The business case allows for the fit-out of rolling stock and the detailed design of infrastructure. The trial is estimated to cost $NZ 78.2m ($US 53.6m), including $NZ 68.4m funded by the NZTA and $NZ 9.8m from local authorities.

NZTA will now work with local councils and national operator KiwiRail to develop a pre-implementation plan in early 2019.

The 1h 22min service will begin at Frankton in Hamilton, stopping at Rotokauri and Huntley before terminating at Papakura, a distance of 105km, where it will connect with the Auckland commuter rail network. Intermediate stops could be added at Te Kauwhata, Pokeno and Tuakau. Two services will leave Hamilton each weekday morning at 06:30 and 06:40, returning in the early evening.

A new station including a platform and park & ride facility will be built at Rotokauri while the platform at Huntly station will also be upgraded.

The service will begin with a four-car train with capacity for 150 passengers each way, which will be expanded to a five-car train with capacity for 200 passengers as demand grows. The fare is expected to cost $NZ 12.20 one-way. Coaches will have Wi-Fi, a cafeteria, USB power points, toilets and bike racks.

Initial patronage projections forecast 20,600 passengers in the first full year of operation rising to 103,000 at the end of the fifth year. KiwiRail will own and maintain the rolling stock while the service will be operated by Auckland Transport.

“We know more and more people are commuting between Hamilton and Auckland, and introducing this trial service will give them a choice in how they do that,” says New Zealand transport minister, Mr Phil Twyford.