Wellington Scoop

Light rail lessons for Wellington

G:link, the Gold Coast LRT, is one of Australia’s more successful LRT projects – well patronised and genuinely liked by local residents, tourists and businesses.

by Neil Douglas
I’ve done four studies of trams or light rail transit trams in Wellington and two in Auckland since I emigrated to New Zealand in 1990. But none of them have come to pass. Most of my income has come from the other side of the Tasman and over the last twenty years, I’ve done LRT studies in Canberra, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Parramatta, Perth and Sydney (several times).

In doing these jobs I’ve met some very knowledgeable experts and so, for a presentation last month to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, I contacted them. I asked each expert to give me five ‘bullet points’ which I included alongside my own views, facts and figures. These expert views definitely ‘made’ my talk and I recommend you view the slides which give their views ‘verbatim’.

Soaring Construction Cost and Lengthening Disruption

I decided to get the ‘bad news’ over with first. Light rail construction costs have soared to a near unbelievable level with the repeated speculation of the final cost and the continued disruption to traffic, residents and businesses from the Sydney CBD-SE LRT regularly hitting the headlines.

The average construction cost is now around $A100 million a kilometre based on eleven of the most recent Australia LRT projects some of which have been built e.g. Gold Coast, some of which partially built e.g. Sydney CBD-South East and some which remain only proposals e.g. Hobart.

So for LRT from Wellington Rail Station to the Airport, the cost would be around $1.5 billion and for Auckland’s CBD to Airport LRT it would be $2.2 billion.

Of course, the $100 million figure is an average, with the range varying from what comparatively seems a very modest $6 million a kilometre for Hobart (where the service will mostly run on existing rail lines) to an eye-watering $240 million per kilometre for the original Parramatta Stage 2 (which was subsequently re-routed).

Photo from Brisbane Library


Why have costs soared so much? Compare and contrast these photographs of installing tram tracks at the intersection of Brunswick and Wickham Streets in Brisbane in the 1920s, with George Street in Sydney in 2017-18. The two well-dressed ladies in non-safety hats strolling over unfinished rail tracks in Brisbane contrast with the wired off construction site and 20 centimetres of concrete and electrical cable and utility diversion in George Street.

In 2014, when I went over to Perth to provide advice on the (ill-fated) MAX LRT (WA had a credit down grade which compromised the funding), the project manager surprised me over a fish and chip meal by putting the soaring costs down to his wife! Oh and others like her. Why? Well, she was a manager in Occupational Safety and Health and the Project Manager expressed his frustration at the armies of people who monitor and ensure 110% safety during construction (never mind the cost and traffic management implications).

In Sydney, the massive surge in construction cost can also be put down to the rail standard itself. ‘Light’ rail construction is more akin to enabling a coal train to run down George Street than a pedestrian friendly ‘light rail’. These over-engineered standards can be sourced back to America where street-car systems were effectively banned from applying for Federal funding. So engineering consultancies drew up heavy rail solutions in order to qualify for federal government funding. And they then exported their heavy rail – 20cms of concrete – Light Rail systems to Australia.

Photo: Brent Efford

So rather than look to the USA, Wellington and Auckland should look to Christchurch (above) where construction costs have been around $5 million a kilometre for its city centre tram. I must acknowledge Dave Hinman of Christchurch (Inner City Planning Manager) and Brent Efford (NZ Agent of the Light Rail Transit Assn) for continually reminding us that Light Rail need not send cities into debt if we build to an appropriate sensible standard as opposed to over-engineering.

There is also Germany which is developing a pan-European standard and France which typically excludes utility diversion costs from their LRT appraisal (on the basis that they are not the fault of the transport system). And of course, if you do replace your utilities there can be a benefit if they were approaching life expiry or needed enlarging/improving. But I’ve yet to seen such a seemingly obvious benefit being put into a Big 4 Accountancy Company Business Case.

The major costs are hidden out of sight

Rodney Forrest who worked as an economist in the NSW Treasury on the Sydney CBD-SE LRT commented that the Business Case for the now infamous Sydney CBD-SE LRT was reviewed in terms of the adequacy of the amount of electrical and telecoms cabling, water and sewerage pipes that may need relocation and the degree of uncertainty regarding the costs and time.

What subsequently emerged was the question over who was responsible for diverting all the utilities up side-streets which in some instances stretched 100 metres. Were these works included in the construction consortium’s contract? The arguments have ended in a ‘construction go slow’ as lawyers for the Spanish consortium wrestle with their NSW Government counterparts over responsibility. For some businesses, the harsh cost has been bankruptcy. Not to mind in the Business Case though! The Big 4 Accountancy Company left disruption out of the appraisal altogether, arguing such costs were a ‘transfer payment’ (people would shop elsewhere)! Never mind the transport delays in having buses and traffic re-routed for two years either. Such costs must have been beyond the agreed scope of their consultancy.

So given the Sydney debacle (which hasn’t ended yet) it would be a very courageous minister to agree to dig up Lambton Quay or Dominion Road without a very firm handle on costs and timescale.

Don’t Let Politicians Pick the Wrong Route

Sydney Transport Planner Dr Tim Brooker recalled that the Sydney CBD-SE LRT was a former heavily patronised tram route to Randwick. So in principle, implementation should have been straightforward. But the traditional route via Anzac Parade – Oxford Street and Elizabeth Street was not followed. To satisfy different priorities of Government, the route was changed to George Street via the cricket and football stadiums and racecourse.

Indeed, when I was involved in earlier route choice evaluations of Sydney CBD LRT in the 1990s and 2000s, going down George Street was the last choice because of the construction and traffic impact risk. Elizabeth, Castlereagh and Pitt (which are all lighter used routes with the potential for land-use uplift) were all ranked higher. So a lesson learned here is the adverse impact politics can have on rational decision making.

Dr Peter Tisato, in assessing the extension of Adelaide LRT along North Terrace (a cultural boulevard) is ‘not to rush’. The new extension probably has merit but was hurried to be completed before for the March 2018 election. Now six months after the election, the line remains unopened due to ongoing investigations to find and repair major electrical faults with a German expert brought in to fix the problems.

No one can accuse Wellington of ever rushing to solve our ever worsening traffic problems. The introduction of a new hub and spoke bus system in July (which according to Daran Ponter was eight years in the planning) has got off to an atrocious start with the suburban bus hubs under-costed by a factor of 4 (a seemingly unbelievable $2 million per bus stop) and won’t be completed until February 2019 (nine months late). Such incompetence does not instil the public with any confidence that Regional Council could ever manage the introduction of a new Light Rail system.

What do you get for your billions of dollars?

So what do you get when you have spent billions on your Light Rail? Well the average speed for the eleven projects is 24kph with a range from 12kph in Adelaide CBD to 40kph for Gold Coast Stage 2. And do the benefits justify the cost?

Tim Brooker points out that Sydney CBD-SE LRT is only 50% of the length of the main corridor to La Perouse and is 85% of the subsidiary route to Coogee. So passengers will have to interchange to bus for a full corridor trip. Capacity will be insufficient in the peak hour too as the Light Rail will only be sufficient to serve the inner end of the route whilst providing passengers with a reasonable degree of comfort (i.e. avoiding sardine overcrowding). So buses will still be needed.

For Adelaide, the rhetoric was that LRT would improve congestion but Peter Tisato questions whether this has actually occurred since there have been no formal studies. And land-use benefit from Light Rail? Well again, Peter Tisato says there has been a lamentable lack of studies particularly ex-post ones to argue that increased inner-city development in Adelaide has occurred relative to fringe development.

A delegation from Wellington inspects construction of light rail in Canberra

For Canberra, land-use and wider economic benefits (WEBs) for the 12 km LRT route from Gungahlin to Civic (currently under construction) raised the Benefit Cost Ratio from a lowly 50 cents in the dollar to a reasonably healthy 1.2. The ACT Audit Office, for whom I provided advice, was unhappy about the appraisal since it failed to conform to Infrastructure Australia’s evaluation guidelines. These guidelines require that only ‘conventional transport benefits’ should be included in the ‘core evaluation’.

The exclusion of Wider Economic Benefits contrasts with the NZ Economic Evaluation Manual where they are included. These econometric-black box numbers were originally developed by the Tony Blair Government to bolster the Cross Rail project in London. They have been readily applied by econometric specialists in NZ for the Cross City Rail project and the Roads of National Significance to bump up the BCR.

Nevertheless, when Wellington LRT was evaluated by AECOM as part of the ‘Spine Study’ in 2013 it only managed a desultory BCR of 5 cents in the dollar and that was with Wider Economic Benefits included.

Politics trumps Economics

What Canberra LRT best demonstrates is that politics trumps economic appraisals! And when the decision has been made by politicians, the ‘right’ consultants will fall in line to produce the ‘right’ supporting economic argument.

For Canberra, LRT was a condition for Green support of a Labour led government. The focus of justification was on market research that gauged public opinion about LRT and whether or not Canberrans could afford it. Being the ‘state’ with the highest GDP per capita (government pays itself well), the second argument was easily proved. What also helped was that the corridor went down a wide, straight median strip with only diseased gum trees to topple (and replace with younger and more appropriate eucalypt varieties). Disruption was therefore only at traffic intersections rather than affecting the entire length of a busy city road as it would do in Auckland and Wellington. Finally, the ACT Government’s ownership of the buses and parcels of land plus their willingness to relocate government offices along the corridor meant Canberra is well placed to manage and benefit from Light Rail once it is up and running.

So what else do you get when you’ve spent your billions of dollars on Light Rail? Well Gold Coast LRT does work well and blends into the modern high-rise environs. The G-Link connects a ‘string of pearls’ from the heavy rail station at Helensvale via Gold Coast University Hospital, Griffith University, Florida Gardens down to the apartments and hotels of Broadbeach South. And when I travelled on the service in May this year, it was well patronised. Local residents, tourists and business love their G-Link.

A Rail Enthusiast as PM and a Big Event helps Fund it

My involvement with the G-Link was in funding methods for Stage 2 which was similar to my involvement in the Wellington Spine Study. In the end, funding for the G-Link was made much easier by ex-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull being a rail fan. He agreed to federal funding as part of getting Light Rail linked to Helensvale rail station and so connecting the Gold Coast to Brisbane Airport via the Commonwealth Games.

Wellington would probably need a similar sporting or cultural ‘world’ event to galvanise support for a rapid waterfront route that could link together a very attractive string of pearls: the Interislander Ferry Terminal, Cruise Ship ‘Terminal’, Westpac Stadium, Rail Station, Cable Car, Te Papa Museum, Courtenay Place entertainment district, Basin Reserve, Hospital, Kilbirnie Sports Centre and Airport.

Will it ever be Rapid?

To ever be ‘rapid’ and provide a high quality, high capacity public transport corridor, Professor Graham Currie of Monash University stresses the need for a segregated of right of way. “Don’t build a streetcar system like the legacy system of Melbourne” argues Graham which although popular is slow (with an average speed of 16kph) and unreliable with old infrastructure needing renewal and with traffic interference in operations and the inability to have priority due to car dominance.

On the other hand, Tom Frost, Director of the transport consultancy NineSquared, points out that almost all the new Australian LRT services have much larger and more expensive ‘stations’. These stations lose one of the key perceived benefits of the Melbourne system, which is ‘ease of access’. Tom Frost argues that the new Australian LRT systems have characteristics closer to heavy rail rather than the well-loved Melbourne trams and this questions whether the heavy rail emphasis is what the public actually wanted their LRT service to be.

Indeed, Sydney mayor Clover Moore objected to the brutalist concrete stations and long tram lengths planned for George Street. It was not what she wanted for her pedestrian friendly environment down her premier, world-famous, street.

It’s the Vibe that matters

Further north in Newcastle, it’s the severance of the electric heavy double decker rail system that acted like the “Berlin Wall for more than 100 years” that was the reason for Light Rail. Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald argued that workers, tourists and families were stopped by the heavy rail route from moving between the waterfront and the city centre. Proponents argue that LRT will reinvigorate the pedestrian heart of Newcastle. Moreover, the LRT will be without any overhead wiring to reduce its visual impact. Instead the vehicles will have batteries that recharge at the stations along the 2.7 km route.

So for this project, the transport ‘benefits’ for intercity rail passengers will actually be costs from an enforced transfer at Hamilton. And for this reason, in what may be a world first, the Green Party opposed Light Rail. An alternative solution as advocated by experts like Peter Thornton of Transportation Associates was to put the heavy rail service underground. What the proponents of Newcastle Light Rail are banking on, is improved city ambience and this benefit is nigh impossible for economists to put a value on.

With Light rail, Newcastle’s heavy rail line is now disused, offering development opportunities but also raising questions about what to with the heritage stations.

Without overhead wiring, Newcastle Light Rail resembles an elongated bus with only its steel wheels demarking it.

Brisbane has decided to go for a bus based ‘Metro’ system rather than Light Rail. Brendan O’Keefe, Principal Engineer Policy and Strategy of Brisbane City Council, says that Bus Rapid Transport was selected because it has more flexibility in being able to be incorporated into the street environment. It was also considered better able to integrate with traditional bus services which means both ‘modes’ will get a benefit. Whereas mixing buses with trams was identified as causing a number of operational inefficiencies. And, not having to completely dig up the streets to relocate services and lay track also featured highly in Brisbane’s evaluations with work for BRT consisting of pavement strengthening where required.

Steel wheels good but rubber wheels better?

Brendan O’Keefe also views the Metro solution to offer Brisbane a greater choice of propulsion system (overhead trolley bus, electric battery, diesel hybrid and diesel) whereas LRT is limited to overhead wiring or third rail traction. Lastly, there is no need to strengthen culverts and bridges and for Brisbane, a key cost element for an LRT system would have been strengthening Victoria Bridge to get trams across the river.

In Perth, long-term rail promoter Professor Peter Newman has also come to the realisation that a trackless tram (TT) rather than conventional Light Rail is the technology to adopt between heavy rail core routes and bus capillary feeders.

Peter Newman still argues:

“Wellington needs light rail as always; my views have not changed on this but they have changed on the technology to do this and I now believe that a Trackless Tram will do everything I always wanted to achieve with light rail but at one tenth of the price”.

Rather than $50 million a kilometre, the trackless tram, designed by Chinese company CRRC, could be installed at a cost of $5 million a kilometre. The long established 1930s Chinese rail company which employs 18,000 staff has adapted High Speed Rail technology (stabilisers, hydraulic double axles) for buses and developed GPS Optics to keep the vehicle ‘on track’, Special tyres, electric battery powered (with a 50km recharge claimed to take 10 mins) and lighter than a conventional bus means that the ride feels like Light Rail, looks like Light Rail but is also able to go around accidents when required.

For Perth, Peter Newman envisages that the TT would be paid for by developers in a partnership and in this regard Perth has the first of these partnerships set up in Australia. The TT would not destroy the street economy for several years during construction and could be implemented very quickly using a bus depot and a main roads Control Centre. The TT has a gradient of 13% rather than LRT’s 6% which is also very relevant to Wellington and Auckland.


Auckland Transport has in fact considered the TT. They sent a delegate of managers out to Zhuzhou in 2017. The trial track is 6.5 kilometres long whereas the LRT route from Wynyard to the Airport is 22kms. So the greatest concern was the operation and longevity of the batteries. Over the last year the TT has been developed further as Peter Newman attests and it will continue to develop. For Perth, Peter Newman is proposing that a TT to link his University of Curtin to Stirling.

Summing up – Don’t lead and don’t be last

So to summarise, Australian LRT construction costs have become so expensive as to question whether LRT can ever be justified. But the alternative of putting extra road or heavy rail technology in tunnel can be ten times more expensive as the East-West road link and city centre rail tunnel in Melbourne attest.

For LRT, the North American ‘20cms of concrete’ version of ‘light’ rail needs seriously questioning. It’s not only construction costs of $100 million a kilometre but the terribly disruptive construction costs to residents and business that can last for years. So rather than adopt the North American standard, NZ should check out the Christchurch system or invite the Germans and French to give their view.

Each Australian city where LRT has been considered has its own unique ‘context’, priorities, and requirements. The debate over steel versus rubber wheels, fixed v flexible systems and power supply will continue. One thing here is clear. Technology has and continues to develop rapidly as reflected in the trackless tram and wireless LRT.

NZ should not seek to lead technology but should remain highly receptive towards it. Wellington and Auckland should not be the first to introduce the trackless tram but neither should they be the last to introduce North American style ‘light’ rail.

Neil Douglas is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. He has been involved in twenty LRT studies since completing his PhD at Leeds University in the mid-80s: his first involvement was to assess the likely metamorphosis of Canary Wharf from the Docklands Light Rail; his second was forecasting ridership for the winning consortium of the Manchester LRT and his third assignment was forecasting patronage for a new LRT in the Midlands using Stated Preference (SP) market research, with his forecasts sufficiently accurate for the Department of Transport to recommend similar research for all future LRT proposals.


  1. KB, 27. November 2018, 15:37

    I like the trackless tram – forwarded the video of it in action to Wellington councillors last year. I’m not sure if it is under any sort of consideration here though.

  2. Daryl Cockburn, 27. November 2018, 17:31

    Brill. The last para in particular.

  3. Peter Thornton, 27. November 2018, 17:42

    Having become familiar during my time as Independent Adviser to the Auckland Rail Project with the way the Britomart Extensions brought rail back into heart of the Auckland CBD, it immediately came to mind when I was leading a team to look at rail linkages to Newcastle. Many of the populace of Newcastle and those living in the Hunter Valley were extremely keen to retain direct rail services into the historic and heritage listed Newcastle Terminus Station. But there is no doubt that in today’s city, the rail line acted to sever the Newcastle CBD from its greatly improved waterfront and that the removal of the heavy rail corridor could do much to improve the cityscape and connectivity to the waterfront. Others were equally vociferous in demanding its removal to enhance the cityscape and to assist in rejuvenation of the CBD precinct and its retail areas. However, all of that could have been achieved along with the retention of direct services, had the line been lowered, in a manner similar to Britomart in Auckland – while no doubt more expensive, this would have yielded many opportunities for airspace development above the rail corridor which would have helped offset the cost. Light rail, or perhaps now even better, trackless trams could have been used to provide a city distributor function emanating from the terminus. Unfortunately, whilst my team proposed this option, I don’t think it ever was given the serious consideration that I and my colleagues thought it should and so far as I know was not even included in assessment of options in the business case.

  4. Stephen Bargwanna, 27. November 2018, 20:53

    Just put Neil Douglas on the Wellington LR route evaluation ,design and tender selection committee.
    I have worked on numerous light rail projects he mentions and other heavy rail projects around Australia.
    Politicians must be kept out of route selection,design and operational decisions.They make suboptimal decisions based on technical ignorance and short sighted vested interests.This ultimately costs the public a lot of money needed for other things.
    Smart urban transport authorities are generally independent of government,have set budgets and capital works planning horizons of 20-50 years.
    Neil knows heaps. He is a smart guy, a jewel of Wellington. Give him a seat at the big table and get on with the job. Light rail is the way to go!

  5. Tim, 28. November 2018, 11:19

    “So what’s the answer Neil”?

  6. Ian Herbert, 28. November 2018, 14:50

    Hi Neil, You have put into words much of my own thinking around delivering the NZ LR proposals. A very good read – we are fortunate to have people like you that we can tap into. My only slight divergence is that WEB helps to inform land use thinking which isn’t a bad thing.
    Really good article.

  7. Lim Leong, 28. November 2018, 15:35

    Very good and interesting analysis. It goes to show that there is no shortage of local talent/experts who have extensive international experience. Why GRWC keeps insisting on using overseas consultants is beyond me.

  8. Neil Douglas, 28. November 2018, 17:08

    Ian Herbert, Thanks. My take on WEBs is that static WEBs are going nowhere but dynamic WEBs? Well, when and if they are properly formulated they should improve project appraisal. That said, the effect of transport on land use has not been able to be satisfactorily modelled since the 1970s.

  9. Neil Douglas, 28. November 2018, 20:42

    Tim – short and sweet comment. I like it!
    Well I did have a proposal back in 2013 when construction costs were a lot more reasonable. It was a rapid LRT route stage 1 along the waterfront with a trolley bus service along L. Quay. There is no way I support such a proposal today if costs were $100 million a kilometer and Jervois Quay was out of action for 2 years! And of course GWRC decided to axe are 100% electric trolley buses. A totally nuts action.

    Clearly, extra transport capacity like Light Rail or a Trackless Tram is predicated on population growth so my question to the Government is why do we want all these extra people to come to NZ if it costs so much to accommodate them?

  10. Cecil Roads, 29. November 2018, 9:21

    Neil – scholarly research with a hint of satire. Nice! My considered opinion is that steel wheels are so last century (but one). You have got to move on! The trackless tram is surely the way to go especially if it has ‘on-the-go’ recharging from the air (a sort of elongated trolley bus?). The TT offers everything that a tram does (and more) at a much cheaper and less disruptive price.
    Please politicians, don’t wreck Wellington’s roads with steel wheels (you’ve taken them out once!).

  11. Mel G., 30. November 2018, 9:29

    The atrocious news out of Sydney keeps on coming regarding their financially and utility challenged Light Rail! Then there’s another report warning of delays and the builder losing a billion two years ago.

    Incompetence that hasn’t hit the pages yet is why the government bought the trams so prematurely. Around 3 shiny new red sets are stabled in a burning up money and technology advances. Only GWRC could rival TfNSW for sheer uselessness.

  12. luke, 30. November 2018, 15:12

    Trackless trams aren’t exactly proven technology. Steel Wheels on steel rails are proven. Learn from the cost blowouts of Sydney rather than be scared by them.

  13. greenwelly, 30. November 2018, 15:54

    @Luke, while trackless trams are new, Tracked Trams with rubber wheels using a guide track have significant history. Steel on Steel is not the only choice.

  14. Mike Mellor, 30. November 2018, 20:30

    Greenwelly: the rubber-tyred tram article that you linked to refers to just two such systems, of which one is being replaced by conventional light rail. That’s hardly “significant history”, except as an example not to follow.

  15. Jonny Utzone, 1. December 2018, 4:41

    Rubber tyred rail? There look to be 40 rubber tyred ‘metros’ running around various cities of the world and a few more contemplating them.

  16. Mike Mellor, 1. December 2018, 16:26

    JU: true, but those metros either have rubber tyres in addition to steel wheels and rails or some other guidance system that involves beams or rails made of steel or concrete. I don’t think any of the systems listed are capable of running along or across the road, as light rail/trams would in Wellington would have to do.

    Steel wheel on steel rail is still by far the most widespread form of high-capacity urban public transport, with many, many more than 40 examples. Alternative technologies are emerging, but none have yet stood the test of time – and the last thing that we want to be is an early adopter of new, proprietary technology. Just think of Wrightspeed!

  17. AGMacf, 1. December 2018, 22:16

    When Manners Mall was turned back to bus only transport, the Council (City/GWRC?) did major excavation and laid a heavily reinforced concrete base to the road. I assume that this was a precautionary preparation for future light rail. It could be done because that stretch of Manners St was pedestrian only, so only pedestrians were interrupted by the construction. There would have been actual infrastructure relocation/modification and upgrading as part of that work.
    If this was a model for future light rail in Wellington, it would be good to know how those real costs could be reworked to today’s dollars and costs of construction as a micro example of the real costs for light rail through Wellington.

  18. Ross Hayward, 1. December 2018, 22:22

    Neil, Excellent article highlighting the very real issues with lrt that seem to be routinely ignored by politicians and councils. The ongoing mantra seems to be that ‘we’ will not have these problems, ignoring the fact that many other well meaning councils and politicians do stuff up in spades!

    To me the whole process on how politicians and councils arrive at such transport disasters is the key issue to be resolved. If you take the recent bus restructure in Wellington, how confident could you be that Gwrc could implement a new half way decent transport network let alone lrt? I would not hold my breath.

    As someone who spent 30 years in passenger transport, there is something very much adrift with the current approach both in terms of vision, focus, expertise, projects, operations and cost control. I worked in a transport business that could call on experts with long term experience in just about every specialist field. Strategy, economic, marketing, engineering operations, IT, project management,signalling, safety, finance, etc expertise was readily available. Most of these people also had a real passion and depth of experience which made for prompt and informed decisions. What seems to have changed is that this type of expertise and decision making is now contracted out to the extent that responsibility, focus and competency is largely lost. Hope I am wrong but the evidence does seem to be compelling and growing…

    As a final comment I think there is far too much focus on transport mode rather than making our cities more people friendly. We should be looking at drastically reducing the need for inner city transport by providing a walk friendly and in the case of Wellington cbd a sheltered city. When you consider the size of the city we seem to go into overkill in terms of mode requirement and scope. Is it really all that difficult?

    Thank you

  19. Neil Douglas, 2. December 2018, 18:36

    Ross Hayward – you should be a regional councilor but you are too sensible for that! Wellington gets the politicians it deserves: ex bureaucrats and central Govt or City Council politicians who don’t have any transport skills or experience of actually running a transport company. And are there any professionals with transport qualifications on the regional council staff? Come back Dr Dave Watson who had a PhD from Leeds University in bus operations. I seriously doubt he’d have presided over over the hub/contracting shambles. I wonder if any GWRC councillors/staff will respond?

  20. Disillusioned of Kapiti, 3. December 2018, 10:24

    Yes. Sadly Wellington does seem to get the politicians it deserves. We seem to have inherited all the smugness and arrogance without the ability.

  21. John Rankin, 3. December 2018, 14:58

    From above: “In Sydney, the massive surge in construction cost can also be put down to the rail standard itself.”

    From a report first published by Edmonton Transit in 1984: “Whereas the Europeans carried on continuous development resulting in light rail transit as we know it today there has been a tendency to discount much of their experience and try to substitute North American mainline railway practice, resulting in inflated costs and inferior operations.” (Page 53)

    Same message, 35 years apart. I note in support of Ross Hayward’s comment that the report, General Guidelines for the Design of Light Rail Transit Facilities in Edmonton, was written by a senior ET (ie city council) employee.

  22. Mel G., 4. December 2018, 8:43

    JR – Edmonton’s trams look like trains & Brent Efford’s tram-train comes to mind. Do you support tram-trains or do you think everybody should ‘hub’ at Wellington railway station and get a lighter sort of vehicle?

  23. John Rankin, 4. December 2018, 14:34

    Mel G: technology moves on. The light rail lines Edmonton is currently building and planning are generally on-street and I’d expect that if Wellington goes down that path, we would do something similar. I tend to be technology-neutral and do not have enough information to form a view on what’s the best value solution for Wellington. I second Mike Mellor: “the last thing that we want to be is an early adopter of new, proprietary technology.”

  24. Roy Kutel, 4. December 2018, 17:16

    JR – I can’t see Wellington being first at anything, given the people in charge.

  25. Dougal, 10. December 2018, 19:12

    Light Rail is a Load of crap. Billions of dollars just to achieve what we already had with trolley buses. All this talk of LRT and rubber tyred trains but no one wants to speak up for the trolleybus, still the cheapest and with batteries included, the most flexible and clean transport mode around. The problem is the trolleys are now gone and the debate has become bogged down in mode. This is a repeat of Auckland’s situation. In the end, it took 30 years before any real progress was made on infrastructure to improve public transport. Wellington needs to pull its head out of the sand, and force a restoration of the trolleybus system , which combined with trolley-battery buses would make for a relatively inexpensive and flexible, yet clean and green system.

  26. Cecil Roads, 10. December 2018, 20:27

    I’ll second that Dougal – but it won’t happen – too much loss of face.

  27. luke, 11. December 2018, 12:43

    Except the trolleys offered less capacity than either light rail or diesel buses in a congested cbd where spatial efficiency is paramount to moving more people.

  28. Roy Kutel, 18. December 2018, 6:37

    Luke, the trolley buses were bigger than the average diesel and could have been articulated as in several enlightened cities such as Geneva and Vancouver.

  29. Keith Flinders, 18. December 2018, 10:14

    Dougal: I agree that the trolley bus system should have been retained and employed new/converted buses which can run considerable distances off wire. Essentially battery buses that get recharged in operation where overhead wires exist.

    However the issue that confronts us is the number of buses that can be run through the CBD in peak hours. The city continues to grow, uptake of public transport needs to be further encouraged, and a mass transit system will be needed Railway Station to Newtown and eventually beyond to replace buses. An enduring system that I will not see implemented in my life time.

    Electric buses would ply the routes other than through the CBD if it was up to me. 50 trolley buses converted to battery operation could have been on Wellington streets early 2019 but for the lack of negotiation by the GWRC who are stalling on this issue. The health issues from added diesel and noise pollution in the CBD in particular have not been addressed.

    We now have fewer buses, but nearly all diesel ones, through the CBD in peak hours than pre mid July, but the congestion is as bad if not worse than before. Slow loading/unloading double decker buses were advised against but we got them anyway. Fewer buses now have created overloading on some routes, and this has still to be addressed by the tardy GWRC who lack the expertise. We were promised a “world class bus service” by the GWRC, but in the translation the word “third” was left out of the spin.

  30. luke, 18. December 2018, 10:32

    The trolleys i remember were a lot smaller than the double deckers.

  31. Graham Atkinson, 18. December 2018, 10:48

    The reconstructed trolley buses had a maximum capacity of around 60 – 64 passengers (seated and standing) against 75 in the new generation of diesel buses while the diesel double decker buses that Tranzurban have introduced (and NZ Bus and Mana will have on the road shortly) carry around 100 with a minimum of 75 seats. The electric double deckers Tranzurban are operating have a total capacity of 84. I haven’t seen the loading figures for the “new” EV that NZ Bus are proposing but suspect they will be still around the 60 – 65 mark.

  32. Benny, 18. December 2018, 10:59

    Also, I know it seems futile, but the double deckers seem so out of scale with the city. These monsters roam around, tangling from one side to the other, owning the road. Electric or not (the former being of course better), I wouldn’t want to bike near them.

    Articulated electric buses would have, IMHO, much more harminiously integrated with the cityscape, transport more people, loaded/unloaded easily.

    And what about the ultimate solution: articulated battery/trolley buses running on dedicated/protected lanes?

  33. Roy Kutel, 18. December 2018, 11:44

    Benny you are spot on with your solution of articulared battery/trolley buses on dedicated/protected lanes. So easy why couldn’t GWRC see it? After all, they did spend 8 years planning their tragic bus hub failure.

  34. Marion Leader, 18. December 2018, 15:10

    The double-deckers spend too much time at bus-stops holding up all other traffic, not to mention other buses.