KiwiRail is keen to work with councils in the Hawke's Bay region on a potential commuter train service from Central Hawke's Bay to Hastings and Napier.

CHB Mayor Alex Walker said she had been approached by "a good number of residents" who had suggested the start up of a train service to accommodate a booming population of commuters in the district.

KiwiRail spokesman Alan Piper said the company was interested in building stronger connections within regional New Zealand.

"Commuter rail services are typically the result of KiwiRail working with NZTA and relevant regional councils to ensure that the service is appropriately aligned to the wider regional transport, employment and housing needs," Piper said.


"Currently regional councils determine what commuter services they want, and KiwiRail acts as a supplier of services.

"We are keenly interested in running commercially viable rail services that connect customers to experiences, employment and housing."

Walker said concept made logical sense but research would need to be conducted to make sure it was a viable and affordable option for the region to invest in.

"The connections between the different parts of the region both economically and socially are getting stronger and closer, so there's an opportunity to strengthen some key links between working population in Central Hawke's Bay with places like the Hastings CBD, EIT and the hospital.

"I think there's some real positive economic and social spin offs from that too. Families are spread across Hawke's Bay as well and I think this is a very forward thinking suggestion."

Walker said she had already done some exploration in terms of what the concept would look like through regional public transport plans, connections with KiwiRail and the provincial growth fund.

"The questions we're asking at the moment is what is the business case, what is the support and what technically could it look like."

Walker also said environmental factors also came into play when it came to a regional train service, as it would mean fewer vehicles on the road as well as a reduction in carbon monoxide.

"Those are certainly benefits of having a public transport model, but we need something that economically and commercially stacks up - so we have to have a good understanding of people who could move by train and I imagine it would be a pretty long term investment to get it up and running."

A spokesperson from the NZ Transport Agency said they had not been in any active discussions with KiwiRail about a passenger rail service in Hawke's Bay.

Hawke's Bay regional councillor and chairman of the Regional Transport Committee Alan Dick said the concept was mentioned in the Regional Public Transport Plan which was now open for public consultation.

"It's not a confirmed plan, but it is in there - it would probably be considered as a bus service rather than rail.

"Rail sounds attractive but there are some practical difficulties, for example a lot of people who commute from CHB work at the hospital, they wouldn't be able to get there easily by train - they'd had to use another mode of transport.

"On the other hand a bus service - if it was viable - could go from point to point. That's a reservation I have, but people may think differently."

Dick said about six years ago they trialled a bus service from CHB to Hastings and Napier, but it wasn't much of a success.

"But it is there as an option and things have changed in the last six years. We will look at these options with an open mind and see what happens."