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This post from Malcolm McCracken, a Transport Planner at MRCagney, was originally posted on LinkedIn.
In short, the service delivers a pretty excellent passenger experience. The refurbished carriages are clean, modern and not too dissimilar to what you would expect in the interior of trains overseas.
The seats are comfortable and designed for the intercity service, quite a contrast to those you will find on Auckland’s urban trains. Positioned around sturdy tables, with multiple power points and even USB power points for charging smaller personal devices.
All of this caters well to individuals like myself who used the time on board to get some work done. In fact, I even managed to hold Teams calls using the Wi-Fi through the Auckland urban area until we lost service through Drury and Paerata. For the remainder of the journey I worked on documents that I had saved offline. The ability to work while travelling is a significant benefit of intercity rail, so it is positive to see the trains have been designed to cater for this.
The interior of the café car is a 2+1 seating configuration to allow for wheelchair access through to the café and toilet
The on board café has great coffee, a selection of simple food and great service. If you were travelling on an afternoon service, the café is licensed for you to enjoy a beer or wine as you take in the views of the Waikato.
The train is designed to be accessible, so the café car has a chair lift, and the toilet is designed with a wide folding door. If anyone knows of anyone who uses a wheelchair who has taken Te Huia, we would love to hear about their experience.
In short, it is a pretty good passenger service considering it is being run on a freight network. How can we continue to improve the service and grow patronage?
Increasing frequency of the existing service will allow Te Huia to be a viable option for more types of journeys. Weekend service is currently limited to one return service from Kirkiriroa on Saturday. My return to Tāmaki Makaurau will be by car due to the limited weekend services.
Promising though, is the plan for increased frequency in a Waikato Regional Council committee meeting recently. 6 trips per weekday, 4 trips on Saturday and 2 on Sunday are the goal for Te Huia to reach in the next two years.
The timeframes are subject to rail maintenance and upgrades occurring on the Auckland rail network but to give full effect to the trial, we need to deliver more options that suit a greater variety of trips to truly test the market for inter-city rail.
We are currently at phase 1B with 4 trips each weekday and 2 trips on Saturday. - Source: Waikato Regional Council
Increasing average speed
Currently Te Huia is not particularly fast with an average speed of 57 km/h from the Strand to Hamilton (Frankton) Station despite there only being four stops over the 138-kilometre trip. Increasing this to an average speed of 80km/h would bring the journey time down to 1:44, excluding stops, from 2:27 currently.
To achieve this would require investment in track improvements. There are noticeably moments where the track condition requires trains to slow down or starts to jolt the carriages around. This would have benefits to freight as well on one of our busiest freight corridors.
New trains, to replace the refurbished carriages at the end of the 5-year trial, could deliver higher top speed and faster acceleration to improve journey times. These could be bi-mode with the ability to run on a battery between the electrified sections in Hamilton and Auckland. This would be similar to what Greater Wellington and Horizons Regional Councils are investigating for the lower North Island rail network.
Adding more stops, particularly in north Waikato, can improve connectivity across the two regions and reduce car-dependency in smaller towns. Ngāruawāhia, Te Kauwhata, Pōkeno and Ohinewai are all experiencing growth with the latter being the site of the Sleepyhead New Town.
Huntly is the only stop in the Waikato District Council area currently. Should more be added?
Track improvements could allow for split service patterns with limited stops running more express between the two cities with a local ‘all stops’ service providing all-day connectivity to these growing towns.
Half price travel – Experience it yourself!
Today, April 1st, is the start of three months of half price public transport nationwide. No, it is not an April fool’s joke. So, until the end of June, you can travel from Hamilton to Auckland for just $9! Whether it is for a work trip, to see whānau or just for a change of scenery, you should consider using Te Huia for your trip.
Passengers disembarking at Hamilton (Frankton) Station