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Sod turning marks historic moment for region

Construction work on the $29 million Rotokauri Transport Hub that will be a key connection for the forthcoming Hamilton to Auckland passenger rail service, was officially launched yesterday.

Labour List MP Jamie Strange, Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate and local Iwi turned the official sod that marked a historic moment for the growth of the city.

Sod turning ceremony of Hub
(L to R): Labour MP, Jamie Strange, Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate, Waikato Dist Mayor Allan Sanson & WRC Cr Hugh Vercoe (Courtesy: HCC)

The hub is expected to cater for 30,000 passengers a month and will include a bus interchange, a rail platform and a pedestrian bridge over the railway to The Base. The hub will also provide a park and ride facility for passengers, including mobility spaces, electric vehicle charging spaces, drop off and pick up zones and taxi stands.

Mayor Southgate hailed the project as a prime example of what can be achieved through collaboration across council boundaries and through partnerships with Government and its agencies.

“If we are to unlock the potential of this region, we must – all of us – put aside our boundaries and work with others to achieve the very best outcomes for the people we represent,” Mayor Southgate said.

The central government has contributed $18.5 million of the $29 million hub costs through NZ Transport Agency subsidies.

View of the Hub from Tasman Rd
View of the Hub from Tasman Rd, looking North (Concept drawing: HCC)

Jamie Strange was excited about the continued economic and population growth of Hamilton and wider Waikato region as “growth brings with it exciting opportunities.”

“Growth is not just about housing, it’s about people and how our communities connect. It’s about partnership, collaboration and recognition that the best outcomes are achieved through working together (with high-growth councils) ,” Strange said.

While acknowledging the successful partnership of council with central Government in this project, Mayor Southgate promised to continue discussions with government on a range of other issues relating to Hamilton and the wider metro area.

National MP, David Bennett while welcoming this “first practical step” in the rail link, expressed some reservations on the planned diesel train.

David Bennett
David Bennett

In his comments to NewsViews, Bennett says “The Waikato Expressway has completely transformed Hamilton’s future and is the primary link to Auckland. The rail will compliment this link.

“We would have preferred the extension of the Auckland electric rail network into the Waikato at a cost of approximately $200 million rather than this subsidy of $90 million on 160 passengers on a diesel train. With a government not investing in infrastructure, this is potentially all that we can receive from them (the government) and so have to use it as best possible to compliment existing major infrastructural investments,” added Bennett.

The hub is part of a $2 billion 10-Year capital investment by the Council to enable and support planned, sustainable growth and look after the city’s future transport, infrastructure and community facilities.

The new passenger rail service, to be operated under contract by KiwiRail, is scheduled to start in mid-2020. The service will offer two week-day return services and one Saturday service. All trains will start from Frankton Station and travel via the new Rotokauri hub and Huntly, before terminating at Papakura Station in South Auckland.