Sitting in traffic in May 2013 on the Southern Motorway, trying to get to Queens St in peak traffic. ‘’This is a nightmare’’, I say to my co-passenger. ‘’If only there was a train!’’. We discuss the pros and cons, remembering when back in the late ‘90s there had been a train from Frankton to (we think) the Strand, Tauranga, that for some reason had been cancelled.
Facebook is the place to be, so as we sit in gridlock, I create a Facebook group, imaginatively called ‘We want a commuter train between Hamilton and Auckland’.
I invite all my friends to ‘like’ the page and start engaging with various other groups such as the Campaign for Better Transport. I attend Regional Council meetings, contribute to council plans by way of submission, and occasionally ring talkback radio.
Three years go by, and I am in a queue at the Pumpkin Festival at the Hamilton Gardens. Then Labour MP and spokesperson for public transport, Sue Maroney is ahead of me. We get chatting, as you do, and discover this common interest. From there, we agree to meet, and following a couple more meetings decide to see if we can form a more formal group to get some solid research and higher profile. Fortunately, the Railway Union and the University of Waikato agree with us, and we get funding to complete a feasibility study.
With the numbers in hand, we are finally ready to go public. It’s great timing, with an election looming and a mayor who at that time was not at all keen on public transport. We need a better name and ‘The Rail Opportunity Network’ – or TRON for short, is born, and officially launched at a public meeting held at the Frankton Junction Hotel in April 2016. Attended by politicians, lobbyists, the press, and plenty of others interested in supporting rail between Hamilton and Auckland, we are now really on our way.