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Phoebe Falconer answers your questions about Auckland

Ask Phoebe: Cost against inter-city commuter rail

By Phoebe Falconer

Photo / iStock
Photo / iStock

It would be great to have a public/commuter rail link between Auckland and Whangarei (even greater if it travelled via a harbour crossing and the North Shore, of course). I constantly wonder why the existing rarely used rail network between the two cities (via Helensville) is not being used for this purpose. As more and more of the population spreads north of Auckland, for folk who still work in the Auckland CBD and surrounds surely it makes sense to provide a commuter alternative where infrastructure already exists?

- Richard Godman, Auckland.

I went around the traps with this one, first KiwiRail and then Auckland Transport. "Not us," they chorused, "try central government." So I did, and here is their response. (I might add that, in my mind, a similar argument applies to a commuter service between Auckland and Hamilton, and so I added it to the question).

Ina Fuimaono from the Ministry of Transport (MoT) says that "regional councils are responsible for planning, programming and funding public transport services. Questions regarding inter-regional commuter rail services are therefore a matter in the first instance for Northland and Waikato Regional Councils and in Auckland's case, Auckland Transport. However, MoT can offer the following general observations.

"The significant cost of running commuter rail services generally means these services can be operated only with significant ongoing subsidies. Councils therefore need to weigh the costs of providing these services against the other transport priorities for their regions.

In terms of Hamilton-to-Auckland commuter services, in 2011 Waikato Regional Council considered the viability of a commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland but decided not to proceed with it. MoT understands this was because of the significant subsidies that would be needed and because the trip time was likely to be unattractive to users compared with other options. The council's 2015 Regional Land Transport Plan reconfirms that such a service is not currently feasible, but notes that discussions on this matter are ongoing.

"MoT is not aware of any interest from Northland Regional Council in supporting a Whangarei-to-Auckland service. It is also important to note that the North Auckland line would require a substantial upgrade to run an effective commuter service, so KiwiRail would need to weigh up the cost of this investment against other national network improvements."

And from my own observation, trains from Hamilton would need to be hauled by diesel locomotives, which I understand are not permitted inside Britomart.

From the Northwestern Motorway, the Auckland Harbour Bridge looks more or less like the outline of Rangitoto. Was the bridge built to resemble the island?

- Amy Richardson, West Auckland.

Not as far as I can ascertain. I think it's just serendipitous.

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Do you have a question for Phoebe? It can be about transport or any Auckland issue. Email: askphoebe@nzherald.

- NZ Herald

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