The confirmation that $92 million will be available to implement and operate a new commuter rail service between Hamilton and Auckland is an investment in making the Waikato a better place to live, according to the project partners.
They welcomed the news from Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
NZ Transport Agency will fund $79.8m of the cost and $12.57m will come from local authorities, with the new service from Hamilton to Papakura due to roll out for the first time in June 2020, subject to the completion of stations.
With funding confirmed Waikato District Council can upgrade the Huntly rail station, and KiwiRail can start on a new carriage maintenance facility at Te Rapa.
In Hamilton, the city council can improve Frankton rail station and in September will start construction of the new Rotokauri transport hub, including a park and ride facility and bus interchange in Tasman Road and a pedestrian over bridge across the tracks to The Base from the rail platform.
Funding also gives the green light for the installation of wifi on carriages and ticketing systems.
The project is led by Waikato Regional Council, with co-funding partners NZ Transport Agency, Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council. KiwiRail will operate the service with the co-operation of Auckland Transport.
"Investment in this service is an investment in Waikato communities, making it a better place for us to live," WRC chair Alan Livingston, speaking on behalf of the project, said.
"The population within Auckland and the Hamilton-Waikato metropolitan area is on track to double within the next 40 years.
The motorway system alone won't be able to cope with this growth. It's vital we establish and continue to improve passenger rail connections to relieve pressure on our roads and provide capacity to grow," he said.
"Establishing high-quality rail connections that can move a lot of people requires significant lead times to plan and build infrastructure.
"It's essential we start improving the rail system now to meet these future growth needs and set our next generations up for a more sustainable future," Mr Livingston said.
The start-up service will need to grow to include inter-peak services and additional stops in the north Waikato, as well as investigating the option of extending through to Puhinui in South Auckland to connect with direct bus routes to the international airport.
"Passengers will be able to plan their trip with confidence, with a consistent and reliable journey time that can't be achieved when driving during congested peak hour traffic.
"We've heard from commuters they're currently driving in stressful traffic conditions for long periods of time in the early mornings and evenings.
"Taking fatigued drivers off the road is going to make it safer for everybody," Mr Livingston said.
To start with, two return services will operate each weekday, with times that suit commuters travelling to Auckland.
There is also one return service operating on Saturdays.
The new service will take passengers to Papakura where they can transfer to Auckland's electric trains.
The regional council will be collecting a rate from Hamilton ratepayers to help pay for the operation of the service, with the majority of the running costs subsidised by central government.
• The one-way rail fare from Hamilton to Papakura will be $12.20, and from Huntly $7.80. A separate ticket will needed for the connecting AT metro service to Britomart.