This is a guest post by our friend Darren Davis. It originally appeared on his excellent blog, Adventures in Transitland, which features “musings about public transport and other cool stuff in Aotearoa/ New Zealand and around the globe.”

With Te Huia now having funding secure through to 2026, now is the time to secure its future as a permanent service. Here are six ideas on how to do this.

For the uninitiated, Te Huia is a regional rail service between Hamilton and Auckland, running on a five year trial from 2021-2026. It runs twice a day Monday to Wednesday and Saturdays, three times a day on Thursday and Friday, and does not operate on Sundays, public holidays nor over the Christmas – New Year break. It has had a range of challenges and as I said sarcastically in a previous post of mine, “it has suffered more assassination attempts than Fidel Castro.”

Firstly, an enormous shout-out to the huge efforts from the Waikato and across the Motu that ensured continued funding by Waka Kotahi for the remainder of Te Huia’s five-year trial period. This was a sign of people power at its finest with diverse groups coming together for a common cause and speaking with a single voice. Kia kaha!

Even though the Waka Kotahi funding assistance rate for Te Huia is dropping in steps from 75.5 per cent to 70 per cent in 2024/25 and 60 per cent in 2025/26, Waikato Regional Council is stumping up the difference from its reserves. Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council deserve significant kudos for sticking with Te Huia through its various existential challenges. Without sustained political momentum and stamina over many years, along with strong public support, we simply would not have Te Huia.

Now for some ideas on how to entrench Te Huia as an integral part of Aotearoa’s public transport network.

Te Huia at Rotokauri Station. Photo credit: Darren Davis

1. More station stops in the Waikato

I have covered work to date on additional station stops in this earlier blog post. I recommend reading this  to get up to speed if you’re not familiar with the history.

There isn’t much to update on this which is sad, given the strong growth in the Upper North Waikato communities on the Te Huia route that are not station stops for the service. And it’s sad to note that the Waikato District Council Annual Plan does not include funding to advance work on station stops in their district at Tūākau, Pōkeno and Te Kauwhata. In particular, most employed people in Tūākau and Pōkeno work in Auckland but currently only have local bus service as far as Pukekohe.

However, Waikato District Council is investing in park and ride at Huntly Station which is a positive. But work does need to proceed at pace on serving the fast-growing Upper North Waikato communities, which have extremely limited transport choice apart from driving.

However, hope is not lost. Waikato District Council this year deferred doing a Long Term Plan by one year and instead produced an Enhanced Annual Plan for the 2024/ 2025 financial year. This means that the opportunity is not lost to include funding for new stations in its Long Term Plan process which will now take place next year. One option to contribute to station funding could be a targeted rate on the catchment area for individual stations. This would ensure a tight connection between payee and beneficiary as everyone, including car drivers, benefit from increased use of public transport.

2. More frequency

The unfortunate consequence of Waikato Regional Council having to dip into its Te Huia reserves to fund the increased local funding share is that it takes away a potential source of revenue to fund Te Huia service improvements.

It’s worth recollecting that the original trial for Te Huia was intended to build up to three return trips on weekdays, two return trips on Saturdays and a single return trip on Sundays. However, as I outlined in an earlier post, Waka Kotahi refused to rephase existing committed Te Huia funding to enable this to happen. This has limited Waikato Regional Council’s ability to fund service improvements beyond adding an additional return trip on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 February 2024.

Those service improvements generated significant patronage improvements, giving the truth to Jarrett Walker’s famous maxim: “Frequency is Freedom.

But now that much of the Southern Line Rail Network Rebuild of the Auckland metro network is due to wrap up in January 2025, it is timely to ask why there shouldn’t be Sunday and public holiday Te Huia services from that point.

For example, a single Sunday and public holiday return trip could come up from Hamilton mid-afternoon, connecting via Puhinui Station to Auckland Transport’s Airport Link bus, enabling easy access for Waikato folks to evening international flight departures from Auckland Airport as well as enabling weekend trips away by rail for Aucklanders. This service could return early evening to Hamilton, in turn enabling Waikato folks to have a weekend in Auckland and travel by train in both directions.

Another idea would be to make unbooked seats on KiwiRail’s Great Journeys of New Zealand Northern Explorer train between Hamilton and Auckland available at Te Huia prices to maximise both revenue for KiwiRail and maximise affordable train travel choice between Hamilton and Auckland.

3. Better bus connections at both ends

There are three places where bus connections to and from Te Huia are pretty good – Rotokauri, Papakura and Puhinui. And two places – Hamilton Frankton and Auckland Strand – where they are lousy to non-existent.

At Hamilton Frankton Station, commuter buses from Tokoroa and Te Kuiti, that only operate a single peak trip per direction, are parked up during the day. They would be better utilised for providing trips into the Hamilton Transport Centre, for example meeting the the 12:15pm arrival from Auckland and connecting to the 2:05pm departure for Auckland.

The Tokoroa and Te Kuiti connector buses spend their day asleep at Hamilton Frankton Station. They would be more useful ferrying Te Huia customers between the station and the city centre. Photo credit: Darren Davis.

For early morning departures, some early trips on the 3 Dinsdale or 19 Bremworth buses from the Hamilton Transport Centre passing Hamilton Frankton Station on Queens Avenue would be of assistance to better connect Hamilton City Centre to the station.

As for Auckland, AT’s 755 bus does serve Auckland Strand Station. From the city centre, this stops right outside Auckland Strand Station. But in the opposite direction, it involves crossing State Highway 16, the major truck route connecting the Port of Auckland with the motorway network. While there are pedestrian signals not far from the station entrance, the nearest inbound 755 stop is over 200 metres away and lacks shelter. As such, it leaves much to be desired in terms of safety and customer experience.

In the inbound direction, having a connecting bus waiting right outside the station to take people into the city centre would be a significant improvement in the customer experience. This is something that Auckland should be providing to support the success of Te Huia.

4. A station stop in Pukekohe

Rail electrification between Papakura and Pukekohe and the upgraded Pukekohe Station are soon to be completed. But urban train service is unable to resume from Pukekohe until early 2025 as work needs to be completed on the Rail Network Rebuild between Papakura and Pukekohe in the intervening period.

This leaves Pukekohe without any train service – suspended since work started on the electrification project – for up to another eight months. So it would seem obvious that Te Huia could stop at the upgraded station, at least in the meantime, and thereby give Pukekohe residents access to rail, including the ability to access the entire Auckland metro rail network by transfer at either Papakura or Puhinui stations.

This would be a significant benefit to both Te Huia and to Pukekohe and would enable Pukekohe to have some train service while waiting for the completion of the Rail Network Rebuild in January 2025. And this is a benefit that Auckland should be prepared to pay for.

5. Auckland paying its fair share

When it comes to public transport, both the origin and the destination benefit from having the service. The origin benefits as it gives people access to the service and the destination benefits from people making use of what the destination offers – and this includes spending money at the destination.

Auckland benefits doubly from Te Huia. First, from people in the Waikato spending money in Auckland. And secondly, from Aucklanders who use the service to get to the Waikato. At present, the Waikato is paying for both of these benefits to Auckland.

22% of Te Huia’s customers are from Auckland. Source: Te Huia Customer Satisfaction Survey 2023, page 34, Waikato Regional Council.

According to Waikato Regional Council figures, 22 per cent of Te Huia’s passengers are from Auckland (Te Huia Customer Satisfaction Survey 2023, page 34). Therefore, just over one fifth of Te Huia’s benefits are accruing to Aucklanders. In this instance, would it not be fair and equitable for Auckland to be contributing one-fifth of the opex for running the service?

6. The need for more speed

Let’s be clear, Te Huia does not need to break the land speed record for it to be successful. But it could do with a few measures to speed it up, especially within the Auckland rail network where many of its delays occur.

From my various trips on Te Huia, the rough split of timing is as follows:

Hamilton to Pukekohe – 86 kilometres in 90 minutes – average speed 57 km/h

Pukekohe to Auckland Strand – 52 kilometres in 70 minutes – average speed 45 km/h

Between Hamilton and Pukekohe, trains generally run at line speed varying from around 60 km/h through the single-track Whangamarino Swamp section to 80 km/h from the Whangamarino Swamp to Pukekohe and up to 100km/h on some stretches between Hamilton and Te Kauwhata.

The Whangamarino Swamp may be scenic but it sure as hell isn’t fast with train speeds limited to a maximum of 60 km/h. Photo credit: Darren Davis.

In the immediate term, there’s not much to be done with the Auckland metro network until the Rail Network Rebuild wraps up on the Southern Line. But KiwiRail, the rail network controller, does have a nasty habit of dispatching a northbound metro services from Papakura just before Te Huia, guaranteeing that Te Huia will be stuck behind a metro service at least as far as Westfield Junction. Letting Te Huia go first would give it a clear run at least as far as Wiri Junction, especially as Te Huia is generally ready to depart before the metro service.

But from January 2025, the rail network rebuild is scheduled to be complete to Pukekohe, enabling resumption of previous line speeds with the lifting of many of the remaining temporary speed restrictions. This should enable some worthwhile speed improvements.

The opening of the Third Main between Wiri and Westfield Junction could enable faster northbound journeys for Te Huia but would most likely involve building a third platform face on the western side of Puhinui Station, or an additional turnout north of Puhinui Station.

Now that Te Huia is finally represented on the KiwiRail timetable committee, hopefully its voice will be heard in the competing priorities between itself, AT Metro services KiwiRail freight and Great Journeys of NZ services, for smoother movement through the busy Auckland metro network.

Longer-term, the double-tracking of the current slow single track section through the Whangamarino Swamp would achieve significant capacity and travel time improvements for freight and passenger transport in the Upper North Island. It would also mean that the entirety of the North Island Main Trunk line between Auckland and Hamilton would be double-tracked (except for the Ngāruawāhia Rail Bridge).

Final thoughts

Te Huia has a two-year period before its trial is due to be completed in mid-2026. This means that work needs to start now on the step needed to guarantee its long-term success as an important part of the national public transport network.
While some of the above suggestions can be implemented quickly, others will take time, such as new station stops, so it’s imperative that this work starts now.

The Waikato has put in the hard yards and deserves our gratitude for this. Now it’s Auckland’s turn to step up to the plate and make a positive contribution, given that it is a significant beneficiary of the service, yet contributes nothing towards it.

We should not assume from the recent Waka Kotahi funding decision that Te Huia’s future is secure. It is still in a trial period and the more successful the trial is, the more likely it is that Te Huia will become a permanent service. Two years may sound like a long time, but the wheels of transport planning in Aotearoa can spin very slowly and two years will disappear very quickly. The time for action to secure Te Huia’s permanent role is now.

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  1. Is there any direct advocacy going on to encourage these changes? Are the powers that be aware of these possibilities? Especially the extra stops—it’s unbelievable that the train runs right through these towns without stopping. Surely there is a way to set up a platform quickly and cheaply as a proof-of-concept, like using the equipment for building concert stages at stadiums. That would get people on to the train for very little cost.

    1. I will be a gold card member in a year, however it should not be free for GC members. 50% discount is appropriate.

      1. Yes, gold card shoukk on d be for you to get from your home to the shops/family etc not for inter-regional pleasure trips. A discount like 50% would be more appropriate.

      2. I am a Gold card member.
        It is nice to have the luxury to travel free.
        To keep the service of Te Hua to run. I agree that we can participate in paying. However not 50% but 30%, after all we are retired pensioners.

        1. The UK equivalent of Gold Card is only for bus travel and tube.

          Given that Te Huia tickets are actually quite cheap by world standards, I fully support Gold Card holders paying a part of the cost of the service provided.

    2. Perhaps they could build a platform quickly with scaffolding to provide a quick station. Temporary platforms are commonly used when stations are getting rebuilt and I think that one could easily set one up whilst the Waikato government finds a more permanent solution.

  2. Considering there is also only one train that services Te huia, funding is needed to get more trains, to improve frequency. People should not work around trains, but trains must work around people, it’s just that simple!

    There are also still some sections along this corridor that need to be double tracked (Ngaruawahia Bridge, Te Kauwhata to Meremere) which would help to future proof the route to ensure that capacity is not quickly met.

    1. There are three trains in the Te Huia stable. Two that run services and one hot spare, although I’m not sure how hot the spare is at the moment.

        1. What Jezza is saying, the Te Huia fleet consists of three 143 seat 4 carriage/locomotive train sets, of which two are used for revenue services and one set as a permanent back up set for emergency and general maintenance rotation.

          You are correct, the two trains sets that are used for revenue are used for Thursday, Friday and Saturday schedules.

  3. Thanks, Darren. Great post.

    One final thing to secure its future: blog / write / talk about using it. With Waikato doing well on bike trails as well, the train+bike short trip away is simply fabulous. For a short weekend based in Hamilton, Friday night down and Monday morning up works if your work start time is a little flexible.

    1. As Darren points out the Northern Explorer goes north to Auckland on Sundays. So given that KiwiRail run both Te Huia and the NE it would seem sensible that seats – and bike space – should be made available from Frankton to Auckland at a reasonable cost. On my trips on the Northern Explorer people get off at Frankton so there are empty seats on this last leg. Another example where some simple joined up thinking would make weekend trips from Auckland to Hamilton by train feasible – and enjoyable.

      1. It’s great. Shame that there is no railway station stop at Ngāruawāhia, nor Cambridge.

        No car? You don’t count.

        1. There were.

          I still remember seeing the Ngaruawahia railway station burn down as a child in the 80s. It and Cambridge both need reconnecting to Hamilton via rail (obviously Cambridge is a harder one to do).

          Money spent on coach/bus services between Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Cambridge into Hamilton could then be diverted to a better service for all (rail).

      2. There are at least three excellent short trips we can take using Te Huia. I’d love to hear more.

        The first is to enjoy the path north to Ngaruawahia. Gorgeous scenery. A weekend is perfect for this. The other day maybe enjoy Hamilton Gardens.

        The second is to bike south to Cambridge. Absolutely stunning path. This was relaxed having three nights away, all in Cambridge. While there we had one day biking down to Karapiro for a swim and the other enjoying Cambridge itself, then biked back to The Huia on the last day.

        The third is to use the Busit buses (which take bikes) to go to Te Aroha, and explore the bike trails from there.

        These trips have been as fun and rewarding as any trips I’ve had anywhere. Excellent hospitality and scenery.

  4. Speeding up the Auckland metro trains, reducing platform dwell times, and finishing a third main would be great.
    Altering track charges from Kiwirail or otherwise lowering costs must be part of the mix, along with raising fares by at least inflation.

  5. Rather than asking for money from Auckland I suggest increasing the ticket price by $75 each. If anyone still wants to travel then good for them.

    1. They could also put a toll on the Waikato Expressway that covers it’s full construction cost. That would leave some interesting decision making for people.

      1. If trains are so great it is worth $75 of ratepayers money for each trip then why not $150? They could give each passenger $75 when they board and spend $75 per person running the train. The reason they don’t is because ratepayers would understand their money was being wasted.

        1. Te Huia is integrated into the Waikato Regional public transport network providing a public transport service between Hamilton and Auckland, like its Wellington cousin – the Wairarapa Connections that operates between Wellington and Masterton.

        2. Perhaps they could find all those idiots who blocked the motorway in Wellington to promote regional rail and make them pay for this boondoggle.

        3. The train is a waste of money. I totally agree the fares should reflect the cost. Jezza needs to understand the levys , GST, road user charges etc on various fuels have more than paid for the expressway. Let alone the benefits from reducing freight costs. This push for the train from a minority with a loud voice is ridiculous. I’d like some respect for the money I contribute to council through the rates I pay.

        4. OK let’s all ditch the trains and start driving on your expressway and we’ll see over time what happens to the travel times, pollution levels and accident rates and whatever else benefits the train brings to the expressway.

        5. Stephen – yes you’re right that fuel tax and RUCs have covered the cost of the expressway.

          However, they haven’t been paid for by users of the expressway, they have been paid for by drivers all over the country that use roads that have had minimal maintenance for years.

          The expressway is every bit as subsidised as Te Huia is.

        6. Really? Each trip on the expressway requires an additional $75 of public money? Someone should close it off if that is the case.

  6. You are spot on about the connections to the stations.

    I know an elderly person who, when returning home on Te Huia (to Auckland’s viaduct area) takes the inner link the clockwise direction (Parnell, Newmarket, Ponsonby, etc) to avoid crossing Beach Rd and then Fanshawe St. Being slower, particularly with a little luggage, the people-unfriendly phasing of the lights just doesn’t allow for safe passage across.

    In Hamilton, the connection to Frankton is so poor that those who aren’t up to the (lovely but longish) walk take the bus to Rotokauri instead. But the station there is pretty desolate.

    1. For those able to walk, the centre of Hamilton is less than 15 minutes from Frankton Station via a flat shared path.

        1. Oh, I imagine that’s true. I enjoyed it on a bright day in the middle of the year.

          About 40 of the passengers who got off at Frankton had got on at Papakura. They went for a gentle walk before returning to the station in time to take the same train back. (They made good use of their Gold Cards.)

          I took a bus back to Auckland that evening. Returning by road wasn’t as pleasant but it was that or spend only two hours in Hamilton.

      1. Google maps tells me it’s 23min to centre place. With luggage or rain it’s not really feasible for a lot of people
        Wheres the underground station when you need it

        1. As a big Google maps walker myself, I’ve never never taken as long it it says to walk and I’m always travelling with luggage. It’s waayy to forgiving with it’s estimates.

  7. PTUA requested the Auckland Council Transport and Infrastructure Committee to help fund Te Huia last week but it was a small part of a. broader presentation so was hardly noticed. Waikato Regional Council made a pitch for help with Te Huia some months back which was noticed but had no apparent effect. Good practical suggestions as always from Darren.

    1. Yes, Auckland Council was less than sympathetic to appeals for funding.

      On the other hand, it was a big surprise that the government did not cut funding altogether. Did they calculate it would not be politically expedient to do so? Or are they confident the service won’t last past 2026?

  8. The Capital Connection is a similar service between Palmerston North and Wellington; it runs just 10 times a week, five times each way.

    However it does appear to have a long-term future.

    Te Huia consisted of four cars sandwiched between two diesel locomotives. Now there’s just one locomotive. Will it still be hauling passenger cars when the Capital Connection gets hybrid locomotives?

    1. The Waikato Regional Council is interested in the concept of using similar 4 carriage bidirectional railcar sets that are being proposed for Wellington.

      By the way, Te Huia now operates in a ‘push/pull’ 4 carriage configuration using one locomotive.

  9. They should build a couple of extra platforms over the car park at Parnell for the te huia and northern explorers to use. Then, add an additional line that goes from the strand station to Parnell with the possibility of a new tunnel being built to New Market if more capacity is added to the New Market to Ōtahuhu. This would mean, especially post CRL, passengers could immediately transfer to the trains that go into the city. Also, a station building could be built over the Parnell car park with shops, provided it becomes a hub for regional trains in the future.

    1. Please don’t make Parnell a hub! It has the Domain on one side, so very limited options to connect to. Newmarket or Britomart (or Puhinui) would be better choices in my opinion.

      1. Maybe, but I don’t think the domain would be that much of an issue. The problem with britomart and newmarket is that there isn’t much room to build extra platforms and expand. However if you go to parnell, you could easiler build two extra platforms that would give you 5 extra tracks. Also, on the other side of the domain is parnell. So naturally any extra development in the area would be on the side that parnell is on.

    2. No. Just no. We need practical and sensible solutions, not involving extra tunnels, bridges, and shopping malls in the sky.

      1. An electrified twin-track tunnel under the Bombay hills *would* be cool, particularly if it connected to the north with continous four-track all the way to Westfield…and to the south with a new twin-track bypass of the Whangamarino Wetland.

        Funding, though…

        1. Yes it would cut around 15-20 mins off journey times for both passenger and freight rail with just the tunnel alone, the swamp would speed things up further.

      2. It wouldn’t be “in the sky”, it’s just refering to the fact that parnell station is quite low compared to the closest street.

    3. An easier alternative would be to build a pair of platforms on the eastern line alongside the Strand station. There is a flat, straight bit of track right there.

    4. Just to clarify, the reason I think an extra platform at parnell is because it would enable people to transfer to other public transport services easier than at the strand. As for the tunnel I suggested, it would be built in the distant future when we actually have multiple regional that are popular. When that happens, it could be beneficial to build a proper train station building over the platforms that could have shops in them like alot of train stations around the world. This would obviously not be built into the domain. Once again, this is in the distant future. For now, all I’m suggesting is that an extra platform be build on the side of the existing platforms where the car park is, and if needed an extra track that goes from the existing strand station to parnell. The train would still go via the eastern line.

  10. Most of the suggestions will increase costs and can’t be implemented quickly. So here’s what I think is possible. Pukekohe should be included as a stop as soon as the station is reopened. Super gold and other concession holders should be charged something not nothing. Waikato councils have control over buses and a big say into how Te Huia is operated. They also have a promotions budget. A Frankton station shuttle to the bus station would be a good option. It only involves walking of the platform and boarding a bus. Bus services to outlying towns like Morinsvillle or Matamata should be coordinated to meet the train. The Waikato has some cute towns that are well worth visiting as a day trip. Is there an oportunity to involve Te Huia and local bus services. But what to do about Pokeno. Building a new Station would be costly and time consuming and then there’s Tuakau and. Te Kauwhata. More buses I suppose. But transferring at Pukekohe is daunting it’s just so big. Passenger will just have to be fitter.


    1. > Super gold and other concession holders should be charged something not nothing.

      Just get rid of the gold card completely, it’s a rort for those who already receive the lion’s share of beneficiary payments in this country.

    2. “They” should be ripping into building a station at Tuakau & Te Kauwhata while investigating the best Pokeno station options.

      1. Why not build a station in Pokeno, and skip Tuakau and Te Kauwhata?

        Pokeno gives easy access for anyone dropping folks off from State Highway 2 (would save driving people all the way into Auckland). If they add a stop at Pukekohe as well, then Tuakau residents could either go to Pukekohe or Pokeno.

        1. It comes down to the cost of building a new station at Pokeno and who will pay for at it.

          Depending on the station design, whether it will be 2 track side platforms or a centre island platform like the original station layout, cost is estimate to be $10-$15 million depending on design.

          Like with bus/coach terminals, currently railway stations are deemed to be public transport infrastructure asset’s, so it up to local city and/or district councils to pay for railway stations with the help of a 51% subsidy from NZ Transport Agency/Waka Kotahi.

          Need to remember, Pokeno is in the Waikato region and comes under the Waikato District Council.

          The other issue, what will be the standard platform height, as platforms heights in the Wellington and Auckland region are different. A national platform height will be determined by the new regional/inter-regional train sets that is being planned for Wellington.

  11. The propagandist known as Auckland Transport is investing a serious amount of bus, bus stop, and other public space advertising money on MIX YOUR GO. If we can supercombo this with Te Huia, add those extra stations, and make the journey very bike person friendly; then as Heidi mentions, both towns could contribute to this important service.

    I have attempted to catch this train but not as a commuter, so adding extra tourist journeys should be a serious thought, completely integrating with the Northern Explorer.

    This at least keeps us on track to restore the main trunk line, and hopefully on a FAST TRACK to the next election, we can install a friendly government in Wellingtown; and connect Wairoa via rail.

    bah humbug

  12. Why go all the way into the Strand. The train could terminate at Papakura and passengers use the Auckland trains for the rest of the trip. Makes no sense to go into the city especially when the bus connections are not good when the connections at Britomart give so many more options

    1. I still think this is what they should have started with. Its not that difficult to walk across a platform to a train on the other side, provided the timings are right. The transfer train could be timed to be there ready and waiting to leave.

      It would allow much more services back and forth, crucially providing a service to Hamilton from those northern towns during the morning peak (and vice versa in the evening).

      1. It did terminate at Papakura originally. There was a significant jump in patronage after it started going through to The Strand, even if a number of these people are getting off and on at Puhinui.

      2. I’m a big transfers are fine proponent normally. If you miss the bus get the next one in 5 minutes. No harm done.

        But for a thin intercity trip like this, one seat ride is highly desirable.

    2. Te Huia did terminate at Papakura when the service initially started and lost support, as passenger do not want to change trains.

      With changes to the Land Transport Management Act last year by the previous government, allows for inter-regional public transport connectivity which means public transport services can cross regional boundaries.

    3. Having seen Te Huia last week overtake a suburban train going in the same direction, I assume some part of the third main is now in operation. The reason for Te Huia to go at least as far as Puhinui is because the trip is faster.

      Based on experience with the Waikato Connection back in the day, passengers from Pukekohe will also prefer a faster service.

    4. One seat ride in a slightly more luxury train all the way is better. Transfer in cold weather etc can be avoided, I can get a coffee, bite to eat, write up more of that report on the laptop & go to the toilet somewhere between Papakura & The Strand that I would not otherwise be able to do.

  13. Let’s make it worth it. It could do the whole of the Waikato Area, as far as Taumarunui . The northern Explorer is not suitable as a commuter passenger Train. This would give people in these areas a chance to get to Hamilton or even Auckland.

  14. The service needs some pop up stops at the towns along the route, to go faster, and most importantly, services aimed at Aucklanders visiting Waikato. Rn there is no realistic day trip options for someone in Auckland who doesn’t want to spend the night in the Tron.

    Why should Auckland contribute if Aucklanders can’t realistically use it?

    1. The Hunter line in Oz has small platforms at some little stations that they only open one or two doors onto. Temporary small platforms could suffice at tuakau, pokeno and TK in the meantime.

      1. Unlikely to be approved by the Rail Safety Regulator and even if they did agree, there would need to be selective door opening controls on the train to make sure that doors didn’t open on carriages beyond the platform

        1. That normal ops in the UK. There are Holt’s on the Welsh Valley lines where the driver only opens certain doors and only at certain times of the day. Auckland and the Waikato both need this.

    2. We built some reasonably cheap but effective platforms for the Helensville trial nearly 20 years ago. No reason this couldn’t be achieved at Pokeno even if it needs one on each side.

      Unlike the Helensville trial, it’s unlikely to be an investment that goes to waste.

  15. Remember the pop up station (or platform) at Morinsvillle for the Kaimai and Geyserland express back in the days. Real basic it wasn’t on the mainline even just an old siding. Still it worked but it wasn’t on a double track line. I have thought about it for Mercer just have a single platform on the third line which goes through there a bit like Huntly. I noticed that Huntly’s old freight yard has being turned into a log yard complete with container stuffing. Of course no sidings now so logs and containers go in and out by road. You read about it here so don’t say you couldn’t tread about it. Worse still Kiwirail has abandoned the NAL past Kauri at least until the new line into Marsden Point is built so basically never. They really are hopeless optimist.

    1. Napier line is gone burgers too. NZ has to be the most backwards country in the world regarding rail infrastructure. No other nation is still mothballing lines and services. Just look at what has been lost since 2000.

      Developing countries put us to shame, even the US is doing better.

      Shame, shame, shame, KiwiRail, NZ Govt and NZ voters. All guilty through plan or antipathy.

      1. I blame Kiwirail the engineers are in charge they just view customers as a nuisance. There are also bean counters who think that railways are just silly. So they extract as much as they can from the Auckland and Wellington metros and overbuild any new sidings and inferstructure so nothing stacks up. I still can’t get over the 20 metre piles for the pedestrian over bridges which are being put in at Middlemore Station. I wonder how deep the piles were on the old hardwood overbridge which it replaces. I would like to dig it up and see.

  16. All excellent ideas in the post. Yes, Auckland should pay something towards this, get that Pukekohe connection going for now at least and sort out a better stop location & shelter at The Strand end. I could be directly opposite, closer to the light-controlled crossing; just after the tight curve where current on-street parking is. Maybe the AT 755 bus could increase or keep the 20 min peak frequency all day or just around when the Te Huia is timetabled to depart or arrive.

  17. Thanks Darren, great post – I was told that the Saturday morning to Auckland had 50 people standing.
    Here my thoughts on your points
    1. Stations – Adding a station increases travel time. I would suggest do not stop at Papakura if opening new stop, and increase frequency of regional buses 21 & 44 to act as feeder routes to station, say at Mercer where there is space for large p&r.
    2. Frequency – Add a first class to the Northern Explorer, 2+1 seating that recline suitable for overnight, run NE daily & nightly. Allow new nationwide PT card to tag on/off the NE
    3. Bus connection – Improve access to Frankton station, you are looking the wrong way, Frankton’s High St is a stone through from the platform, If you allow pedestrian to cross rail line to High St & reroute the high frequency Meteor bus through Kent St, you have your connection.
    4. Pukekohe – does not have cheap land for P&R, but may work if buses 21 & 44 were higher frequency.
    5. Auckland – the proposed nationwide PT card will help. If the Waikato had adopted the Hop card instead of the beecard this may have made it easier to happen.
    6. Speed – Dutch rail has a design speed of 130kmh which is the same speed as our narrow gauge rail can be designed to, we just need to be will to upgrade & maintain to this higher standard.

  18. It should accept AT fares and thereby provide a good express service on the Southern line to complement the metro services. This would, I’m sure, increase overall ridership on tbe Southern.

    1. Te Huia uses Beecard and the Train Manager uses a hand held Beecard reader to process travel payments by ‘logging on and off’ the traveler as one transaction whilst moving through the carriages.

      Cash fares are processed in the SRC (Cafe) carriage using the Beecard System by issuing a paper ticket.

      Beecard is not compatible with the AT Hop system..

      Once Motu Move (new national ‘tap & travel’ payment/ticketing system) is fully rolled out by late 2026, will make travel on Te Huia much easier with one payment/ticketing system.

  19. This train should run directly..full speed to Britomart..maybe some stops..but a quick journey
    If this happens..the the slow labourious journey of two and a half hour..shall cease
    Look at trains in Europe..full speed buses to help out.
    Get real..get it fast tracked

    1. The current so called ‘slow’ speeds are due to the rebuilding of the Auckland AT Metro rail corridor north of Pukekohe coupled with the fact that AT Metro trains have priority over Te Huia which operates as priority freight, means Te Huia has to ‘follow’ AT Metro trains.

      With track rebuild between Pukekohe and Papakura being completed by the end of this year, the third main line being completed mid 2025, coupled with AOR and Kiwirail train controllers in the same room, running times for Te Huia along the Auckland Metro rail corridor will be faster than currently being experienced.

  20. There definitely needs to be more frequency, and not only conducive to people going Hamilton to Auckland as their commute. I’m in Auckland and would take the train to Hamilton on the weekend if it made sense!

    And it definitely needs to speed up. 45-57km/h is absurdly slow, no wonder it really isn’t competitive. The train should be faster (or at least comparable) to driving to be an attractive option.

    1. The current Te Huia fleet only allows a maximum of 4 return services per day 7 days a week between Hamilton and Auckland.

  21. The big problem is a hostile stance towards railways at both local and central government levels. I lived in Hamilton when what was to become Te Huia was first proposed and a big fight was put up then to stop it happening. The bus cartel demanded that they be afforded a subsidy to run a bus because the train was being subsidied. The problem there is that a bus gets caught in the motorway traffic jam just like all the other traffic while the train does not.
    The fight continues today with stopping it from running all the way into Britomart.

    1. I would really be able to take a train (Huia) from Auckland to Hamilton in the morning. And a return from Hamilton to Auckland at night. Is this possible? If not, why not ?

      1. Seconded. It’s a very Waikato-to-Auckland service pattern. Not so good if you want to go Hamilton for any reason.

        It’s still absurd that there are at least two sections of single track between Hamilton and Auckland.

  22. Since there is not a lot of money in the kitty, the following can be implemented over the next two years:

    a. Introduce a return service on Sunday early afternoon allowing Te Huia to operate ‘7 days’ a week being priority.

    b. Add Pukekoke station when it opens mid January 2025, being the beginning of the Auckland Metro rail network. Pukekohe is in Beecard Zone 6 and has the catchment areas of Pokeno, Taukau and Buckland which uses Beecard, so travelling from Pukekohe to Papakura is $3.60, to Puhinui $4.80 and to The Strand $6.00 each way. Beecard card transactions to/from Papakura can be completed between Pukekohe and Papakura.

    I have done some timings on the current 6.05am Monday to Friday timetable, Te Huia passes through Pukekohe approximately 7.30am with a running time of approximately 15mins to Papakura once current speed restrictions are fully lifted, arriving Papakura approximately 7.50am with a possible departure from Papakura 7.53am to Puhinui, not conflicting with the 7.56am At Metro Southern Line service, which Te Huia currently has to follow.

    There would need to be a timetable adjustment to Busit Route 44 Pokeno to Pukekohe bus service departing 5mins early at 6.50am arriving Pukekohe at 7.30am to connect with Te Huia.

    c. Improve bus connections to/from Rotorkauri Transport Hub. provide a shuttle service from the transport centre circling the city centre to Frankton railway station, initially using one of Busit’s 14 seat Sprinter bus’s and improve passenger experience at Rotokauri station to increase passenger loading’s at least 60% (86 passengers) per one way journey.

    1. I see the Hamilton Transport Centre is getting a refresh till October but remaining open.
      The 4-5 month project will include new seating and shelter along the bus platform, including sheltered space for people using wheelchairs and prams. A new, larger 24/7 accessible toilet block will be upgraded along with the driveway loop area – plus new e-bike charging, extra CCTV cameras, building glass replacement, new paint for the building interior.

      1. Oh interesting. I wonder if they’ll put in drinking fountains / taps. Crazy that such a nice facility doesn’t have any.

        1. Yes, the one time I’ve been through it I think I filled my drink bottle up from the bathroom taps, in a hurry, agh, was desparate. The map I’m looking at from online somewhere, maybe X/Twitter shows new gardens and seating instead of all the diagonal carparks in the very centre.

    2. Re Puke to Papakura. I see the older train timetable for the diesel metro service was timetabled as 16 mins for that journey. I guess the electric version will be a bit quicker but anyway sounds like the Te Huia would slot in between if they keep the Papakura metro timing the same. It must be a little tricky to keep the timing accurate enough coming all the way from Hamilton.

    3. Not a lot of money in the kitty? Take a look at what has, and what is still being spent on the Waikato Expressway and you will get an indicarion of just what is in the kitty. After the section between Lake Rd and Taupiri having been open for a decade they are still scratching around with it.

      1. I was referring to the Waikato Regional Council kitty and lessor extent Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council kitties.

        Waikato Regional Council has a reserve fund for Te Huia, which will be used over the next couple years to maintain existing and possibility one or two additional services.

  23. Make the southern terminus Te Awamutu so that Hamilton workers resident in Te Awamutu have a rail option

    1. I’d personally go for Matamata. It covers both Matamata and Morrinsville and in both those places the line is more central to town than Te Awamutu.

      TBH though I can’t see intra-Waikato travel being a big part of Te Huia while the ‘central’ station is at Frankton.

      1. It a lot easier to go to Te Awamutu, straight down the line that’s not very busy, but is fast and straight. It’s quicker by rail than by the average highway of SH3.

        Going to the east side means using the east coast trunk through hamilton as far as the junction at Waharoa, that’s single track and very busy. Plus it’s not a very direct route from Matamata, over twice as far at Te Awamutu, and not direct compared to the highway.

        Te Awamutu is the best place to go next, agree the station site isn’t great but theres lots of parking. And if it was a success they could run the Kihikihi bus to the station instead of all the way to Hamilton.

        1. You might have a point. This could be a more pragmatic interim expansion of service until a viable Tauranga setup can be found. Issue with location could be the killer though as we have seen, might need a town centre looping shuttle.

    2. Lloyd Weeber – it wont happen with the existing Te Huia fleet. Te Huia in its current ‘push/pull’ operating configuration is licenced by the Rail Safety Regulator to operate between Hamilton and Auckland.

  24. Its a bit of a worry that a very basic public train service between nz’s biggest and forth biggest city that are both on the main trunk line and are only 124km apart require so much effort from multiple areas.

  25. At the risk of sounding fanciful…
    Are the upgraded EF class locomotives able to run on the Auckland Metro lines? And would that allow them access to Britomart?
    (Assume they would have to be coupled with a diesel class to enable running from Te Rapa to Pukekohe).
    Or maybe splash out on a few narrow gauge variant of a Stadler Eurodual (if they exist)

    1. They are doing a business case to have new rolling stock included in the Wellington order. That would give them flexibility to operate on diesel or AC, but wouldn’t come until 2029.

  26. Adding in Bee Cards on Auckland’s airport link could also be good for driving up ridership as it would be easier for Waikato residents to use the airport link. This could be beneficial as the airport parking would be significantly more expensive compared to Te Huia and the service could be promoted as the best way for Waikato to get to the airport.

      1. I suppose but I’m not convinced that Te Huia can wait those couple years. Ridership must be proved now so that the service can remain in place. People take time to adjust their travel patterns so these things should happen sooner rather than later. Surely it wouldn’t cost AT much more either as they are already operating the buses

        1. Space – Beecard cannot be used in the Auckland region as there is no supporting Beecard infrastructure like communication and Beecard Readers on Airportlink buses plus Auckland is not signed up as a Beecard operator.

          It will be easier once the new ‘Motu Move’ national public transport payment system is fully operational in 2026/2027.

          For information regarding Motu Move –

  27. Maybe NZ should look at the “RAIL” in Adelaide., for several years they have been using “Daimler Benz” & Mercedes, “rail cars”
    Forget the huge cost of acquiring more narrow gauge trains… watch UTUBE below


    1. The even greater cost of converting a whole urban rail network (which carries freight too) to a lower capacity guided busway? Get real.

  28. The first thing to make this service work is for the trains to operate between Auckland and Hamilton. Not from the shunting yards
    The service must be all electric with some services stopping at popular stations and others providing an Express service.
    And the service will never work without the Bombay Hills tunnel.

      1. Yes, it will be wishful thinking.

        Until this government accepts that the national rail network is a strategic national land transport infrastructure asset, nothing much will happen.

  29. It makes sheer commonsense that once the Pukekohe station if fully operational, Te Huia should cease stopping at Papakura, but stop at Pukekohe. It stops at Papakura because that is the beginning of the Auckland commuter train service, but when Pukekohe is open, that distinction will pass to Pukekohe. If that does not happen, passengers from Pukekohe wanting to travel to Hamilton, will he put in the patently absurd situation of having to catch a suburban train from Pukekohe to travel all the was north to Papakura, only to catch Te Huia which will then bring them all the way back to Pukekohe. And when they are returning back from Hamilton to Pukekohe, the same absurdity will apply. Hopefully plain old commonsense will prevail!

    1. The debate is probably more about stopping at Pukekohe AND Papakura, not just Pukekohe instead. I think I agree, especially if not many speed improvements have been found and we may have introduced a stop or two at a northern Waikato town. We will soon have, from memory, the Drury & Paerata stations opening when the electrified line is opened up pre-CRL opening. I guess leave these stations to the Auckland metro system only.

    2. Carl – This is being proposed to make Pukekohe, being termini for the Auckland Metro rail network and Waikato Regional Council Busit Route 44 Pokeno to Pukekohe bus services to be the first station in the Auckland region.

      Since the Waikato region and Te Huia train services use Beecard, it will make easier for those who live in Pokeno, Taukau and Buckland to travel to Auckland using Te Huia.

  30. This is my suggestion about the lack of public transport from Frankton Station
    Why do ordinatry people like us have to make these sort of proposals which shoud be obvious to those working in the field and being paid to do so.?,!

    When a passenger from Te Huia arrives at Frankton Station unless they are being picked up or have ordered a taxi there is no other option but to walk the quite long path to the Transport Centre.
    I have done this once with a bag and it is quite a drag.
    There are 3 bus routes along Queens Avenue No 3, No 19 Cowley and No 19 Dinsdale.
    Surely it would be very simple for the times that Te Huia is due at Frankton for buses around that time on one of these services, or even all three , to make the very short diversion off Queens Avenue to Frankton Station and then back on to Queens Avenue..
    I would not expect the bus to wait if the train hasn’t arrived.
    I do not think it is a reasonable solution to expected passengers, many of whom are not familiar with Hamilton, to walk up to a bus stop in Queens Avenue.
    It’s all ab out making pubic transport as user friendy and convenient as possible.

    1. The post infers doing something like that, plus middle-of-the-day special ones. I’d be more keen to see them just up the frequency of those routes, all about hourly or worse, so I can see why I didn’t use them in the end. Up the frequency to 30 mins each offset by 15 mins. Barely 400 m walk, which is pretty good for a bus stop, though I note they need to put a path in on Fraser St (unless Google is out of date with that).

      1. The times are lumpy between the two routes and are not early or late enough. Of course, for many the next station up, Rotokauri, works better for all this.

  31. It would be a good idea To Think about the 15 carriages Sitting in the rail yard Taumarunui going for Scrap. . WHY KR doesn’t want passenger trains

    1. Te Huia is Kiwirail vision for regional passenger rail but the problem is, a region would need to have a regional population of at least 500,000 to make regional/inter-regional passenger rail economical under the current public transport funding guidelines.

      Out of the 16 regions in the country, there is only 4 regions that regional populations over 500,000 being Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington and Waikato.

  32. It’s great that we are coming into the 21st century with our Passenger train services. I have used the Te Huia service and I have found it to very good and time wise comparable to services in UK for distance travelled. It does require more stations IE Pokeno and Te Kauwhata as both these suburbs are growing. Put the services there and people will use them Freight is an easier income whereas passenger services needs a safer approach. If councils want cars out of their City’s then they should push for more reliable rail services.

    1. You watch what will happen, Kr will scrape scrape the last 15. and then say We have not got any spear carriages.

    2. I’d hardly call Te Huia a 21st Century service.

      It’s very much a 1950s service awaiting the axe from NZ Railways, when so many other services like this were disposed of in NZ.

      A 21st Century service uses modern rolling stock, runs all day, goes to a city’s main station (not Frankton or the Strand) and runs on Sundays.

      Te Huia is a good start but has a long long long way to go to be classed as a modern rail service.

  33. The Te Huia service needs to run on Sundays as well as Saturdays with return services in both directions, and run to Newmarket, which as well as being a popular destination in itself for work and pleasure, it has easy connections with nearly all AT Metro local train services across Auckland running to Britomart, Swanson, Onehunga and Papakura, which run through Newmarket.

    The Te Huia service needs to run into The Strand via Penrose with a stop at Newmarket, and then go onwards out via The Strand and the Eastern Line, running around the block so to speak in the morning. Then the opposite in the afternoon with coming in from Hamilton via the Eastern Line and The Strand, before carrying on to Newmarket with a quick stop and then go again onwards to Hamilton via Penrose.

    When Pukekohe station reopens, a stop needs to be introduced at Pukekohe to enable people from Pukekohe to travel south to Hamilton on the Te Huia services. The Pukekohe stop could replace the present Papakura stop, as Pukekohe station will be the big new southern interchange on Auckland’s public transport network.

    New stations also need to be built for Te Huia services at Tuakau, Pokeno, Te Kauwhata and Ohinewai to enable people who commute from these towns to Auckland to use the train service. A lot of people would use it if it were available.

    The Te Huia services should also be extended to run from Cambridge, which would require upgrading and reinstating the Cambridge Branch line, and reopening the Hamilton Central underground station, to make the rail service more accessible, serving more people.

    The second Te Huia service which runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, should be extended to run to Mount Maunganui on these days, which the current timetable is well-suited to add on to, eg:

    Dep Hamilton 5.49pm
    Dep Claudelands 5.58pm
    Dep Morrinsville 6.19pm
    Dep Tauranga 7.30pm
    Depart Te Maunga 7.45pm
    Arrive Mt Maunganui 7.55pm

    Dep Mt Maunganui 7.25am
    Dep Te Maunga 7.35am
    Dep Tauranga 7.50am
    Dep Morrinsville 8.59am
    Dep Claudelands 9.20am
    Arrive Hamilton 9.28am

    Dep Mt Maunganui 6.55am
    Dep Te Maunga 7.05am
    Dep Tauranga 7.20am
    Dep Morrinsville 8.29am
    Dep Claudelands 8.50am
    Arr Hamilton 8.58am

    Dep Hamilton 5.37pm
    Dep Claudelands 5.45pm
    Dep Morrinsville 6.06pm
    Dep Tauranga 7.15pm
    Dep Te Maunga 7.30pm
    Arr Mt Maunganui 7.40pm

    The train could leave Mt Maunganui at 8.15pm to be back at Hamilton by 10.30pm Saturday night, or run a Sunday afternoon Bay of Plenty / Strand and Sunday evening Strand / Hamilton service.

    1. Issac – Te Huia does have 2 return services on a Saturday. There is serious thought for 1 return service on a Sunday mid afternoon making Te Huia a ‘7 day a week’ service.

      There is growing support to make Pukekohe, being termini for the Auckland Metro rail network and Waikato Regional Council Busit Route 44 Pokeno to Pukekohe bus services to be the first station in the Auckland region.

      Since the Waikato region and Te Huia train services use Beecard, it will make easier for those who live in Pokeno, Taukau and Buckland to travel to Auckland via Pukekohe using Te Huia.

      With regards Te Huia traveling on the Southern Line to The Stand, will not happen as Newmarket is heavily congested with AT Metro train services.

      During the rebuilding of the Eastern Line, Te Huia did travel via Newmarket and is was a very slow journey.

      With regards to additional stations at Ohinewai, Te Kauwhata, Pokeno and Tuakau, these stations are in the master plan but wont happen within the next 2 years, due to the high cost of building them, as there will need to be funded by Waikato District Council in conjunction with NZ Transport Agency/Waka Kotahi. If there is a new station within the next 2 years, it could be Te Kauwhata due to the Lakeside Te Kauwhata urban development.

      With regards to ‘Te Huia’ traveling onto Tauranga, wont happen with the current Te Huia fleet. Te Huia’s current ‘push/pull’ operating configuration is only licenced to operate between Frankton Station and The Strand by the Rail Safety Regulator.

        1. What about South? Its an out there idea, but what about starting the train in Te Awamutu? You get travelers going into Frankton and alighting, as well as some staying on for stations north of there. I guess the timetable doesn’t help. You’d probably need a 5:30am departure from Te Awamutu.

          Its a lost opportunity, I think, being focused on getting to Auckland in one ride. Hamilton (new central station?) could be a hub for rail travel up to Puhinui and back, taking in the northern towns, while also south to Te Awamutu and Cambridge and Morrinsville to the east/south-east. But stock is tied up for almost 6hrs getting to Auckland and back.

        2. Grant – It is to do with the crash worthiness of the three SRV (Generator/Driver compartment) carriage. The SRV carriage are former SD carriages on the Auckland metro rail network prior to 2014, were designed for urban workings due to high number of controlled barrier road crossings. Even now Te Huia has to slow to 25kph on two uncontrolled farm road crossings between Frankton and Pukekohe.

          If Te Huia is to travel south and east of Frankton, the three SRV carriages will have to be strengthen to meet a higher crash impact standards for increased semi and rural workings which will be expensive as it will be a major rebuild of the front of the SRV carriages.

          Anyway, Kiwirail has indicated the current Te Huia’s three SR/SRC/SRV train sets and the Capital Connection SR/SRC/SRG train set are certified for main line operations until 2035.

        3. KLK – Starting a Te Huia service from Te Awamutu wont work with the current Te Huia fleet. There is only two train sets for revenue services with the third set as a back up.

          Te Huia’s onboard crew and drivers are Hamilton based.

          To start a Te Huia service from Te Awamutu, would require overnight stabling facility and local onboard crew/driver base.

          Te Awamutu has been identified as a termini and stabling/crew base under the long term Waikato regional passenger rail initiative.

  34. Fidel Castro should have been assassinated – he was a terrible leader who ruined Cuba.
    Of course there is nothing wrong with Cuba – its a lovely place – just as the idea of a rail connection between Auckland and the Waikato is also a lovely idea, but this train is a terrible service.
    There needs to be a regular fast service. A train every hour that is faster than the alternative. This train is more than twice the time to travel by car and an hour longer than the bus takes. It is therefore the Castro of rail 🙁

    1. He’s a question For Auckland transport Why were these carriages in the Taumarunui yard For 7 years? Also, why didn’t they sell when they were in good condition For
      A reasonable Some of Money.. It was a waste of text payers and write payers money.

  35. To be frank people! Only options you got Te Huia being sustainable and serving for next 5 years or more by (Option 1) Get consortium or investment firm just like with ‘Brisbane Airtrain’ to replace current trains to EMU

    (Option 2) getting government assistance to replace trains and electrify rail between Pukekohe-Te Rapa

    (Option 3) Phase out electrification Pukekohe-Te Rapa between 3 phases Pukekohe-Mercer(extend Auckland boundary to Mercer and AT EMU Trains to Mercer), Mercer-Huntly, lastly Huntly-Frankton

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