The re-instatement of a passenger train between Tauranga and Auckland continues to gain strong interest from a group of city firms currently shelling out more than $100,000 a week on commuting costs.
A Priority One study investigated 37 targeted corporates and other businesses in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty to find what their inter-city travel requirements, practices and costs are and whether they would be interested in the concept of commuting by rail.
A passenger train is one of the options being looked at.
Corporates and businesses commuting the most include Zespri International, BECA, Comvita, Sharp Tudhope and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.
Travelling by road means several hours of unproductive time, while flying can be costly and still requires a trip into the city from the airport – both expensive and time consuming.
Together the 37 firms currently spend $104,558 in travel costs and staff time on weekly commutes, including $71,550 in unproductive staff time, $23,408 in driving mileage and $9600 in air travel, including taxi fares.
Priority One project manager Annie Hill says in the last few years interest has been generated in reinstating the passenger train service, with firms supportive to align with business needs in Auckland.
Of those that travel at least once a week to Auckland, 88 per cent say they would consider using the service. But they note the service would need to be faster than driving, have wi-fi capabilities, not be too expensive, and have reasonable departure times to suit business needs.
Sharp Tudhope general manager Peter Wilson says on average up to four of the firm’s 50 staff are in Auckland throughout the week at any one time, making the trip in their own time by vehicle.
“What we tend to do is travel in our own time, rather than bill people for it, so it’s lots of early morning and late nights,” says Peter.
“There is an element of risk doing a lot of travel over these roads; and the time we could spend on a train we could be doing a bit of work.”
He believes the rail reinstatement would be beneficial for all firms – especially ones looking to expand their business and coverage north of the Bombay Hills.
“We have a small project office in Auckland and hope to be able to grow that a bit.”
Annie says despite the survey, giving New Zealand Transport Agency via SmartGrowth an economic viewpoint on the cost, the chances of a commuter service are very slim in the next 20-30 years as the rail lines do not have the capacity.
With freight rail the current priority, the rail service would need a significant upgrade to accommodate a fast passenger service, says Annie.
She says from an economic development perspective it is great to have so many businesses doing business in Auckland, but this comes at a considerable cost in terms of travel arrangements – particularly in terms of downtime incurred by staff when they drive.