By JEFF NEEMS and DANIEL ADAMS - Waikato Times
The Greens have added their support to the campaign for a revived Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail connection, promising to keep pressure on the Government to explore the proposal.
More than 11,000 people signed a petition calling for the construction of a commuter rail connection between Hamilton and Auckland.
The idea has met with strong support locally, with dozens of submissions to Environment Waikato's draft annual plan backing the idea, but it has yet to gain any traction with the Government.
Greens transport spokesman Gareth Hughes – in the city yesterday to meet the Greens' new student arm at Waikato University – said the commuter rail connection had real merit and offered a long-term option for linking Auckland and Hamilton.
Parliament's transport and industrial relations select committee chaired by Hamilton East MP David Bennett had effectively dismissed the petition but Mr Hughes said he believed the idea was "still not dead" despite Mr Bennett acting as "a roadblock".
"We've got the tracks, we've got the (rail) cars, and we've got the support out there, so we need to go ahead and do it – link up the first and fourth-largest cities."
Mr Hughes pointed to the 2011 World Cup as a "great incentive to get a commuter service happening".
He accused the National Government of "gambling all our transport resources on roads" and not thinking long-term.
The Greens wanted to see a "corridor of national significance", with construction of a rail-line – or space for it to be built – alongside the Waikato Expressway the Government has pledged millions toward. Mr Hughes said the Greens did not have costings for a Hamilton-Auckland commuter rail link, but they believed the cost-benefit ratios would still be greater than those for new roads.
Hamilton City Council, has set aside money, and asked Environment Waikato to fund a two-year trial, and support a bid for the New Zealand Transport Agency to contribute.