Wellington Scoop

Twyford gives new hope for light rail in Wellington

Light rail could be fast-tracked in Wellington, according to a report today in the New Zealand Herald.

The newspaper reports new Transport Minister Phil Twyford as saying the four Let’s Get Wellington Moving scenarios to fix the city’s traffic congestion problem “lack ambition”.

“We have a Government that is committed to building up the role of public transport, to investing in modern rapid transit in our cities to make them work better,” he said.

He wanted to work with Wellington to develop an inspiring transport plan to make the city more liveable.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester and Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw responded positively after meeting the Transport Minister to hear his views.

Lester told the Herald he shared Twyford’s ambition for the city. “I completely agree with him, we want to be bold, we don’t want to nickel-and-dime, we want to get the best once-in-a-generation outcome for Wellington.” Lester said there was potential to bring forward the timeline for light rail.

“If we’ve got the opportunity to bring mass transit, light rail or another form forward in time, then I’m wholly supportive of that.”

Laidlaw said he was on the same page as the Transport Minister. “I’m very keen to be more ambitious, we want to see public transport upfront, we want to see a mass transit corridor, we want to see decisions about the mass transit options.” He said the project might look road focused but the work was necessary to free up space for public transport.

“This question of never never land for light rail is not an issue, we might be able to start on light rail, if it’s the best option, very shortly.”

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency interim chief executive Derek Fry said one thing was clear- the new government has a different approach. “They are not looking for naked economics, they’re looking for a much more whole of life experience so that transport is about growth, it’s about wellbeing, it’s about the future …


  1. Patrick Reynolds, 23. November 2017, 8:24

    Disappointing from Laidlaw; the old and absurd idea that first more roads must be built to ‘free up space’ for alternative modes. No. More road space = more traffic, and even space (and no money) for alternatives. [via twitter]

  2. Brent Efford, 23. November 2017, 9:32

    Exciting – but let’s hope they get the fundamentals right and don’t screw up by sticking with the PTSS model as LGWM has done.

    An integrated and complete rail system as formerly envisaged by the GWRC etc, not just ‘light rail’ per se, is the essential concept.

  3. Welington Commuter, 23. November 2017, 9:50

    The basic problem with Wellington PT is that the buses get stuck in the traffic because they do not have their own road space. The same will happen to light rail unless road space is freed up.

    Some zealots would say just take the road-space away from cars and give it to PT. LGWM actually does this WRT to roadside parking (the dedicated PT corridor space along Lambton/Willis/Courtney mainly comes from reallocating car park spaces). But the road network STILL has to keep working and the LGWM approach is to move the through car traffic from the Quays across to SH1 by expanding the capacity by:
    * adding a 2nd Mt Vic tunnel
    * a tunnel or bridge to grade separate at the Basin Reserve
    * a tunnel or trench to grade separate Karo Drive
    * adding a 2nd Terrace tunnel
    If we didn’t do this then the city would essentially be cut in half at peak times … ambulances from the north couldn’t get to the hospital, workers from the South and East couldn’t get to work (well they have that now 🙂 )
    Everyone must also remember we are a growing city where more and more people will be living and working … just reallocating current roadspace simply will not support more Wellingtonians living here.
    There are issues and gaps with the LGWM Scenarios but I think they are on the right track.
    As for light rail … I’m all for it if it is shown to be superior to Bus Rapid Transit (rather than just being built to meet some Green agenda).

  4. Curtis Nixon, 23. November 2017, 20:29

    i like some of you points Wellington Commuter but the obsession with grade separation is wrong. We have an effective mechanism to grade separate at present – traffic lights.
    The more important question is capacity. Why are there over 35 car parks next to the traffic lanes around the Basin? Show me any other roundabout with parking next to it? (None.) Just by reconfiguring the layout and synchronising the traffic lights we could increase the Basin’s capacity to absorb peak flow vehicles while they wait to get through the choke points at Taranaki St and Mt Vic tunnel.

  5. David Bond, 24. November 2017, 14:23

    What really needs its own right-of-way including grade-separation where necessary, is the arterial public transport spine. Think extension of heavy rail! If further trenches or tunnels are built, this is what they should be for, not for road traffic.

    Sure, it would cost. But the benefits of extending the existing regional rail system directly over the city-airport corridor would be enormous. For a start it would get the main public transport artery safely away from the pedestrian environment with all the attendant conflict we see between buses and pedestrians. Trouble is since this project was summarily dropped in the 1970s, no study has since given it serious thought. The Public Transport Spine Study purportedly considered it, but only in a way that guaranteed to rule it out.

    What is needed is a fresh recognition of how this project could seriously “get Welly moving” as well as reducing rather than worsening traffic, and then using the ingenuity that kiwis are supposed to be famous for, find ways to make it happen.

  6. Victor Davie, 25. November 2017, 12:00

    A question for GWRC chair Chris Laidlaw. Why didn’t your organisation seek public approval to dispose of the trolley buses and dismantle the overhead wire infrastructure? Your reply would be appreciated please.

  7. Kerry, 25. November 2017, 21:37

    Wellington: You are making the mistake of assuming that car traffic is rigid. ‘New’ traffic quickly appears when a new road opens, or disappears when a road is closed. Any economic effects are very hard to see, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting Auckland much, and the same is true for many great cities.

    Many cities have closed major highways with no ill-effect: one study gives over a hundred cases. One of the more impressive is Seoul, which permanently closed a four-lane viaduct with another eight lanes beneath. They were even able to model what would happen, and got it right.

    Remember too, more walking, cycling and public transport always increases capacity, because each of these modes uses road space (persons per lane hour) at least five times more efficiently than cars.

    Light rail in Wellington can be very largely on reserved route. It is usually not grade separated, but simply given priority, justified by the much greater capacity. A modern articulated tram can carry as many people as six buses, and needs much less green-time at junctions. Drivers benefit from less congested junctions, as well as being slowed by (slightly) reduced motor traffic capacity. Another benefit for drivers is that they can choose to use much-improved public transport, and many do. Auckland is seeing very rapid growth in public transport patronage, and Wellington could do the same.