The NZ Transport Agency has approved funding for a trial of the Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service.

New Zealand Transport Minister Phil Twyford said that the agency has agreed to a business case, which will enable subsequent steps to roll-out the trial service

The five-year trial between Hamilton and Auckland is scheduled to begin in March 2020.

The total cost is estimated to be NZ$78.2m ($53.65m), including services supplied by KiwiRail.

NZ Transport Agency will provide NZ$68.4m ($46.93m), while the remaining NZ$9.8m ($6.72m) will be contributed by local authorities.

“This trial service will demonstrate how investing in public transport can help manage growth and shape our towns and cities.”

Twyford said: “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.

“The government is committed to investing close to NZ$4bn in public transport, rapid transit and metro rail across New Zealand.

“This trial service will demonstrate how investing in public transport can help manage growth and shape our towns and cities.”

He added that the trial service will have stops in Hamilton at Frankton, as well as The Base in Rotokauri, before travelling onto Huntly and finally terminating at Papakura in Auckland.

There is future potential to include stops at Te Kauwhata, Pokeno and Tuakau.

Initially, the services will operate with a four-carriage train capable of accommodating 150 passengers.

If demand increases, a five-carriage train with the capacity to carry up to 200 passengers will be deployed.