuter rail link is a priority, and we need to plan now for commuter rail to minimise the environmental costs in the future."
Ms Southgate said she supported greater commuter and freight rail to Auckland.
She said a lot had changed since the 2011 report, warranting a review, and she had been in contact with NZTA and the Minister of Transport Simon Bridges.
"There seems to be a softening point of view towards rail and I would be welcoming any opportunity for moving cars off [the motorway]. "I have also been having conversations with the Upper North Island Strategic Alliance where all the Mayors of Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty and Northland get together to discuss issues and we've made it quite clear the Auckland rail solutions needs to be fixed because any rail opportunity from Hamilton relies on once you get there you are able to access connecting trains."
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