Additional off-peak services will start running in February 2024 as part of the exciting next stage of improvements to Te Huia announced by Waikato Regional Council and KiwiRail.
A third daily return service will run on Thursdays and Fridays, where demand has been highest, and a second return service on Saturdays.
The new timetable will come into effect from Thursday, 8 February 2024.
Waikato regional councillor and Future Proof Public Transport Subcommittee deputy chair Angela Strange said it was an exciting step-change for passengers.
“Te Huia is regularly meeting, if not exceeding, its targets for weekday patronage. The additional service will offer commuters greater travel flexibility – something they’ve asked for. They’ll be able to take a later morning train from Hamilton, and/or an earlier train home from Auckland.
“It will also double the number of Saturday services and enable passengers to have shorter stays in Auckland and get home at a more reasonable hour. We believe this flexibility will encourage increased weekend patronage, beyond the already very popular school holiday periods,” Cr Strange said.
The improvements were intended to start in April this year, but had to be shelved due to delays in receiving an approved safety case variation from the regulator Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and low train driver numbers.
KiwiRail had signalled the additional services might not be able to start until June 2024 at the earliest due to train driver shortages, but after monitoring attrition rates and continuing the training of 82 new drivers, it will have appropriate numbers available in early 2024.
“KiwiRail is proud to now be able to run additional Te Huia services, making transport between Hamilton and Auckland even more convenient,” GM Scenic Journeys and Commuter Rail Tracey Goodall said.
“Adding to this, we will also have completed upgrades to The Strand station customer centre in time for the launch of the new Te Huia services, which will improve the overall travel experience for passengers.”
At the moment there are no facilities for Te Huia passengers, except for some undercover seats which are only available when the train is at the platform.
KiwiRail is transforming its old signals building, further along the platform, into a station building for Te Huia and the Northern Explorer. It will have check-ins for each train, a café, comfortable waiting area, toilets and showers, and free WiFi for passengers. There will also be some fencing improvements around the platform.
The upgrades are designed to meet accessibility standards.
Separately, other work is being done by the City Rail Link to build a permanent wheelchair access ramp between Ngaoho Place, which runs directly behind the platform, and The Strand (road). There will also be some trackside work to improve accessibility between Platforms 1 and 2 and some wayfinding improvements to the car park area.
For timetable and other information, visit tehuiatrain.co.nz or call 0800 205 305.