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The new carriages for the new Te Huia passenger rail service being prepared in KiwiRail’s Hutt workshop

Tentative start date for new train service Te Huia

Waikato Regional Council has announced a tentative November 2020 launch date has been set for the new start-up passenger rail service from Waikato to Auckland.

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Te Huia is the passenger rail service that will connect Waikato to Auckland. Capable of carrying over 500 passengers per day, the service has been years in the making and will transform the journey of Waikato commuters travelling between Hamilton, Huntly and Auckland.

The Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown resulted in work on the Huntly and Rotokauri stations, as well as the fitout of the carriages in Lower Hutt, stopping until restrictions eased under Levels 3 and 2. 

It resulted in the governance group announcing in April that the previously advised start date of 3 August could not be met, but that they are optimistic it could still be on track to start before the year’s end. The rail governance group met again in mid-May to consider the anticipated project delays due to the Covid-19 limitations, and to consider a revised commencement date. 

Hugh Vercoe, Waikato regional councillor and chair of the rail governance working group, says the various project teams are yet to fully understand the practical implications of working under Alert Level 2 and the impacts on their supply lines.

“It’s fair to say we will need to closely monitor the implications of Covid-19 on project delivery over the next few months, but early November represents a realistic start date at this stage,” Councillor Vercoe says.

“The governance group will also be closely following the public transport patronage numbers for Waikato and Auckland over the next short while, and these will be factored into a confirmed decision on the start date for our service.

“We know how keen people are to see this service up and running. We are too. But there are a number of factors outside our control that could impact when we roll out of Hamilton for the first time,” he adds.

Loss of productivity

The governance group heard that the loss of productivity is generally greater for infrastructure, such as buildings, as a result of spacing limitations during the Covid-19 crisis. For the rail project, this means the greater risk element is fabrication and installation of the Rotokauri Transport Hub bridge.

By the end of October, in time for the tentative new commencement date, it is expected the section of bridge from Hamilton’s Tasman Road to the rail platform will be ready, including the elevators, with the section across to The Base to follow four weeks later.

The start-up passenger rail service project is being led by Waikato Regional Council, working with partners KiwiRail, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council and Auckland Transport.


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