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The school holidays and loosened Covid-19 restrictions saw a much-needed boost for the service, according to figures released by Waikato Regional Council on Friday.
It opened just over a year ago and was hampered for months by Auckland's border restrictions.
In its last run of the holidays, two extra carriages needed to be put on with increased demand. In total, 568 passengers got on board the four services between Tamaki Makaurau and Waikato on April 29th, with almost every trip at capacity.
"It’s been great to see so many people giving Te Huia a go, as well as welcoming back some familiar faces with the shift from Red to the Orange setting of the Covid-19 Protection Framework," a statement from Waikato Regional Council read.
"We welcomed 4245 passengers onboard over the two weeks, adding to an already busy month with the start of the Government's half price fares initiative on April 1."
The council is hoping the trend continues, with the subsidised half-price fares continuing until the end of June.
Te Huia transported an average of 260 passengers each weekday in the month of April, totalling 6092 people. That's up from its first month of running in April 2021, when 3855 people travelled. There were closures over Easter and ANZAC Day on both years.
Te Huia transported an average of 260 passengers each weekday in the month of April, totalling 6092 people, up from its first month of running in April 2021, when 3855 people travelled.
Christopher Luxon has cited the train as an example of wasted government spending in recent weeks, and reiterated his sentiment when questioned by 1News in Ashburton on Friday.
"My point has been, we just don't want to subsidise white elephant public transport projects because they have to stand on their own feet," he said.
"They have to be really compelling as a proposition that consumers are choosing to use them because they actually think they get a better service and it's actually more convenient for them."
New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi approved more than $98 million to get Te Huia up and running.
"The bottom line for us has been we've spent $100 million - $280 per passenger - subsidising that service," Luxon said.
"My point is that it hasn't been working and so I get there might be new numbers this week, this month, but let's look at the data and see what's really going on."
Transport Minister Michael Wood on Friday refuted claims about the $100 million figure to subsidise the service.
"In addition to repeating his walked back assertion that public transport should not be subsidised, Luxon repeats the big lie here that Te Huia has cost $100m so far. It hasn't," Wood said on Twitter.
"This is the total 5 year cost for all capital & operational expenses. Taking that figure and dividing by Y1 patronage for a 'per head subsidy' is either financial illiteracy or outright dishonesty. At a time of climate crisis, National relentlessly attacks PT & walk/cycle projects. We will keep investing to give real transport choice & reduce emissions."
It costs $9 to travel between Auckland's Strand Station and Hamilton's Frankton, and less if jumping on or getting off at stops along the way, including Rotokauri (The Base), Huntly, Papakura, and Puhinui.
It takes two hours and 25 minutes from end to end.
The Government's first Emissions Reduction Plan is set to be revealed alongside Budget 2022 later this month, with public transport and the climate crisis set to be a focus.
This article first appeared on www.1news.co.nz
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