Save Waikato/Bay of Plenty passenger rail

Green Auckland MP and Assoc Transport spokesperson Keith Locke has written to MPs, local body leaders and stakeholders in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty as part of a Green Party effort to save rail passenger services.

“Today’s shock decision to terminate the Waikato and Bay of Plenty services means we must act fast.”

The Green Party expects to meet with the new owner of New Zealand’s passenger rail services this week, to discuss whether there is any way to keep all the current passenger services running.

“I’m trying to broker a cross-party accord to try and keep alive the three axed North Island services – the Waikato Connection (Hamilton – Auckland), the Geyserland Express (Rotorua – Auckland) and the Kamai Express (Tauranga- Auckland),” said Mr Locke.

The Greens are also working to keep two other passenger services threatened with closure (the Southerner and the Bay Express) open.

“My letter seeks a multi-party commitment to keeping the Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauranga services operating. If the local communities agree to work with the new owner in promoting and using the rail services, then with the right attitude and marketing strategy, all three lines could be put well into the black.

“There’s a big downside to stopping the commuter service between Hamilton and Auckland. This service is safer, less polluting and more energy efficient than commuters driving their own cars every day. Commuters have commented that the rail trip to Auckland is much less stressful than driving,” he said.

Mr Locke said it was a cop-out to say that few people wanted to travel by rail any more, and that was why the services were closing down.

“The success of the TranzAlpine and Capital Connection (the Palmerston North- Wellington) services show what a good marketing programme and passenger-focussed timetabling can do.

“Today’s announcement could be the beginning of a serious fragmentation of rail services. It shows the danger of leaving the track in TranzRail’s hands. If they can suddenly drop passenger services, they can also suddenly close a line, the Rotorua line being perhaps the most threatened.

“If that happens, then we will no longer even have the option of running passenger services, and we will have lost a critical part of our transport network forever,” he said.