Better connections for a growing city and a great example of a partnership approach is how Hamilton City Council Chief Executive Richard Briggs has welcomed today's funding decision for Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail infrastructure.

The NZ Transport Agency Board confirmed implementation funding to support the council's investment in the new Rotokauri transport hub and improvements at Frankton railway station.

The transport hub will include a park and ride facility, a bus interchange and a pedestrian overbridge for people to access The Base.

On a regional level, the funding decision also supports the Waikato District Council's Huntly rail station upgrade and KiwiRail's new carriage maintenance facility at Te Rapa. The funding also confirms development of ticketing systems and installation of wifi on carriages.

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"This is a special day for Hamilton, and the development of the rail service and other transport connections which will operate from the transport hub will be a key part of helping our residents get around our city and the wider region," Mr Briggs says.

"Our council has championed this project for a long time, and I want to acknowledge the way in which our partners, neighbouring councils, staff and government agencies have come together to get the best outcome for our communities. I would particularly like to thank the government and Minister Twyford for his support in effective partnerships between central and local government."

Passengers from Hamilton will transfer at Papakura to the Auckland electric train service to Britomart. Photo / File
Passengers from Hamilton will transfer at Papakura to the Auckland electric train service to Britomart. Photo / File

The passenger rail service travelling from Hamilton to Papakura is planned to start in mid-2020, with two return services on weekdays and one return service on Saturdays.

Mr Briggs says it's another link in a public transport approach which is essential to managing congestion and improving safety as the city grows.

"Through the Waikato Regional Council's Busit service, Hamilton already has free buses for 18-years and under on weekends, as well as a disability concession across the region.

"Passenger rail is another vital component in a city which expects to attract another 21,000 residents in the 10 years to 2028," he says.

The start-up rail project is being led by Waikato Regional Council, with partners NZ Transport Agency, Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council.

KiwiRail are delivering the rolling stock and the project is being delivered with the co-operation of Auckland Transport.

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The passenger rail connection between Hamilton and Auckland is one of the priority projects of the Hamilton to Auckland Corridor Plan, a joint iwi-council-central government initiative.

The Rotokauri Transport Hub will include a park and ride, a bus interchange, and a pedestrian overbridge to The Base. Image / Hamilton City Council
The Rotokauri Transport Hub will include a park and ride, a bus interchange, and a pedestrian overbridge to The Base. Image / Hamilton City Council

Tasman Rd changes approved for new transport hub

Meanwhile, Hamilton City Council says safety for tens of thousands of future commuters at Hamilton's Rotokauri Transport Hub was the key driver of a decision earlier this week to make changes to Tasman Rd.

Earlier this week, Hamilton City Council's Regulatory and Hearings Committee voted unanimously to approve proposed changes including reduced speed limits, restricting parking, building off-road cycle paths, and making a section of Tasman Rd in the vicinity of the transport hub bus-only access and closed to private vehicles.

Staff have also been asked to work with business operators in the area to identify improvements to other roads and intersections in the area to ensure alternate routes can best accommodate over-dimensional vehicles.

The council's Development General Manager, Chris Allen, says the decision aligns with the council's Vision Zero for road safety.

"Separating pedestrians and people on bikes from vehicles, reducing speed limits and supporting effective public transport are all ways we can improve safety and connectivity.

"We expect the Rotokauri Transport Hub to be a highly-used and vibrant pedestrian area, as part of a critical transport node linking to future mass transit connections within and outside Hamilton."

Feedback from business owners in the area was a discussion point for the committee, and as a result staff were instructed to involve transport operators in this area in the detailed road design as the project develops.

This week's decision is a further step in the creation of the public transport hub, which will provide a connection for the Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service as well as a bus interchange and a potential pedestrian access to The Base.

Planning for the transport hub and changes to Tasman Rd were mooted more than a decade ago and notified in the Rotokauri Structure Plan and District Plan in 2007, with land purchased in 2017 and funding for the hub included in the 2018-28 10-Year Plan.

The Council consulted on the Tasman Rd proposals in June and July 2019 and received 60 valid submissions, with 52 per cent supporting the changes, 45 per cent against and 3 per cent not indicating a preference.

Hearings were held last week, with eight submitters speaking about their submissions.