The Saturday Te Huia train from Hamilton will soon start taking passengers direct to central Auckland without the need to change to the AT Metro train at Papakura and without stopping at other Auckland stations.
From Saturday July 24 the Waikato to Auckland Te Huia rail service will travel direct to The Strand station in Parnell on the eastern edge of the Auckland CBD.
"The Strand station is within walking distance of popular central Auckland destinations such as Spark Arena, Queen St, the Downtown Ferry Terminal, University of Auckland and Parnell, to name just a few," says Te Huia rail governance group chairman and Waikato regional councillor Hugh Vercoe.
For a limited time, Te Huia ticket prices to The Strand will remain the same as those to Papakura – a $12 fare from Hamilton on Bee Card or $20 cash.
The new direct Saturday service will depart Hamilton at 7.41am and arrive into The Strand at 10.10am. It will depart The Strand station at 5.40pm on Saturday, arriving in Hamilton at 8.14pm.
The governance group announced the improved service following what it described as a successful trial of the extended Saturday service last weekend.
"Saturday services are proving popular," Vercoe said. "We were at seated capacity with 215 up last Saturday and 180 back in the evening – and we are thrilled to get people directly to central Auckland without needing to change trains.
"Te Huia has been operating just over three months and we've moved quickly to prioritise improvements, working closely with KiwiRail, in response to feedback from our communities and passengers," he said.
"The Saturday service extension is the first of a number of improvements planned for Te Huia."
The Monday to Friday Te Huia commuter train operates two northbound early morning services collecting passengers from Frankton, Rotokauri, and Huntly. Two southbound services travel in the evenings in reverse. The operators are continuing to work to boost the number of weekday commuters travelling on Te Huia to Papakura - with fewer than 50 passengers on some recent trips.
For passengers travelling further than Papakura during the week, Auckland Transport (AT) Metro Southern Line electric trains bound for Britomart depart from Papakura station every 10 minutes, stopping at other Auckland stations along the way.
Saturday services will still stop at Papakura, and Te Huia will travel directly to and from The Strand without stopping at other stations within Auckland.
Vercoe cautioned that Saturday Te Huia passengers wanting to connect with AT Metro trains at Papakura should check before they travel, as planned track works will mean metro trains may not be operating to their normal schedules on some weekends.
Passengers can check on the tehuitrain.co.nz website, use AT's journey planning mobile app or call 0800 205 305 before travelling.
The newly introduced Bee Card family pass will also be valid for Te Huia travel through to The Strand. Children under 5 always travel free and passengers with a SuperGold Card concession registered on their Bee Card will also travel for free on Saturdays.
The Te Huia rail governance group comprises councillors from Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council, with senior leaders from Auckland Transport, KiwiRail, Ministry of Transport and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.