Wellington Scoop

Light rail by 2027: proven, low risk and fast


Fit Wellington, stating the case for its Scenario A+, says that mass transit in Wellington City as proposed by LGWM is necessary but not sufficient.

In its submission to LGWM, Fit Wellington says:

To compete successfully with private car travel requires rapid transit that delivers a congestion-free journey — the basis of Scenario A+. Transit Oriented Development around stops is an essential complement to urban rapid transit.

Wellington needs an ambitious goal, that by 2050 over 50% of all trips to and from the CBD will be by public transport. Light rail is a proven, low risk rapid transit option which has been deployed in other earthquake-prone cities. There would be benefits in Wellington adopting the same technology standards as Auckland.

The investor that assumes the ridership risk should have the final say on rapid transit route and technology choice. LGWM needs to set the performance targets for travel time, service frequency, and transfer time at hubs.

List of recommendations

· Plan to open a rapid transit line between the railway station and Miramar by 2027, as a reliable and superior alternative to driving.

· Agree that rapid transit is a core component of a future transport system designed around the wants and needs of people.

· Reconfigure bus services along the rapid transit corridor to aggregate demand and connect at transit hubs.

· Develop a policy and guidelines for transit oriented development around rapid transit stops and at transit hubs.

· Design the first rapid transit line in a way that facilitates future extensions and connections.

· Note that to provide reliable rapid transit for the projected demand, Wellington needs light rail operating no later than 2027.

· Note the earthquake risk to light rail lines can be mitigated and other earthquake-prone cities have extensive passenger rail networks.

· Note the estimated cost of a first light rail line is $910m and a public–private partnership is one of several possible funding mechanisms.

· Choose technologies that are based on widely-used standards, to provide maximally contestable supply and avoid supplier lock-in.

· Consider adopting a technology-neutral approach to procurement, specifying the services that the rapid transit system must deliver.


Download the full FIT Wellington Scenario A+ Submission here.

Read other submissions to LGWM
Greens say light rail needed urgently
Residents want better public transport and liveability
Living Streets wants a friendlier environment
Cycle Aware wants new CBD biking networks
Civic Trust sets its priorities
Save the Basin states the case for urban design


  1. City Lad, 6. February 2018, 20:38

    No overhead cables? Or is the colourful drawing incomplete?

  2. Kerry, 6. February 2018, 21:39

    Not necessarily overhead cables, although they are the cheapest option at present. Other options, available commercially or on trial, are:
    —At street level (activated in short sections, only when a tram is over that section)
    —A hydrogen fuel cell
    And yes, the drawing is a bit generalised, to suit multiple route options

  3. John Rankin, 6. February 2018, 22:05

    @CityLad: it depends on the technology you choose. Most light rail systems built today use a single overhead wire. But as batteries increase in capacity and drop in price, charging at the stops will become cost-competitive with wire-based systems. Some cities have installed ground-level power supply systems, but these have proved more expensive and less reliable than overhead wires.

    If I were a betting man, my bet would be that by the time light rail comes to fruition in Wellington, batteries recharged at each stop will be the preferred method. But I could be wrong, and there could be a single overhead wire in each direction.

    And if you look closely, you may notice that the light rail vehicle in the picture doesn’t have a driver. Another bet, perhaps less likely than battery powered vehicles.

    Time will tell.

  4. City Lad, 7. February 2018, 10:50

    It’s time for all light rail supporters to unite and lobby our councils (goodness me there’s two of them) and Government to “make- light-rail-happen!”

  5. Citizen Joe, 9. February 2018, 13:34

    A stylized short stop with dangerous access to a stylized long tram. And only one stylized person waiting.
    Makes me wonder: bring back the trolley buses and save a billion.

  6. John Rankin, 12. February 2018, 13:50

    Perhaps @CitizenJoe has not experienced a modern light rail system. The photographs in this presentation might help. In particular:

    – short stop: see slides 8 and 13, showing typical simple urban light rail platforms
    – dangerous access: see slides 23 to 25, showing light rail vehicles safely coexisting with pedestrians
    – one person waiting: see slide 27, although of course in the stylized picture above the northbound light rail vehicle has just left (the picture shows a northbound platform and southbound vehicle)

    The capacity of a trolley bus is about 65 people. A multi-car light rail vehicle can hold up to about 470 people. Because urban light rail operates on a dedicated right-of-way with priority at intersections, the average speed is about twice that of a trolley bus. So you’d need about 14 trolley buses and their drivers to do the work of one light rail vehicle.

    In the long run, if the system is busy enough, the lower operating cost of light rail overtakes the lower capital cost of buses. Once a public transport corridor exceeds about 3000 passengers per hour, the total cost per passenger km of light rail is less than for any bus-based system, including trolley buses. The Golden Mile currently carries about 4200 passengers per hour in each direction during the morning and afternoon peaks. In the busiest half hour, the number is about 50% higher.

    In contrast to the current 120+ buses per hour in each direction on the Golden Mile during the peaks (a bus every 30 seconds), we could run one light rail vehicle every 5 minutes on the rapid transit corridor and one bus every 2 minutes on the Golden Mile. At 120+ buses per hour, service will be slow and unreliable, whether the buses are electric or diesel.

    Investing in light rail rapid transit on Wellington City’s busiest corridors can deliver better service at lower cost.