The public is to finally have its say on a trial commuter train between Hamilton and Auckland, bringing the Waikato one step closer to the service.
A multi-agency working party, which has been investigating viability for the $1.9 million service, wants the idea to be publicly consulted.
It's the first time since a campaign to get a commuter train travelling between the two cities began two years ago that Waikato residents will be able to officially voice their opinions.
In March last year an 11,500 signature petition was presented to Parliament calling on the Government to implement the rail service, while a telephone poll of 1155 residents and ratepayers in the Waikato found 81 per cent of those asked supported the train.
If adopted following public consultation, a Silver Fern passenger train leased from KiwiRail could run between Frankton railway station in Hamilton and via The Strand to Newmarket in Auckland at peak times.
An off-peak service could operate between Frankton and Britomart railway station in Central Auckland.
It's proposed the 96-seater railcar would set off around 6.30am and stop at a station to be built at The Base, as well as at stations in Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Tuakau, Papatoetoe, The Strand in Parnell and finally Newmarket.
The train would return to Hamilton for the day, allowing Auckland business people into the Waikato before heading back in the afternoon to return to Auckland in the evening.
It's estimated there could be up to 130 passengers a day with fares costing up to $24 one way. The trip from Hamilton to Auckland would take about two hours while the service would initially operate as a two-year trial.
Working party chairman Norm Barker said the decision to put the service out for public consultation marked a significant milestone for the group, which had taken into consideration the survey results, as well as the findings of extensive research.
"However, this is far from a done deal. It's still a few hurdles to leap through yet before it even gets to public consultation. But we've had strong indication in the past that the service is sought after."
He hoped Waikato regional, Hamilton city, Waipa and Waikato district councils would sign off on the service by October 30 after which the consultation could begin.
If endorsed by the public, details for the implementation of the service would need to be worked through before the service would begin.
"We're also carrying out further work to show the economic and social benefits this service would provide to Auckland reducing congestion, improving road safety and providing additional services for their commuters too," Mr Barker said.
Campaign for Better Transport convener Cameron Pitches said he was delighted with the next step. He said a two-year trial was a "decent length of time" and hoped that if the service was successful, a second Silver Fern train would be used to grow the service. Without government funding, it was estimated the rail link would cost ratepayers up to $22 each a year.By Natalie Akoorie