One-off Te Huia Weekend Charter Considered For The New Year
A weekend charter service using Te Huia rail carriages will operate in January, providing an exciting one-off experience for visitors to the Waikato and Auckland regions.
The request to operate the charter service came from Hamilton city and Waikato district councillors on the Te Huia rail governance group as an opportunity to experience Te Huia train travel and promote the start-up passenger service ahead of its launch.
It’s proposed the standalone charter will depart Frankton on the morning of Saturday, 16 January, arriving close to Auckland’s CBD 2.5 hours later. It will stop at Rotokauri and Huntly, and then return at midday with Auckland passengers planning to visit the Waikato.
A Sunday service the following day will run to return customers to their home destination.
The train will have a capacity of 217 seats, with passengers able to stow luggage onboard for their overnight stay. All on-board amenities – such as WiFi, café, toilets, USB/charging points – will be available as usual.
The charter service will be managed by Leisure Time Tours in close partnership with Hamilton & Waikato Tourism and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development. Travel packages would incorporate the rail journey, bus connections, accommodation, breakfast and exciting tourist excursions.
The return train fare and accommodation package will start from $248 per person (twin share).
The charter was unanimously endorsed at a meeting of Waikato regional councillors in Hamilton yesterday [29 October]. It now goes to the rail governance charter sub-group for final approval early next week.
“Te Huia signals a renaissance of rail in the Waikato region,” said Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington.
“This charter is a huge opportunity for us to promote this groundbreaking service ahead of its launch, helping to generate the step change that travelling by rail is cool and economical.”
Cr Rimmington said: “It will also help to test the viability of a longer-term operational concept that could include sporting events and school holidays. I applaud the initiative of some on the working group to give this charter a go.”
During discussion, Waikato regional councillors heard the operational cost of the weekend charter service will be just under $21,000 in total, which is budgeted to be fully covered by fare revenue.
Following on from the regional council meeting, Hamilton city councillor and rail governance group member Ewan Wilson said: “I’m excited this unique one-off charter service will provide bespoke tourism packages for people to explore two beautiful regions.
“I’m proud that through collaboration with our partners we have been able to create unique tourism packages which support our local hotels, tour operators and unique facilities.”
Meanwhile, the date for the launch of the Te Huia passenger service is due to be decided by the governance group in November. At this stage, it is likely to start in February once KiwiRail’s track renewal and upgrade programme on its Auckland metro network has progressed enough that speed restrictions impacting Te Huia service passengers are lifted.