The Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail service is on track with a sod-turning ceremony held last week to launch the start of construction for the Rotokauri Transport Hub — a key connection for the Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service, a pivotal link in the city's bus network, and a major milestone in the next chapter of the Hamilton story.
Labour MP Jamie Strange, Paula Southgate, mayor of Hamilton, and local iwi turned the official sod and were joined by Hamilton City Council staff, stakeholders and other key members of the community.
Mrs Southgate hailed the project as a prime example of what can be achieved through collaboration across council boundaries and through partnerships with Government and its agencies.
The Transport Hub initiative was a key plank of the wider Hamilton to Auckland Corridor project involving local and central government and iwi to progress the Government's urban growth agenda, she said.
"If we are to unlock the potential of this region, we must — all of us — put aside our boundaries and work with others to achieve the very best outcomes for the people we represent," Mrs Southgate said.
"As a high-growth city, surrounded by high-growth, high-potential districts like Waikato and Waipa, what happens in our region and in Hamilton matters. The Government has clearly recognised that, and this project illustrates the wider partnership Hamilton has tenaciously and successfully pursued with central government.
"I look forward to continuing discussions with government ministers on a range of other issues relating to Hamilton and the wider metro area."
She thanked councillor Dave Macpherson who had played a key role and had been a "staunch advocate" of public transport for many years.
In June 2018 the former council adopted its 2018 10-Year Plan, a plan which embraces the opportunities growth presents as well as making the most of the city's existing assets.
The Rotokauri Transport Hub is part of a $2 billion investment in the city's biggest-ever 10-Year capital programme to set the platform for planned, sustainable growth and to look after Hamilton's future transport, infrastructure and community facilities.
Hamilton City Council general manager development Chris Allen says there are significant social benefits in providing the city's residents a choice in how they get around the city, adding this is an exciting step forward for Hamilton.
Once completed the hub will include a park and ride facility for rail and bus passengers, including mobility spaces, electric vehicle charging spaces, drop off and pick up zones and taxi stands.
The total project cost to develop the Hub, including land costs, design work and additional roading, is $29 million, of which $18.5m is contributed by government through Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency subsidies.
The new passenger rail service is scheduled to start in mid-2020, with Waikato Regional Council contracting KiwiRail to provide it. The service will offer two week-day return services and one Saturday service. The trip from Rotokauri to Papakura is expected to take 80 minutes.
In the next few months the train carriages will be refurbished, stations built and upgraded, and timetables, ticketing and on-board amenities finalised.