A ‘Trains to Huapai’ campaign has been launched by the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) to push transport authorities to link the fast-growing North-West area to the regional rail network with a diesel shuttle service from either Swanson or Henderson to Huapai.
“The North-West is experiencing rapid population growth and is home to some massive Special Housing Areas. Locals are increasingly stuck in long traffic queues on State Highway 16. Yet we have a perfectly maintained rail line running right through Kumeu-Huapai, where surplus passenger trains could be relatively quickly and cheaply deployed,” says PTUA Chair, local resident and campaign spokesperson Christine Rose.
She says the ‘Trains to Huapai’ campaign is supported by the North West District Business Association and hundreds of locals who are sick of transport inaction and excuses.
“Auckland Transport tells us local bus services are improving and one day there’ll be dedicated busways, but that is years away and will be hugely expensive. Utilising the current rail corridor would mean a fast and comfortable service, with advantages over buses. You don’t get stuck in traffic on a train, and on a train you can do work on your laptop!”
She says while it would be great for those commuting to work, it would also meet the needs of many others in the community, including students and shoppers. A number of major local events would also benefit, including the Kumeu A&P Show and the Kumeu Folk Festival.
Gary Holmes, BID Manager of the North West District Business Association, agrees.
“The Association strongly supports the initiative to achieve a regular rail service to Huapai. We see it key to increasing the profile of North West Country as a visitor destination. Currently, the lack of viable public transport options for visitors means the area is losing thousands of tourists and Aucklanders each year,” says Mr Holmes.
Ms Rose says PTUA has done considerable research and modelling on how the service could best operate, and is promoting 14 services per day in each direction – hourly from 6.00am to 8.00pm. She says there is already a diesel shuttle service regularly operating as a successful model, from Papakura to Pukekohe.
As well as unveiling billboards around the area, the group has launched a website www.trainstohuapai.org which debunks a number of myths about a proposed passenger rail service. A petition will call on Mayor Phil Goff and Auckland councillors to support ‘Trains to Huapai’ through Auckland Transport, and a survey will be conducted to quiz locals on their current transport needs and costs of congestion.
PTUA is also hosting a public transport debate featuring the main political candidates standing for the Helensville electorate at 2.00pm on Sunday 23 July at the Kumeu Community Centre on Access Road. The meeting is open to all and the public will have the opportunity to ask candidates questions.
Ms Rose says the group’s timing will ensure that the ‘Trains to Huapai’ issue will form a big part of Helensville political contest before the General Election.
“We also want people to support our advocacy for a ‘Trains to Huapai’ service to be delivered as part of Auckland Council’s 2018 Long Term Plan. With strong people power, the politicians could easily make this happen, so we’re asking people to sign up and support the cause,” says Christine Rose.
Jon Reeves, PTUA Co-ordinator says “Auckland Transport already have available spare railcars and carriages available, so from that side of things a service could be implemented relatively quickly – if they had the will.”