by Gareth Hughes
As the Herald reports, this weekend three communities in the Waikato – Huntly, Tuakau and Te Awamutu, staged sit-ins at their local train station. They were there to show their support for a passenger rail service between Auckland and Hamilton. You can see some footage of the sit-ins here.
The sit-ins had huge support with over 250 people attending the event at Tuakau alone – pretty awesome for a small rural town.
I wish I could have sat with them but I wasn’t able to attend unfortunately as I had a prior engagement talking about sustainable transport to students on Waiheke Island. I was in Tuakau reccently talking about the need for a commuter rail link and I support these local communities and hope they will soon be successful in their campaign for a commuter rail service.
Their campaign has been bolstered by the recent news that patronage on Kiwirail’s 3 long-distance passenger services have reached a record high. In particular, the Overlander has had phenomenal growth of 24% in one year. And yes, this is the same service that in 2006 the government wanted to shut down as it said it couldn’t be successful.
Similarly, Auckland has also seen record increases in public transport patronage this year – with over 60 million trips and an increase of almost 12% in rail patronage in just one year.
Rail in NZ is on a roll and it will take is a little more investment to improve our services to a point where many NZers have a viable alternative to cars.
I just hope that the government has enough sense to recognize that and put funds into important rail projects in future – like the Auckland-Waikato rail service and CBD rail loop – rather than more white elephant motorways. Do you think they will?