Ghost train: Hamilton to Auckland train's lacklustre popularity revealed

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Thu, 8 Jul 2021, 5:00AM
The Te Huia Hamilton to Auckland train. (Photo / Supplied)
The Te Huia Hamilton to Auckland train. (Photo / Supplied)

Ghost train: Hamilton to Auckland train's lacklustre popularity revealed

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Thu, 8 Jul 2021, 5:00AM

New figures reveal the Te Huia Hamilton to Auckland train is only a quarter full on weekdays.

Newstalk ZB can reveal there are just 34 people, on average, who ride the train on weekdays – the train has a capacity for roughly 150 passengers.

That means 75 per cent of the carriages are empty on Monday to Friday.

Newstalk ZB can also reveal revenue brought in by ticket sales on an average weekday is just $1679 – or less than half a million dollars a year.

Meanwhile, cash ticket prices for the service have gone up.

The numbers come from an Official Information Act request provided to National's transport spokesman Michael Woodhouse.

He said the Government is losing money hand over fist on a project no one asked for.

"We believed this service just wouldn't be patronised and we were right."

He said when the service launched, there was a lot of fanfare with MPs and officials on the first trip.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was one of the first passengers - she and a number of other MPs were on the inaugural trip.

When the service launched in March, Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington was adamant it would not become a ghost train – even going as far as saying he would give away tickets, if necessary. 

But Woodhouse said the numbers paint a very different picture.

"The reason it's not [very popular] is because it's not a service people see as a service that's better than the alternatives."

Transport spokesman Michael Wood has defended the project, saying although the numbers are low now, they will grow.

He confirmed the passenger numbers were accurate and said this was broadly in line with what had been expected.

"This is a five-year start-up service – we anticipated it would start off with relatively modest numbers."

But he said as it builds up, in terms of people's awareness of the train line as a service, those numbers would improve over time.

He wasn't worried about the low revenue.

"The Government subsidises most parts of our transport system."

But he said there are significant economic, social and environmental value in this service for the people of the Waikato and Auckland.