Auckland Trains has been discussing putting rail to Hamilton. It makes a whole lot of sense to have regular rail service between those cities, New Zealand’s biggest, and 4th biggest. The Capital Connection has been doing the same kind of service about the same distance and between smaller cities quite successfully since 1991.
Currently the Capital Connection runs only on weekdays from Palmerston North to Wellington in the morning and in reverse in the evening, but Palmerston North (pop. 75,000) is only 140km from Wellington (pop. 180,000) and it passes through Porirua, Kapiti and the Horowhenua (combined pop. 125,000). It however doesn’t stop at Porirua!!!!
Why does the Capital Connection not stop at Porirua? Even the Wikipedia entry on the Capital Connection shows the train in Porirua. I would use it more if I could get on or off in Porirua. There must be a few people living in Levin and Otaki who work in Porirua who would use the train, and I would hazard a guess maybe even some in Palmie. I’ll send a link to this post to Porirua Mayor, Nick Leggett to see if he agrees.
It is quite a comfortable train to ride on, even if I do have to ride into Wellington, or get off in Waikanae or Paraparaumu to change onto the local train that will stop in Porirua. Here’s a piccie of the train heading north as I was walking to Paekakariki one day.
The Overlander does the trip in reverse, but it is the Auckland to Wellington train and I don’t think Tranzscenic market it as a Palmie to Wellington train at all. It leaves Wellington in the morning at 7.25am, stopping in Levin at 9.05am and Palmerston North at 9.45am. It also will pickup passengers in Porirua and Paraparaumu on the way. In the evening it leaves Palmie at 5pm, arriving in Wellington at 7.25pm. Yet the fare is $31 for a super saver or $54 for a flexi fare. The Capital Connection is $24.50 or $19.80 on a ten trip and there are monthly passes to make it cheaper still.
So branding part of the Overlander trip as Capital Connection and maybe having one of the CC style carriages and charging the same fares (maybe with the scope of stopping additionally at Shannon, Otaki and Waikanae) then there is a second Capital Connection service. At the other end of the line that carriage can come into its own again and similarly provide a Hamilton to Auckland service. 2 birds with one stone, as it were.
And what does the morning Capital Connection train do all day when it is in Wellington? Nothing. It is just stabled. So why not drop the number of carriages by a few, and then make a return run to Palmie and back.Suddenly there are now 3 services in each direction between Wellington and Palmerston North.
A summary timetable would approximately be:
Palmerston North 6.15am 1.00pm 5.00pm Shannon 6.38am 1.23pm 5.23pm Levin 6.53am 1.38pm 5.40pm Otaki 7.13am 1.58pm 6.00pm Waikanae 7.25am 2.10pm 6.12pm Paraparaumu 7.32am 2.17pm 6.17pm Porirua 8.03am 2.48pm 7.00pm Wellington 8.20am 3.05pm 7.25pm Wellington 7.25am 10.00am 5.15pm Porirua 7.42am 10.17am 5.32pm Paraparaumu 8.20am 10.55am 6.03pm Waikanae 8.27am 11.02am 6.10pm Otaki 8.42am 11.17am 6.22pm Levin 9.05am 11.37am 6.42pm Shannon 9.20am 11.52am 6.57pm Palmerston North 9.45am 12.13pm 7.20pm
All done without any extra infrastructure, or any extra rolling stock, except for maybe an extra carriage on the Overlander. So a thrice daily service for the price of some extra staff, and some diesel.
Apparently back in 1994 extra middle of the day services were tried but were withdrawn because they weren’t being well patronised. It could be different with a 3rd service and it all being well marketed. The midday service to Wellington allows 2 hours and 10 minutes for shopping and running errands. It’d be tempting to ride the train and not drive into Wellington (or more likely not make the trip at all) if you were living in Otaki or Levin.
Did I mention it should stop at Porirua?
Oh and Levin’s plan to build a new station closer to Queen Street could then be well justified.