V8s heaven but more need to take train

By Mathew Dearnaley

Fewer than 10,000 spectators take the train or bus to V8 Supercars races at Pukekohe.

Auckland Transport is confident numbers will grow. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland Transport is confident numbers will grow. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland Transport will not disclose how much public money it took to run trains and buses to Pukekohe for fewer than 10,000 spectators of last month's V8 Supercars races.

They accounted for just 7.76 per cent of 117,167 tickets sold for the three-day event - less than a third of 25 per cent hoped for - although the council body is confident numbers will grow in coming years.

It says that although it will recover a third of the cost from the event organisers, through a cut of the ticket price for all spectators regardless of how they reached Pukekohe, commercial arrangements mean it cannot provide financial details.

Neither would the organisers disclose the cost to the Herald.

Councillor Cameron Brewer, who was outvoted in opposing spending by the city of $10.6 million over five years on the annual races in expectation of a $35 million economic return, said special transport services laid on for this year's event would have cost ratepayers "a heap of cash" on top of that.

As well as trains running every 15 minutes and carrying 7339 passengers and 116 bus services used by 1753 passengers, 50 extra buses were kept on standby on the two main days of the event, in case of any rail disruption.

But although Mr Brewer said that meant "only a third of what could have been expected took the train and only 1.5 per cent took the bus", Auckland Transport spokesman Wally Thomas accused him of missing the point.

Because services ran so smoothly, confidence in the reliability of public transport to get to the races would be boosted and Mr Thomas expected patronage to grow with the event.

He noted that the proportion of rugby crowds using public transport to reach Eden Park had grown from less than 5 per cent five years ago, to between 35 per cent and 40 per cent now.

Franklin Local Board chairman Andy Baker believed the beneficial effect of public transport on taming traffic through the town during the races went far beyond the numbers who used it.

Contrary to "chaotic" traffic scenes before Pukekohe lost the races for five years to Hamilton, the latest event caused no difficulties for local residents.

"Normal commuters within Pukekohe were rapt there was just no disruption," he said.

Mr Brewer said he feared a fall in spectator numbers next year, as happened after the first of the Hamilton-based races, and called on Auckland Transport not to be so "over the top" with its provisioning in future.

But a spokesman for the V8 Supercars organisers, Cole Hitchcock, said from Perth that there was no comparison between the two venues and "enormous scope" to build the Pukekohe event.

"Mr Brewer conveniently forgets the previous promoter made a big blunder [in Hamilton] with the configuration of grandstands which turned a lot of people off," he said.

"Public transport [to and from Pukekohe] worked an absolute treat so there is definitely scope to increase those numbers tenfold - once people trust the system they will use it more and more."

Roaring success?

117,167 Supercars spectator numbers (total over three days)
7339 Rail passengers
1753 Bus passengers
25 per centTarget public transport patronage
7.76 per cent Actual public transport patronage
? Cost of public transport for the Supercars

- NZ Herald

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