Te Huia derails critics with passenger numbers increasing ten fold

Published on 24/05/2023 at 7:30 am.

Despite a rough start to operations with low patronage, multiple cancellations, and scheduling problems, the Te Huia train service to and from Auckland has celebrated its 100,000th passenger.

The milestone was hit on Tuesday morning with officials announcing it had hit its two-year passenger number target and was contributing to lowering carbon emissions.

Launched in early April 2021, after a $98 million investment by the Government, Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council, and Auckland Transport, the service came under fire from the National Party’s transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse who said the service should be scrapped after just three months.

In June 2021, an average of just 35 people were catching the 6.28am train from Hamilton on weeks eight, nine and 10 of the service.

But things had changed by July 2022, when a half-price public transport move by the Government and scheduling improvements saw Te Huia fill up rapidly, with weekday average passenger numbers rising to 217.

Now, according to statistics from Waikato Regional Council, more than 320 people use the service daily.

The service runs two return trips on weekdays and one return service on Saturdays.

The regional council’s Climate Action Committee chairperson Jennifer Nickel said it was contributing to lowering carbon emissions and was on track to meet patronage targets, despite setbacks.

Figures for April 2023 showed an average of 321 passengers using the service on weekdays, reaching its year two one-way demand goal of 320.

The council has set a target of 400 passengers per day by the end of year three.

“For April, emissions were offset on 80% of Te Huia trips due to greater than 55 passengers being on board each service,” Nickel said.

“If an average car has 1.2 people in it and Te Huia is carrying 320 passengers every day, this means it is saving about 37,000 kilometres of car travel every day – that’s almost a quarter of a million kilometres saved each week.”

Regional councillor Angela Strange, deputy chairperson of the Future Proof Public Transport Subcommittee, said their two-year performance target of 320 passengers per day was hit ahead of time, “despite the impacts of Covid-19 and having to delay the roll-out of service improvements”.

Strange said feedback suggested the number of people using the service would keep increasing.

“This is important, because we have to complete a two-year performance review at the end of the year and patronage is one of the key measures by which Te Huia’s success will be measured,” she said.

While Te Huia has notched up its second birthday, the service has not yet operated for two years due to stoppages when Auckland was locked down after Covid-19 cases spiked in August 2021.

For further reading of the article in the Waikato Times

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