Wellington Scoop

MRT, and density well done

fit's light rail route may 2019.PNG

by Sam Donald
FIT (Fair Intelligent Transition) Wellington believes that the key to how the city allows for increases in its population will be decisions about Mass Rapid Transit (MRT): this will be the major determinant for the design of the Golden Mile and the final Spatial Plan for Wellington City and its suburbs.

LGWM should urgently confirm their proposed MRT route and the locations of the stations. This will give developers and the communities around them certainty.

We believe that light rail is the best and most proven method of solving Wellington’s transport problems. MRT along the quays will potentially get rid of 2/3 of the buses cluttering the GM – this will completely change the way that the Golden Mile can be designed i.e. for people, not for cars.

FIT suggests that WCC adopt a strategy of Density Done Well and embed this in the Spatial Plan.

Density Done Well requires 3 strands, all essential:

– Transport density: adopt the LGWM strategy for the Ngauranga-to-Airport corridor to “move more people with fewer vehicles” city-wide, enabling more people to “live local”. The transport equivalent of medium density housing is mass rapid transit. Key to the effectiveness of the route is allowing it to be ‘rapid’ avoiding highly pedestrianised areas such as Courtenay Place and instead going down Taranaki St through the heart of the Te Aro development area (also avoiding the Basin Reserve in the process).

– Housing density: promote medium density, medium height residential and commercial development in areas where there is higher transport density and in suburban town centres. To ensure that density done well, WCC needs to look at things such as Design Review Panels or selected lists of highly skilled design teams to ensure quality developments.

– Ecological density: promote development which reduces emissions and increases biodiversity eg. more green spaces, parks, native trees and shrubs, restored wetlands, on site handling of the three waters, urban food production and food waste composting, beehives etc. within the city.

This was FIT Wellington’s submission on the City Council’s Draft Spatial Plan.


  1. Ms Green, 6. October 2020, 13:32

    I like it Sam. First let’s get light rail/mass rapid transit and “ecological density”. Problem seems to be the mayor who has held the transport and urban development portfolio forever, and wants four lanes to the planes…another car tunnel.

    He is now acting like a councillor with a very heavy portfolio, but succeeding over years, to not Let Wellington get moving (LNGWM); and promoting an inadequate so-called spatial plan, with deregulation for developers, and inaccurate population statistics with no care for housing affordability or a healthy city.

    Good on you Sam for trying to right the ship with a feasible proposal.

  2. Conor, 6. October 2020, 13:55

    Sam is absolutely right. Council is having to guess the location of those stations. Would also be good if WCC and GWRC could finalise the bus priority action plan and do similar along these routes.

  3. greenwelly, 6. October 2020, 13:58

    Its a bit hard to confirm a route when the “draft indicative business case” – which doesn’t exactly sound very committal – isn’t due until “early to mid-2021”.

  4. Dave B, 6. October 2020, 14:59

    Great as far as it goes but “…how the city allows for increases in its population will be decisions about Mass Rapid Transit” needs to be widened to consider how the REGION allows for increases in its population and its decisions about Mass Rapid Transit. As exemplified by the current crop of roading projects going on in the northern corridor, transport provision is more than just about Wellington City. FIT’s light rail proposal does not properly address this.

    We already have a fully-functioning, regional Mass Rapid Transit system in the form of the electrified rail system. The weakness is that this fails to connect to a major section of the region’s population and business south of Wellington CBD. Building an entirely separate light rail system only in this area, while an improvement on what we have now, will not properly address the connectivity issues that affect the whole region and are fueling traffic-growth and pressure extending the motorway to the airport.

    Extending the regional rail system to properly serve this poorly-connected quarter of the region is vital.

  5. John Rankin, 7. October 2020, 12:05

    @DaveB: the regional rail network currently does not function as rapid transit, it’s primarily a targeted service aimed at commuters. To qualify as rapid transit, the service must run at least every 15 minutes (some definitions say 10 minutes), at least 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. The defining characteristic of rapid transit is frequent service, all day, every day.

    For example, the Auckland light rail rapid transit proposal calls for service initially every 8 minutes off peak, every 4 minutes peak. It’s the frequent, all day, every day commitment that attracts medium density development along the corridor, because people can then choose not to own a car, using rapid transit for most journeys.

    Rapid transit in Wellington is mainly about enhancing a development corridor, not about getting to and from the airport, although that is an additional benefit. That’s why the city’s spatial plan needs to consider transport, housing and the environment as parts of a connected system, not separate silos.

  6. Ralf, 7. October 2020, 13:35

    Yes, this is the missing link which I mentioned multiple times on my submission to the Spatial Plan and the Golden Mile Plan. For example increasing density in Kilbirnie or Miramar makes no sense without a transport solution. If we decide that we do not want to have a transport solution then densification can work only in walking distance/biking distance of the CBD, i.e. Newtown, Mt Cook and Mt Victoria.

  7. Dave B, 7. October 2020, 16:27

    John Rankin, during the a.m. peak around 22 trains per hour come into Wellington station, or more-than one every 3 minutes. 8 per hour come from the Kapiti Line, 10 per hour from the Hutt Valley Line (including Wairarapa) and 4 per hour from the Johnsonville Line. And this pattern is set to increase with future timetables. Is this not intense enough to qualify as Mass Rapid Transit? These trains bring in around 15,000 people each day, and it is ludicrous that this volume of passenger-traffic should be forced to disembark at a single point on the northern edge of the CBD.

    As regards the proportion of the day that this intensity of service operates, it is not the fault of the network that it is restricted to the a.m. and p.m. peaks only. This is the choice of the transport authorities who have historically viewed the network’s role as largely for commuters. The network is perfectly capable of sustaining peak-intensity of service all day if a decision was made to do this. As it is, the inter-peak service has increased significantly from hourly on each line in the 1980s to every 20 minutes today (30 on the Johnsonville Line).

    I believe you are splitting hairs to claim that this is not mass rapid transit and, by inference, that it does not qualify for extension further south. Also, I made no mention about “getting to and from the airport”, other than to point out that this is the end-point envisaged for the motorway. The main justification for extending the rail system would be to provide regional PT connectivity to and from the quarter of the region that currently lacks it. As you say, the airport is an additional benefit.

  8. Dave B, 7. October 2020, 20:45

    There are two issues here. 1) Developing an enhanced corridor through the city, and 2) providing regional public transport connectivity. There are also two traffic objectives. i) Enabling those within the enhanced corridor to be less-dependent on cars by providing light rail, and ii) Reducing overall volumes of regional traffic flooding into and through the city by extending the regional rail system.
    These objectives need to be considered together in any proposal to add Mass Rapid Transit to Wellington. But the FIT proposal for light rail does not really address objective ii). FIT’s proposal will likely see continued pressure to prioritize “4 lanes to the planes”.

  9. John Rankin, 8. October 2020, 12:33

    @DaveB: I carefully wrote that “the regional rail network currently does not function as rapid transit, it’s primarily a targeted service aimed at commuters.” You appear to agree that it currently operates as rapid transit only during the am and pm peaks (although the Johnsonville line barely qualifies because of past decisions to do things on the cheap).

    I am not convinced it would be practical to operate the regional rail network as rapid transit, because high frequency all day every day transit really only works along dense corridors in urban areas, serving catchments within about a 500 metre walk, or one frequent bus, of the stations. There is not enough concentrated demand in low density, spread-out suburbs.

    I disagree that the distinction between peak-only and all-day every-day rapid transit service is “splitting hairs”. It’s the difference between having to use a car for all off-peak travel (which is at least half of all trips), having to drive to get to the station, and being able to choose not to own a car, to live local.

    The other big difference between the regional rail network and mass rapid transit as LGWM proposes (whether light rail or trackless tram) is, as you point out, regional rail has much higher capacity. That’s because its purpose is moving commuters during peak times. Extending the regional rail network along LGWM’s proposed MRT corridor (waterfront quays, Taranaki St, Hospital, Newtown, Kilbirnie, Miramar, Airport) would be (a) difficult if not impossible to consent (b) over-engineered for that corridor. Horses for courses.

    “FIT’s proposal,” as Dave calls it, is to implement LGWM’s MRT proposal now, to support WCC’s spatial plan by enabling “density done well”. FIT believes that light rail is the best technology to use, but LGWM’s business case may reveal a better option. If we want to reduce “overall volumes of regional traffic flooding into and through the city” a congestion charge needs to be considered. I don’t think this belongs in a spatial plan (but perhaps it does).

    Dave, if you want to make a case for expanding the regional rail network through the city, you need to explain how this would support WCC’s draft spatial plan. I’m having difficulty seeing it; if anything, it would work against WCC’s stated intentions by encouraging low-density development (and more low-density road-building and more cars) in the northern parts of the region outside Wellington city.

    @Ralf puts it well.

  10. Peter Steven, 8. October 2020, 13:01

    John – I agree with most of what you said but consider this:

    At the moment during the day there are roughly three trains per hour on the Kapiti line, three trains per hour on the Hutt line and two trains per hour on the J’ville line. This is probably a suitable frequency for the low density suburbs these trains pass through.

    But if we converged and ran all (or most) of these services through the city, it would provide Wellington city with a rapid transit service that also lets people have a one seat trip to to and from the regions. Literally the best of both worlds!

    I really hope this is being considered. I imagine it would be expensive (we would probably need new trains if it’s street level, or tunnels if we keep it separated), but it would definitely be the golden plated solution that actually gets people out of their cars and onto public transport.

  11. Dave B, 8. October 2020, 17:21

    Thanks Peter, exactly the point I was going to make. The combined interpeak (middle-of-day) frequencies of the three existing lines is currently 9 trains per hour (includes the hourly Melling service), which would form a very acceptable frequency over a Southern Corridor extension. And it is not inconceivable that this could be boosted to a train every 15 minutes on each line, plus ½-hourly Mellings, so 14 tph combined. I am looking at options as to how such a service might operate when combined along a single shared artery.

    As for build-ability and consent-ability that John Rankin raises as a likely hurdle, we seem to be able to bulldoze motorways through cities when we want them, so why not railways? I have faith in Kiwi-ingenuity and those who have these skills to come up with a workable scheme. I also have copies of some studies from the 1960s when this was being seriously looked at.

    A congestion-charge as-mentioned by John R is certainly part of the solution, but this must go hand-in-hand with significant enhancements to regional public transport if it is to produce the desired effect. We want people from the rest of the region to travel to (and through) Wellington, but not predominantly by car.

    And John R, your objection to a rail extension on the basis that “it would work against WCC’s stated intentions by encouraging low-density development (and more low-density road-building and more cars) in the northern parts of the region outside Wellington city” is hard to fathom. The reality is that this development is occurring anyway, and our main strategy for accommodating its regional transport needs is more motorways. The point of expanding the rail system is to provide a better alternative.

  12. John Rankin, 8. October 2020, 18:02

    I am still waiting to hear how a heavy rail extension could follow the urban growth corridor that WCC has identified and which LGWM’s proposed mass rapid transit route follows, and what such an extension might cost. So Peter, I’ll leave Dave to answer your question, because I can’t see how it could be done. My guess is that you could extend heavy rail south on a different corridor or build light rail on the corridor that WCC and LGWM want, but not heavy rail on the WCC/LGWM corridor. I really don’t fancy the chances, or the desirability, of being able to “bulldoze” heavy rail through Newtown.

    I fully support continuing to enhance regional rail service, but that is a topic for the GW spatial plan, not the WCC spatial plan. If past national and local governments had had any sense, they would have designated and protected a heavy rail corridor through the city in the 1960s, but they didn’t and that horse has bolted. Let’s remember that the best is the enemy of the good.

  13. Dave B, 8. October 2020, 19:44

    John, I would envisage a heavy-rail extension following a very similar route to the FIT proposal, though largely tunnelled. But not being a civil engineer, an architect or urban-planner I can only speculate as to how this might be achieved and funded.
    We need to keep in mind that the entire region is growing. That doing-nothing is not an option, and that providing adequate transport-infrastructure is likely to be costly however we go about it. Had the money which is currently being showered on traffic-generating motorways to the north, instead been put into expanding the rail system, we might have made considerable progress by now. That horse has also bolted, but we still have the chance to avoid further major road-tunnels and a controversial motorway to the airport if we grasp this nettle now. If New Zealand’s traditional approach to transport-provision is to continue, then I agree the chances of this happening are tiny. Light rail faces an uphill battle also. But pressure is mounting for a reset; for a re-ordering of priorities, for a change away from aspects of living that have got out of hand. Transport-strategy is one of the most obvious examples of where bold initiatives are needed.

  14. Leviathan, 9. October 2020, 9:10

    You two tilting at windmills and talking of horses bolting makes the rest of the population tired. Look: we can’t have the existing heavy rail lines extending through the city without completely redesigning the city and demolishing half the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the train station. That’s just a fact. Another fact is that it would be possible to install a light rail line that hugs the harbourside quays and there is a conceivable route or two to get it to Newtown and eventually to the airport and Miramar.

    But the big issue that we need Dave B and John R to use their tenacity on is how to manage the interchange of passengers from 3 lines of heavy rail trains at (or before) the main train station, to seamlessly cross onto a new LR double tracked system so that they can whip quickly through the city. Out one side we have the underpass to the Bus Station (sorry, “Transport Interchange” to use the correct NewSpeak in a doubleplusgood way), while on the other side we need to have an interchange to the LR. Solve that one please!

    My thoughts are that we have three options: above ground, below ground, or at ground. Obviously, doing it all just at ground level would be the easiest, but also would lose many passengers disinclined to have the chance getting blown over on the main (windy) Quays route. Above ground could be done easily enough too, as there is already an overbridge, but that may be a bit far back up the track. Or else there is the possibility of an underground link – my favourite – a walkway to where the Bluebridge terminal is at present – but this will be a major traffic congestion point to build, and it will also be below water level and so suffer from major uplift pressure, so it would need to be piled to stop it popping out of the ground at every high tide…. Your thoughts, Dave and John?

  15. Dave B, 9. October 2020, 15:22

    Sorry Leviathan, but I can’t accept that we must forever hobble our principal regional public-transport system with the weakness of the current “broken spine”. We go to extraordinary lengths to ram motorways through the city in order to save vehicle-users a few minutes of journey-time, but when it come so public transport we seem quite happy to opt for the mediocre and compromise effectiveness.

    A twin-track rail-route can be surgically inserted into our urban fabric, as has been done in many other cities. The impact will be far less than building a motorway which may require 2-3 times the width. Your dismissive response (“That’s just a fact”!) typifies what I alluded to as “New Zealand’s traditional approach to transport-provision” – otherwise expressed as “It can’t be done unless it’s a road”. This attitude, beginning in the 1970s with the abandonment of rail plans for both Auckland and Wellington, has got us into the mess we are in today. Belatedly Auckland is now taking action to fix this with its City Rail Link.

    If we fail to understand the vital long-term role of rail in properly connecting-up our growing region, the alternative will be more regional traffic, more motorways, less efficiency and greater overall cost. That’s just a fact!

  16. Leviathan, 10. October 2020, 8:40

    Dave B – I’m not interested in playing the “I’m right and you’re wrong” game that is blighting our best city with petty arguments. What I’m interested in is solutions. Can you please outline what your solution is? Where would this twin track rail route go? How would it get across the road? Let’s get some plans on the table.

  17. Glen Smith, 11. October 2020, 8:19

    Dave B. I find myself agreeing with almost all your statements (with a few exceptions). We should absolutely be taking a regional view of public transport and we should be seamlessly connecting the southern regions to the northern regions. This should be via a high quality ‘rapid transit’ corridor. The separate light rail proposals are suboptimal since they will only supply the ‘broken spine’ you mention and will fail to maximise this connectivity (and so get people out of their cars) due to the potent transfer disincentive at the station. Instead we should be planning extension of our regional rail network as you recommend. Data shows there is adequate across-town demand to justify this for the 16 hours per day that John mentions and it is absolutely possible to add an across town twin track rail line (I have submitted plans that do exactly that). The logistical problems that Leviathan mentions in the areas around the station linking the northern rail lines to the across town line can be overcome with some clever design and without any major destruction. In short the potential exists to create a high quality public transport network to serve our region for decades or centuries to come – what appears lacking is the will.
    Areas where I disagree are
    1. That the extension needs to be ‘heavy’ rail. It is sad that light and heavy rail advocates seem incapable of thinking outside their boxes. It is good that Labour is looking at ‘medium weight’ rail in the form of ‘Light Metro’ for Auckland. ‘Medium weight’ rail offers the potential to ‘trackshare’ on our existing network while running on an across-town corridor that doesn’t require the huge cost and destruction of a ‘heavy’ rail corridor
    2. That while it is likely possible to run all interpeak services as through services (as you suggest) this would be logistically impossible for peak time. As I have said in previous comments if the Hutt and Kapiti lines are running at full capacity (which will be required with growth and if we expand rail share) this would require 4 across-town lines with 180m long platforms (I would interested in seeing your plans for this). Fortunately it should be very possible, with some intelligent planning, to run across town units as a subset of peak time trains with the full 8 carriage Matangis continuing to terminate at the Station to supply existing demand
    3. That the rail corridor through Newtown is not the logical route to the east. It is unclear why rail advocates are obsessed with this. It is a blinkered mindset that will likely kill any across town rail dead in the water due to logistical challenges. The WCC/LGWM proposed route isn’t based on any logical analysis or modelled outcomes – the committee that decided on the route started from the premise that rail will go through Newtown and, unsurprisingly, came up with a route that went through Newtown. This is a bit like starting from the premise that the world is flat to decide we shouldn’t sail too far out to sea in case we fall off the edge. Fortunately a rail line through Newtown is unnecessary since, a bit like the Lower Hutt area is adequately serviced by the Upper Hutt line so that we don’t need to run the Kapiti line via there, so Newtown is adequately serviced by the southern bus lines so we don’t need to run the eastern line there. This leaves us free to take rail to the east via the logical direct SH1 route where a high quality corridor is achievable. This would require minimally tunneling. My proposal had rail through a dedicated compartment in a large bore multipurpose Mt Victoria tunnel (see my article from 8 Feb 2019), a short 200m cut and cover tunnel under the Ruahine St, Wellington Road corner (for gradient and to cross SH1 with grade separation) and a new 250m bus, rail, cycle, pedestrian tunnel under the airport (the plan to run all modes including road, rail, bus, cycle and pedestrian, apparently forever, from the Miramar Peninsula via the narrow climate change vulnerable strip at the north end of the runway faces huge design and resilience challenges). All of the rest of my dedicated route was surface.

  18. Glen Smith, 11. October 2020, 9:52

    John Rankin. You say that “rapid transit in Wellington is mainly about enhancing a development corridor”. Really? And that “there is not enough concentrated demand”… “to operate the regional rail network as rapid transit”. Really? You imply that because “the regional rail network currently does not function as rapid transit, it’s primarily a targeted service aimed at commuters” that this is it’s only possible function. Really? And you continually imply that those who want a seamless regional PT network are only interested in getting to the airport. Really? You need to expand your analysis, take another look at the data and listen to what we are saying.
    The primary purpose of a seamless across-city high-quality PT corridor is to connect the large population north of the city with the large population south of the city so they don’t have to use their cars for trips that cross the CBD. This isn’t just the people who want to get to the airport (they are a small subset) nor those south of the CBD who want to get to work (which seems to be your major concern – again they are a subset). It is for ALL trips that cross the CBD, 16+ hours per day, 7 days per week. The data shows this is a huge number, all day, every day.

    The LGWM data report presents this data. It shows that those wanting to get ACROSS the CBD rather than TO the CBD are in fact the majority of trips for cars approaching from the north. If we take the flow through the Terrace Tunnel as a proxy for across town trips (this will be an underestimate since it doesn’t include cross town motorists who use a waterfront route or who exit at the Terrace due to Tunnel congestion), the figure in 2016 on a weekday was 41,350. (table 4 page 14). Comparing this to the total daily flow to and from the north by adding SH1 and SH2 flows (same table) gives 41,850 + 43,050 = 84,900 (this will be an overestimate of cars approaching the CBD since it includes those going from the Hutt to Porirua/Kapiti and vice versa). Given the over and underestimates the across town trips will be the majority.

    The data also shows this is not just work commuters. Figures 19-21 on page 17 show that Terrace Tunnel volumes peak at 1600-1700 hrs on a weekday but stay at over 70% of this volume continuously from 7am to 7pm and over 50% from 6am to 8pm (as far as the data goes). This huge volume continues through the weekend, although more concentrated in the middle of the day. These figures are unsurprising. There is a large population both north and south of the central city and these populations will inevitably generate a large number of across-town trips. These are not only work commuters or people going to the airport, but just citizens going about their everyday lives. At present they have to undertake all these trips by car since they have no viable PT option. Getting these riders out of their cars will likely make Terrace Tunnel duplication unnecessary for some decades.

    Are you and FIT really PT advocates interested in offering these people a PT option and maximising the efficiency of our regional PT network in a ‘fair and intelligent’ way? Or are you just a group who have a pet fixed light rail scheme south of the CBD that you want to push through irrespective of the regional data and analysis? Because I am seriously beginning to wonder.

  19. Leviathan, 11. October 2020, 10:38

    Glen – the route needs to go through the areas of maximum population concentration. Going through Mt Vic (to where? Haitaitai?) misses out on the considerable amount of population in Newtown, the considerable amount of workers at the Hospital, and the potential to grow these areas from one storey high low-end housing into more successful and more dynamic bustling suburban centres. Then over to Kilbirnie, for more of the same. Missing out Newtown would be tragic.

    You’ve obviously put a lot of thinking into this whole issue – but the buses from the southern suburbs are full to bursting already, which is why, if we want more Wellingtonians to be able to live relatively centrally, we need to have a better public transport system to get them into town.

    Can you post a link to your February article so we can all find it easier, and do you have a Plan that can be posted as well? Thanks

  20. John Rankin, 11. October 2020, 15:11

    I am mindful of Robert Watson-Watt (inventor of radar), whose cult of the imperfect advises engineers to “Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes.”

    I agree with @DaveB that this is a matter of will, not money. If the National Party can take one day to promise an Auckland harbour road tunnel (which would be the most expensive civil engineering project in our history), clearly we can afford whatever we decide we want.

    I see that @Dave and @Glen answer @Leviathan’s question about how the 8 suburban train platforms convert to 2 urban MRT tracks as follows: it “can be surgically inserted” and “can be overcome with some clever design and without any major destruction”. I wonder if @Leviathan is satisfied with these answers. I also wonder how a southbound passenger at the railway station knows where to go to catch the next train. If she is heading north, she always goes to the same place, but has no idea where the next southbound train will arrive. Do you perhaps add a southbound stop on Waterloo Quay outside the PwC building?

    Addressing @Leviathan’s challenge, I agree that there are 3 possibilities for designing a railway station interchange.
    Underground. In which case, consider running the MRT line under the Golden Mile, emerging onto Taranaki Street above the sea level rise risk. This would enable re-wilding several streams our forebears put into concrete pipes and increase the ecological density of the city centre with some wetlands. Are we willing to accept the cost and GM disruption this option would create?
    Surface. The MRT platform would be in the current station forecourt on Bunny Street, then the line would run across Waterloo Quay with 2 lanes on the seaward side of the quays, crossing to run down the middle of the quays at a Frank Kitts Park stop (at Willeston Street).
    Elevated. The MRT platform would be above and across the suburban train tracks, with escalators and lifts to the platforms. This option is attractive if combined with developing the air space above the station for apartments, as some have mooted. The elevated section would probably descend to street level south of Whitmore Street, then run down the middle of Customhouse Quay.

    @Glen says “the committee that decided on the route started from the premise that rail will go through Newtown” but I think this statement is misleading. LGWM’s starting point, as I understand it, is that the Adelaide Road, Newtown, Kilbirnie corridor is the target for future medium density housing development. Making this the MRT corridor is designed to foster transit-oriented development, so that Wellington can add more residents along the corridor without adding more cars. Creating transit-oriented communities along MRT lines is a proven development strategy, used in cities all over the world. LGWM has stated that MRT on this corridor can achieve a 20 minute journey time between the airport and station. Running MRT on the corridor LGWM has proposed sends a loud and clear signal to developers and house buyers that “density done well happens here”.

    I ask @Glen to refrain from ad hominem attacks (“obsessed” “blinkered”, believing the world is flat) and suggest that these have no place on Wellington.Scoop, where discourse is usually polite, even among people holding widely differing views.

  21. Glen Smith, 11. October 2020, 16:43

    Leviathan. “how to manage the interchange of passengers from 3 lines of heavy rail trains at (or before) the main train station, to seamlessly cross onto a new LR double tracked system” is indeed a challenging logistical problem but one which can be overcome with clever design, without any destruction, and without excessive cost (although some investment would certainly be required – well worth it to create a seamless regional PT system that will serve us for decades and likely for centuries to come).

    Let’s put the Johnsonville line aside to start with. It is relatively short, has the least volume, has no freight and is single track, making it an ‘outlier’ from the main Hutt and Kapiti lines.
    The first thing is to separate the Hutt and Kapiti lines to increase capacity, rather than merging them north of the station. This is currently planned but I can find no details of the exact design proposals. It would be good while changes are being made to come up with a solution that allows easy separation of trains onto an ‘across town’ corridor.
    Let’s assume a Quays-based twin ‘across town’ corridor exiting from the east of the station, that we have a mix of ‘Station’ and ‘across town’ units at peak time, and that the Hutt line approaches the city on the east of the Kapiti line. Then separating ‘across town’ trains from the Hutt line is relatively straightforward. The only conflict is with the northbound ‘across town’ units crossing the south bound ‘Station units’ and merging with the north bound ‘Station’ units.
    Things are more difficult with the Kapiti line to the west. If done ‘at grade’ then south bound ‘across town’ units would have to cross both north and south bound Hutt tracks, and north bound ‘across town’ units would have cross both north and south bound Hutt units AND south bound Kapiti ‘Station’ units to merge with north bound ‘Station’ units. A logistical nightmare with trains arriving up to every minute at peak time. Grade separation is required. This could be expensive unless we use existing infrastructure. There is only one train-to-train grade separation at present and this is where the north bound Hutt units pass under the Kapiti lines. Could this be utilised to achieve the result we want? I absolutely think so.
    The alternative to having ‘across town’ Kapiti units grade separated from the Hutt lines, is to first separate Hutt across town units (relatively easy as above) north of the current Hutt/ Kapiti merge, THEN SWITCH THE HUTT LINE TO THE WEST OF THE KAPITI LINE USING THE EXISTING GRADE SEPARATION, then separate the Kapiti ‘across town units’ south of the current merge (again relatively easy as above). The current south bound Hutt line running beside the motorway (around the merge point) would then become the northernmost part of the ‘across town’ corridor.
    One difficulty is that there is only one line here. This could be increased to 2 lines by utilising the width currently occupied by the pointless 4th north bound motorway lane (an $80 million exercise in futility).
    Lines immediately north of the Station would have to be increased to 6 (2 Hutt station lines, 2 Kapiti station lines and 2 across-town lines). Where these run exactly would depend on freight design which again depends on where the new Ferry terminal is going to be positioned. The across town lines could run through the rail yards, or potentially somewhere on the harbour side of the Stadium.
    This leaves the Johnsonville line. Initially this could terminate at the station with transfer but the future option would be to have this exiting from the Station to the west then crossing Bunny St south of the station to join the Quays across town line (and so avoiding interacting with ‘Station’ units) or perhaps joining a future true ‘light rail’ Golden mile corridor if future growth and PT patronage make a Karori or Island Bay light rail corridor economically feasible (not likely in the foreseeable future but always possible in decades to come).
    A solution can be found. Again the barrier is the will to do this.

  22. luke, 11. October 2020, 18:57

    Not all trains need to run south of the railway station, people do transfer on a proper network, moving platforms p8 & p9 diagonally across the carpark adjacent P9 (potentially needing the stadium concourse to go) then elevating it over & along the quays, something like Skyrail in Melbourne.

  23. Leviathan, 12. October 2020, 7:32

    Glen – or, simpler than that: have passengers cross lines at Kaiwharawhara, where there is a platform that all trains can stop at. Transfer to a new City line there that just travels through the CBD, through Newtown, and eventually to the Airport. I’d get that new line to rise up and over the main road by the CakeTin, so it then is on the seaward side of the road by the time it comes to a new empty site where the ill-fated BNZ ground scraper was. That’d be easier than trying to dig it underground. Do it as Metro style units, driverless, at 5-10 minute intervals. Everyone who wants to continue into the city by foot can do so at the existing main train station. The rest of us can transfer onto the City Line, without any disruption of traffic, and the train will tootle along the Quays, somehow do a handbrake turn and zip up Taranaki St (possible with light rail, not possible with heavy rail, sorry Glen), and from then onto the Hospital.

    I’ve always said that the crunch points are the biggest issue. Solve the clashes at Wellington Railway station, at Taranaki St, and at the Basin, and you’re away. Without solutions there though, we’re getting nowhere.

  24. John Rankin, 12. October 2020, 19:16

    @Leviathan: can you do driverless light metro on-street? As far as I know, all current driverless lines are fully separated from pedestrians and traffic. Driverless is a real game-changer for MRT, because it becomes economic to run shorter trains more often. For passengers, Frequency = Freedom. If it’s technically feasible then yes, it’s what we should do, but I don’t know if it’s feasible in Wellington.

    Driverless metro might be feasible on existing streets if you:
    – always run the lines down the middle of the street, away from pedestrians and cyclists
    – disallow all right-hand turns across the tracks (ie “left-in, left-out”) at all intersections
    – install automatic barrier arms to control cross-traffic, or grade-separate the busiest intersections

    I hope LGWM will tell us more about this possibility in the MRT business case. As I understand it, “trackless tram” is not driverless, its human driver is computer-assisted. I agree with the rest of @Leviathan’s comment, although rather than a handbrake turn from Cable onto Taranaki, I think you can follow Jervois Quay, elevating south of the city-to-sea bridge to clear the Taranaki / Wakefield / Jervois intersection.

  25. Sam Donald, 13. October 2020, 7:07

    Presumably with Dave and Glen’s scenarios and a rapid transit level of service (c. 5 minute frequency) through the city, a vast majority of northbound travellers would be transferring at Wellington Station so get onto a train that takes them where they actually want to go on one of the multitude of regional lines. Either that, or wait a long time for “their” train and the next day decide to go back to driving. So let’s accept that people will need to transfer (as happens in almost every well functioning international city), make the transferring as painless as possible, and use a light, modern, cost effective, pedestrian friendly transport solution that creates a city people want to live in as well as well as just move through.

  26. Ian, 13. October 2020, 9:19

    Is no one supporting the “over the railway yards covered passenger transfer hub” option with heavy-rail below, and light-rail, buses and taxis on the top? Close access to ferries and direct access off the motorway with plenty of space for park-and-ride for people in cars from the north-Wellington development areas that are not well serviced by public transport. Such a proposal would also facilitate some commercial and residential developments in the air-space above, as are being proposed for the other transport hubs. Plenty of international examples of such developments.

  27. Glen Smith, 13. October 2020, 15:10

    Leviathan. Newtown isn’t ‘missed out’ if we don’t run rail there – it is simply serviced by buses (which run via the Golden Mile – where most commuters want to go – and which directly service the suburbs where most hospital users come from). Island Bay/ Berhampore already has the population to justify an 8-10 minute bus service for most of the day. With growth planned in the Draft Spatial Plan, this could be even more frequent. In addition I routed the Karori to Seatoun route via Newtown- again an 8-10 minute service. This would currently be a double deck bus in each direction every 4-5 minutes – not including other southern routes- and likely more in future. The Golden Mile probably doesn’t have the capacity to cater for more frequent buses at peak times (hence your comment on ‘full to bursting’) but that will change once some lines are switched to Quays Rail. Can you provide the modelling to justify your assertion that Newtown, including any future growth, will be so underserviced by future bus services that we have to go to the huge cost and logistical challenges of running rail through Newtown, forcing eastern commuters to take a long circuitous route (which will drive most back to their cars) and turning Newtown from a pleasant historic commercial area into a rail thoroughfare running huge trains (through a canyon based on new height limits) containing thousands of people from the east who don’t want to be there.

  28. Dave B, 14. October 2020, 1:21

    Quite a lot of points I am challenged to respond to. I’ll be as succinct as I can:-

    @ Leviathan,
    “What would be the route of a heavy-rail extension?”
    The 1963 De Leuw Cather study envisaged a route elevated from the rail-yards then tunnelled beneath the Terrace, Ghuznee St and Tory Street to Newtown. The 1970 study by Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner looked also at two alternative routes, cut-and-cover beneath Lambton Quay, Wakefield, then following Tory Street, and cut-and-cover via the Waterfront, then following Taranaki Street. All options would deviate from the existing rail-corridor in rail-yards and by-pass the station to the east or the west. I would envisage the Waterfront option being the easiest, with a huge amount to be saved if Waterloo/Jervois Quay could be de-trafficked and rail run at-grade then covered-over and landscaped. Beyond there it would need to be cut-and-cover beneath Taranaki Street until the ground rises sufficiently to allow boring to Newtown then Kilbirnie. But any scheme would require major investigation experts before being settled-on, and it is beyond me to do any more than muse.

    As for your suggestion of a transfer-station at Kaiwharawhara to a driverless metro every 5-10 minutes, you fail to grasp the scale of the transport-task required. Currently during the peaks, we have a train of 4-8 cars arriving every 2-3 minutes, with ‘peak-of-the-peak’ passenger flows over 10,000 people per hour. Any end-on extension has to be compatible not only with this, but also with the large further growth that will ensue. And although a proportion of arriving passengers would still disembark where they do now, De Leuw Cather estimated that 75% would wish to continue on an extension. Even without an extension, passenger traffic is growing, with more- and longer trains now being planned-for.

    @ Glen Smith,
    “Why am I advocating heavy-rail?”. Answer, a) because a Matangi-service is what we already have, and this is what we need to extend if at all possible. b) because a train up to every 2 minutes at 50Km/h will preclude running in-the-street and will require a protected right-of-way, whatever rolling-stock is used. Achieving such a corridor is the main cost-item, whether for heavy or light rail. But it doesn’t have to be designed to carry freight trains. I would envisage a minimum curve-radius of 200m as-per the Johnsonville Line.

    “Track sharing” (i.e. heavy + light trains sharing the same tracks) is done in a few overseas cities that have surplus capacity on their legacy systems, but this would not be an easy fit for Wellington’s already busy system. It would introduce unnecessary complexities and is likely to face major hurdles of acceptance on the existing railway. Its only advantage is in allowing light rail vehicles to run both on the main line and in the street, but I argue that street-running is inappropriate as an extension of the metro system we already have.

    “Would a four-track extension be needed?”. No. A twin-track extension signalled for 2-minute headways (or less) would be adequate for the foreseeable peak service pattern. The present three approach-tracks into Wellington (plus Johnsonville) are only necessary because of the inefficiencies of terminating an intensive service at a single dead-end station. A run-around loop at the end of any extension would hugely de-congest the operation, and the extension would act as a ‘pipeline’ which trains would enter at down-to 2-minute intervals and re-emerge to head back northwards with no need to reverse or criss-cross each-other’s paths. Auckland’s City Rail Link currently will similarly ‘unblock’ the present terminal station there. Yes, platforms would need to be 180m long to accommodate 8-car trains.

    “Why must rail run via Newtown?”. Newtown is a major centre for residence, business and public-facility, far more so than Hataitai. It definitely requires inclusion in the regional rail network, as do Kilbirnie and Rongotai. Hataitai can continue to be served by bus.

    @ John Rankin,
    “How do 8 suburban platforms convert to 2 urban MRT tracks?”. I have answered this above. The 8 tracks are necessary because all trains currently terminate at the one place, and because of the way the service is operated with lengthy layovers between inbound and outbound journeys. Layovers will disappear from the CBD with the extension I envisage, and these will thenceforth happen only at suburban termini where they belong. This is how Auckland will operate once the CRL goes live.

    “How can a 2-track extension be surgically inserted through the city?”. It is a challenge, but far less of a challenge than inserting a motorway which we happily did in the 1970s by bulldozing whole suburbs plus a cemetery. Again, Auckland’s CRL points the way, and once construction is finished the railway will be completely hidden.

    “How would southbound passengers know where to catch the next train?”. The extension would have separate platforms to the east of the present station, “diagonally across the present carpark” as suggested by @Luke above”. This is where passengers would go to join trains southwards. The existing platforms would be retained for long-distance services which many people would like to see restored, and also for contingency in the event of the extension suffering a breakdown or blockage.

    @ Sam Donald
    “The vast majority of northbound travellers would be transferring at Wellington Station”. No! If you have ever been on any of the many overseas metro systems where multiple routes share a single platform in the CBD-section, you will be familiar with the passenger information displays which advise where the next train is bound for, and the one after that, and so on. People simply wait for the train they want, rather than getting on the first train that comes then having to change. There is significant perceived penalty in having to transfer, especially if there are crowds, or you have baggage or kids, or you are not so spry yourself.

    @ Ian
    “Is no-one supporting the ‘over the railway yards transfer hub’?”.
    If compulsory interchange for all rail passengers is unavoidable then the easier it can be made the better. However, a simple rule is that you don’t impose transfers on arterial passenger-flows, which this very definitely is. Interchanging is fine for secondary flows to maximise the efficiency of the network, but forcing thousands of rail passengers to get out of their comfortable Matangis at the one spot like-it-or-not, is akin to forcing all motorists coming in on the motorway to leave their cars in Thorndon and change to some other mode from there. This is not what we should be planning for. We need to do this properly.

  29. Ross Clark, 14. October 2020, 3:25

    Coming back to this debate after too long away:

    [for traffic coming from the north of the CBD]
    * I’ve really gone off the idea of street-running LRT (the city I live in has an eight-mile light rail line, two miles of which are street-running in the city centre). Simply put, it bogs down too easily in the peaks, evening especially, at which point it becomes a very large, very expensive bus. Hence, light rail along the Golden Mile would only work with significant restrictions on car use (esp parking). And this is something which could be done now.

    * So, I’m with David B on extending heavy rail. The cost lies not so much in the tunnels as in the stations. The only weakness is that current service frequencies in the Wellington regional area aren’t nearly high enough to see significant off-peak use.

    * A direct rail link of the sort David B and I would argue for, would not create overmuch additional peak demand, because two-thirds or so of the city centre’s jobs are within a ten-minute walk of the station. But it would capture more of the travel task for the area south of about Manners St.

    [for traffic coming from south of the CBD]
    * More bus priorities are essential, and could be done now. Cars could already be restricted from the Golden Mile – and light rail will not make much of a difference if cars are not kept out of the way.

    * The major cost in subway systems lies in the stations, more than the tunnelling.

  30. Leviathan, 14. October 2020, 11:58

    All talk of undergrounding tracks and tunnels would just indicate huge costs – the most economic result can only come from surface running. Auckland’s CRL underground loop is a massively expensive project, only possible because of the tantalising possibility of unlocking their terminal gridlock situation, and allowable in dollar terms because of their huge population. Too little, too late for them, in my opinion, but we are much smaller and the time for us is now, before we grow too much. But talk of undergrounding things is just going to kill the project dead with massive costs – we will already need some tunnels under the hilly bits like Mt Vic / Mt Albert – but train tunnels under / through the city are probably a non starter. We need to devise a small and sensible solution for a small and sensible city… and that means Light Rail. Heavy rail will never climb the gradients or turn the corners necessary as it snakes through the city.

    Ross Clark – no-one is talking about rail of any form, light, heavy, medium, or metro, down the Golden Mile. LGWM have made it clear that this is the present and future bus route. Any RT system would, if installed at all, go along the waterfront Quays. And it would travel at ground level – only issues of crossing the road would occur at the Wellington Railway Station, where the easiest way is to get passengers to cross the road via an aerial bridge right at platform 9. This seems so obvious to me, I’m not sure why others can’t grasp it. Yes, of course, it would be lovely to have the train itself cross over from the main tracks and onto the Quays, but that is a couple of hundred million more expensive, and so probably would never get the go-ahead.

    Your comments about tunnelling are only partially true. If using a TBM, then tunnelling set-up costs are huge, but actual running costs and difficulties are relatively manageable. But we won’t be using a TBM in Wellington – the run lengths are way too small for the setup costs, unless the entire route is tunnelled underground (massively expensive!), so instead we will be tunnelling by hand (actually with road-header units) and installing sprayed concrete walls, which costs less to set up but is more expensive per metre. The answer will be to limit any work underground – especially as with climate warming, anything underground in central Wellington will be effectively being built under water. I hope this clarifies things for you.

  31. Leviathan, 14. October 2020, 12:05

    John Rankin – you’re right, and I’m wrong, about driverless metro at ground level. I think that yes, it can be done underground as the track is not accessible by humans – but yes, it is too risky at ground level due to human nature to wander out in front of an oncoming vehicle. So – any units running at ground level would still need to have a driver, for the foreseeable future. Current developments in cars from the likes of Tesla etc would seem to indicate that this may change in the future though…

  32. John Rankin, 14. October 2020, 14:05

    @Leviathan: it would be prudent for us to plan on moving to self-driving operation at some point, because of all the benefits this would deliver. As I understand it, we know quite a lot about what makes automated operation on-street a wicked problem. So we ought to know how to design and build the corridor to be “autonomous LRV ready”. This would also optimise the corridor for speed of operation, because the things that make autonomous operation hard, like pesky pedestrians and idiot drivers, tend to slow down human-operated light rail too.

    In my view, if we engineered the line to identify and remove the constraints that would make autonomous operation harder, this would have the happy side-effect of making human-operated trains faster. LGWM quotes a station to airport travel time by its proposed MRT route of 20 minutes. Let’s hold them to that and push them to do 10% better.

  33. Dave B, 14. October 2020, 14:11

    Leviathan, you (and others) continue to labour under the misapprehension that there is a cheap-and-easy fix to Wellington’s growing transport needs by shoe-horning metro-scale mass rapid transit into existing streets. Well think again. There is no cheap fix to this, and the alternative to not providing a regionally-effective public-transport solution is more traffic, more road-construction, more problems and eventual greater cost. Unless the region stops growing and goes backwards, we have no choice but to confront this with what it takes. And the real need is for an additional high-capacity transport-corridor across the CBD, not some wishful thinking that re-creating the city’s tram-system will somehow solve regional transport issues. Underground rail or more motorway tunnels, take your pick!

    The Ministry of Works was starting to plan for a rail extension in the late 1950s, when the Wellington trams were still running. They recognized that a regional solution was needed and that the trams, great as they were, were not it. The mistake in both Auckland and Wellington was to abandon the rail-expansion plans in the 1970s and pour all resources for the next several decades into providing for cars. You are right that Wellington has not progressed as far down this road as Auckland, so there is still time to change and do what we should have done in the first place.

    I would like you also to consider that Auckland’s larger overall population is not what justifies underground rail there but not here. Much of regional-Auckland lies remote from rail, so the population in those areas does not contribute to the justification. If you exclude those areas and consider just the rail-served corridors, then the situation is quite similar to regional-Wellington. Auckland is of course wrestling with how to bring rail in some form or other to those remote areas also, and is facing the same conundrums of whether it can or cannot be cheaply squeezed into existing streets.

    And by the way, there is a group that is talking about running light rail down the Golden Mile, and that is ‘Tramsaction’ with their tram-train proposal. This is similar in some respects to what Glen Smith is proposing. There is some appeal to this, as many cities manage successfully to combine light rail and pedestrianized, CBD-environments. However the sticking point again is the scale of the task required to meet our regional transport objectives, and the incompatibility of this with the pedestrian-mall environment. In a less car-dominated society, perhaps we could have both underground rail and street trams! Oslo has done this, and although their metro-area population is now 1.3 million, they built their system pre-emptively before the population grew to this level. As you say, Leviathan, “the time for us is now, before we grow too much”.

  34. John Rankin, 14. October 2020, 19:21

    @DaveB: who is proposing to recreate the city’s tram system? Properly designed on-street light rail mass rapid transit in Wellington could carry up to 10,000 passengers per hour and achieve an average speed of 30 kph. No match for suburban rail in either capacity or speed, but good enough for city travel and vastly superior to Wellington’s old streetcars.

    Running light rail on a pedestrianised Golden Mile would be a streetcar, not rapid transit. And if you propose to put streetcars on the Golden Mile, where will the buses go? @Leviathan’s right; most people (including LGWM) accept that Wellington needs a second transit corridor through the city centre for MRT (of whatever form), leaving the Golden Mile for buses and people. If you can find the money and get the Chamber of Commerce onside, I will happily support rail following the Golden Mile underground, but I’m not holding my breath.

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Since LGWM wants MRT on the waterfront quays, let’s support them and push them to make it the best it can be. Otherwise, some future DaveB in 50 years will be lamenting the missed opportunity that was LGWM. Don’t reject the good to pursue the perfect, because the perfect never comes.

  35. Leviathan, 14. October 2020, 21:37

    Dave B – I’m not labouring under any misapprehension about costs. I’ve worked on these projects myself, so I know exactly what I’m talking about, and I also know that nothing will happen if the scheme is unrealistic. There are only a handful of people in the city with this experience – so I know the difference between a pipe-dream and reality. I’m firmly on the side of reality.

    I think we are both in agreement that Auckland left it far too late to install their rapid transit – I remember my old friend Mayor Robbie advocating for that back in the 1960s – but the great thing about Wellington is that we have a different urban form from them. Yes, we live on the edge of a mammoth crack in the world’s plates, but we also have a city which is a very much more linear form, and that will enable a linear traffic solution that will work for better than Auckland’s spread out form factor.

    Auckland is like a cancer – growing wild in every direction, out of control. Wellington on the other hand is like the boy’s blood system – long and linear and bifurcated but growing along logical routes. We have to work with those routes, but without major surgery, just with the odd stent inserted to relieve the pressure. And the first stent needs to be surgically inserted at the Railway station,

  36. Ross Clark, 15. October 2020, 3:20

    Well, what can we do now?

    * Promote public transport through CBD parking restrictions, esp for commuters, and have a more careful eye at on-street parking.

    * In the off-peak offer direct (express) buses from the north of Wellington City through to Taranaki St and points south, esp the hospital – thus, avoiding the Golden Mile. Bear with me on this one; while it would not be as fast as driving, it would be faster than the current train-and-bus arrangements, and I doubt that off-peak rail would have much of this traffic to lose anyway.

    * In the peak, promote rail by running free buses along the Quays between the railway station and Courtenay Place – but no stopping before Taranaki St (free’s always good). With traffic light pre-emption it could work well.

  37. Glen Smith, 15. October 2020, 9:08

    Dave B. Again I essentially agree with you, in an ideal world where our planners and politicians are able to think long term and strategically (decades to centuries) rather than on a 3 yr political cycle or even a 30 year medium term basis. Sadly this isn’t the real world we live in. Instead we have a LGWM team that until recently thought we could run all cross-town PT down the Golden Mile, and when they did finally run a Quays corridor the drawings showed what looked like a bus stop at the side of the road with one person at it (have they looked at the data? or even looked at any MRT networks worldwide let alone designed one?). And we have a National Party snapping at Labour’s heels wanting to spend everything on roads in some delusional idea this will ease city congestion (but good for attracting votes in the short term).

    While I suspect our great grandchildren will likely regret not instituting a plan such as yours, the current political and economic reality (as John and Leviathan point out) is that isn’t going to happen. If this is the only plan you advocate to achieve a seamless regional public transport network then you are, in effect, guaranteeing continuation of a truncated rail spine at the station and, at best, a separate ‘light’ rail system south of here.

    The question is can we achieve the same net effect (a seamless corridor so people can get on a train at Upper Hutt or Waikanae that has a sign “Airport” or “Miramar” on its front and get out at these points, or any point in between, without transfer) while not incurring the huge expense and disruption of your proposal? I absolutely think we can. I’m not saying it will be easy, but absolutely achievable.

    I don’t think this can be ‘heavy’ rail (depending on your definition), nor ‘light rail’ (again depending on your definition) but ‘medium weight rail’. By this I mean a rail corridor and rail units that are as ‘heavily’ designed as an achievable surface across route will allow, which hopefully will be units that are ‘heavy’ enough to travel on the same tracks as our freight and existing Matangi trains (international experience with ‘track sharing’ indicates this should be possible – see my previous references to this. Perhaps our LGWM planners could update us on their latest research into this option for the public to evaluate – yeah right). This what we should be working on, and I hope you will join me in advocating for this. The fall back would be MRT of the type FIT advocate but I think we can, and should, do better.

  38. John Rankin, 16. October 2020, 13:58

    In reply to @SamDonald, @DaveB says: “People simply wait for the train they want, rather than getting on the first train that comes then having to change.” This strikes me as irrational behaviour.

    According to Dave and Glen, at least half of all suburban trains will terminate at the railway station. Hence a traveller is better off catching the first train that comes along. If she’s lucky, it will take her directly to her destination. If not, she gets off at the railway station and catches the next train leaving for her destination. Sometimes this will be the one she would have caught if she had waited and sometimes it will be an earlier train that terminated at the station. For the majority of regular travellers, “wait[ing] for the train they want” is a sub-optimal strategy.

    I conclude that the design Dave recommends, with his strategy of waiting for the train that takes you to your destination, would result in longer average journey times than LGWM’s proposal. The question facing Dave’s traveller is: do I (a) catch the train in front of me, change at the railway station, and get home in 30 minutes; or (b) wait for 20 minutes, get home in 45 minutes, but avoid changing at the station?

  39. Dave B, 17. October 2020, 0:46

    @ John R. Glen might have half the trains terminating at the Railway Station, but not under my scheme. I propose all will continue around the ‘extension-loop’.
    You describe as “irrational behavior” what people on many metro systems do as routine. Fine if that’s your view, and I’m sure there will be some that will choose to do as you advocate. But you have misunderstood what I am proposing if you think you will get home faster by getting on an earlier train that doesn’t go where you want, then changing to the correct one that you would have been on anyway if you had waited.

  40. Glen Smith, 17. October 2020, 22:26

    John and Dave. You misunderstand my proposal. ALL time slots would run through trains so NO across town riders would need to transfer. At low volume/ non peak times these through trains may have enough capacity to supply all demand including those going to the Station (this capacity would largely depend on what across town platform length can be achieved – 90m may be possible, equivalent to a 4 carriage Matangi). When this capacity is regularly exceeded, a Station train would be added IMMEDIATELY before the across town unit (less than 2 minute gap should be achievable with a modern train control system) to deplete Station riders. At peak time this would effectively increase the capacity on each current scheduled service from 8 to ?12 carriages (Chris Calvi-Freeman has previously mentioned that current scheduled capacity was inadequate and had pondered increasing train length to more than 8 carriages with some carriages not opening onto the platform – not an ideal solution).
    Before the lines merge north of the Station, the only problem with this plan would be freight windows dropping from 20 to 18 minutes at off peak times, and some tight current scheduled timetabling (3-4 minutes between units at some stations) which may need tweeking. However the biggest logistical problem would be managing trains at the station. Separating the Hutt and Kapiti lines then using the existing grade separation (see my previous comment) may be adequate to manage conflicts, given a modern train control system. If not then additional grade separations could be added to eliminate almost all line conflicts associated with separating an across town line. This would add expense but far less than trying to tunnel across the CBD to run all trains across town.

    Is the result worth this effort compared to just accepting a transfer as proposed by FIT? Absolutely. All the empirical evidence is that the Station transfer is a potent barrier to PT uptake for across town trips. Would it be cost effective? I suspect so. The extra cost (initial infrastructure and units, plus extra drivers on an ongoing basis) would likely be dwarfed by the savings (road building, congestion, accidents, pollution, climate change etc.) from increased patronage/ mode shift to PT compared to a fractured spine.

    Perhaps the LGWM team could share what their modelling/ investigations/ costings have shown regarding this.

  41. luke, 18. October 2020, 17:09

    How about a decent express bus from the station to Courtenay Pl every few min along bus lanes on the quays. integrated ticketing so no fiscal penalty. Priority at intersections etc.

  42. John Rankin, 19. October 2020, 20:08

    @DaveB and @GlenSmith: thank you for the clarification. If all train time slots run through, you are right and I am wrong. I assumed they didn’t.

    However, this conversation shines light on a fundamental question: how much capacity is needed on the MRT corridor south of the railway station to the eastern suburbs? By my arithmetic, on the day a southern rail extension opens, @DaveB’s proposal would have a capacity of at least 15,000 passengers per hour and @Glen’s would have a capacity of about 12,000 passengers per hour.

    As I understand it, LGWM’s MRT proposal is for a capacity of about 4,000 passengers per hour initially, with the potential to grow to a maximum of about 10,000 passengers per hour over an extended time period. LGWM’s growth in demand is through progressive medium-density intensification along the corridor plus people switching from driving to MRT, possibly using a congestion charge to encourage a switch. LGWM’s proposal reflects estimated demand on the proposed route.

    This shows the importance, as @SamDonald’s submission on the spatial plan says, of considering all aspects of densification together, not in isolation. Could Dave or Glen show their workings to justify a demand on opening day that is well in excess of the maximum long-term demand that LGWM envisages? If they are right and LGWM (and FIT) is wrong, we are about to make an expensive mistake. On the other hand, if LGWM’s estimates are right, the proposals from Dave and Glen would be a massively expensive over-build.

    Dave and Glen, how do you plan to fill the trains you want to run to the south and east? Where did LGWM’s modelling go wrong?

  43. Julienz, 19. October 2020, 21:46

    @luke – My understanding of an express bus is one that does not stop. I am not sure how many people would want to go from Wellington Station to Courtenay Place without stopping. Could you explain who this would benefit please? I know Lambton Quay is slow but there are buses leaving Wellington Station heading to Courtenay Place every 2 to 3 minutes throughout the day now.

  44. Dave B, 19. October 2020, 23:13

    @ Glen. I thought I understood your proposal but now I am not so sure. Your plan I thought was to run “medium-weight units” that are both main-line and street-capable, following behind each Matangi from some point on the existing network, then continuing beyond the main railway station where the Matangis will still terminate. Passengers on the medium-weight unit can remain in their seats as they head across town. Passengers from the Matangis would need to transfer. The medium-weight units would run the entire service in the off-peak, to be supplemented by Matangis in the peaks. Please correct me if I’ve got that wrong.

    Problems I foresee with this are
    i) It pretty-much doubles the number of peak-time train movements over the shared sections of track which are already congested,
    ii) The carrying-capacity of the new route south of the station would be much less than the capacity of the main-line system feeding it, and
    iii) Matangi-loads of passengers would still be faced with changing from one type of train to another, unless you assume that the bulk of those passengers have no desire to avail themselves of the extended service. But as I say, correct me if I am wrong.

    @ John. LGWM’s capacity projections of 4,000 passengers/hour must surely assume that the proposed MRT system will not be accepting a significant proportion of the passengers currently coming in by existing train. And if this is the case then it will become self-fulfilling, as in excess of 10,000pph from the trains are forced to accept that the MRT system does not provide a meaningful extension for them. So most train-passengers will continue on foot as they do now, and regional transport flows across the city will remain as they are – i.e. mostly by car. It seems to me that LGWM is failing to address the regional view in its basic mandate, just like the Public Transport Spine Study which preceded it. The assumption is that the main regional people-mover will continue to be the motorway, and that ‘4-lanes-to-the-planes’ will remain a necessary objective. Is this also FIT’s assumption?

    You ask how I plan to fill the much-greater MRT capacity I am advocating? The answer is by unloading a significant proportion of the traffic that currently goes by road, and which is currently fueling demand for further high-cost motorway construction. I won’t attempt to speak for Glen since I believe he proposes increased road capacity via a large, combined road-and-rail Mt Vic tunnel.

    @ Luke. A frequent express bus from “Platform 10” of the railway station to Civic Square, Courtenay Place, Newtown, Kilbirnie and Airport would be great and is something I have tried to advocate as a way of providing an immediate improvement in connectivity between the rail-system and southern parts of the city. However this has yet to appear on any official ‘radar’ and there is a perverse view out there that most train passengers will somehow never want to travel any further from the station than they can walk! Such a bus service, effectively connecting with every train, would help to open up the totally repressed market for public transport travel across the north-south divide.

  45. luke, 20. October 2020, 14:43

    An express bus from P9 to Courtenay Pl, perhaps also stopping somewhere near Te Papa, would allow train passengers to travel to the entirety of the CBD with a vastly reduced time and fiscal penalty on what they currently have. The existing transfer is not popular because it’s not very good.

  46. Glen Smith, 20. October 2020, 18:31

    Dave B. Yes you have the essentials right. Whether the Matangis only run at ‘peak’ time or throughout the day would depend on what demand could be generated. My suspicion is that they would soon be running all day. This depends on what proportion of the minimum of 41,000 across town car trips throughout the day could be attracted onto rail, how many of the current commuters who currently get of at the station would prefer to get off at a station further south, and what demand is generated from new growth. John may be right that the capacity is initially in excess of what is required but the point is that the system has to have the capability/ flexibility to expand to accommodate any growth that will occur in the future, forever. Do it once and do it right.

    The Matangis would only be for station riders so none would have to transfer as you imply (except to bus if they preferred this for a Golden Mile destination, or to switch to suburban bus lines or the Johnsonville train). Matangi’s would always be followed by an across town unit so through riders would know to wait.

    As you say this plan would up to double the trains through the ‘pinchpoint’ just north of the station and wouldn’t work if changes weren’t made to increase capacity and resolve conflicts before the trains get to the station building. This is, in my view, quite achievable (again perhaps LGWM could publish their modeling for this) -I think I previously sent you an e-mail with a diagram of my basic outline as per my note above. Further grade separation would be possible but would add expense (and could always be added later). Grade separation of north bound across town Hutt units from south bound Hutt Station units could be added north of the current merge (plenty of length/ space). Grade separation of north bound across town Kapiti units from south bound Kapiti Station units could be added somewhere south of the current merge (tighter but I think still workable).

    I support a multipurpose second Mt Victoria Tunnel because with ongoing growth additional road capacity will inevitably be required, even given the most optimistic PT mode share, and this solution is
    1.cheaper than building a rail only tunnel then later building a road tunnel
    2. Adds cycling and pedestrian capacity (which a Mt Albert tunnel doesn’t)
    3. Is the logical direct route to the east
    4. Avoids Newtown where a ‘heavier’ corridor is unachievable without the underground tunneling you propose
    5. Is politically achievable. The majority of the public support a second Mt Victoria tunnel. Building a rail tunnel without adding road capacity is politically unachievable (sorry but it is).

  47. John Rankin, 21. October 2020, 17:52

    @DaveB: we agree that LGWM is underestimating potential ridership (their plan to delay MRT to the eastern suburbs and airport for almost 20 years is timid in the extreme).

    But I can’t make your numbers add up. In the north, if we assume one traffic lane of suppressed demand on SH1 and another on SH2, that’s about a potential 2500 passengers per hour. If the same number again of existing train passengers would travel south of the station if the option were available, that’s a total of 5,000 passengers per hour at peak.

    In the south, the road planners tell us we are short one lane in each direction east of Mt Victoria, so that’s an additional potential 1200 passengers per hour per direction (give or take), to add to the current bus users (say 3,500 passengers per hour at peak times).

    Looked at another way, @Glen quotes 41,000 cross town car trips per day. If half of these are in the peak periods, and the peaks each last 2 hours, that’s also a maximum peak demand of 5,000 passengers per hour. Getting the same order of magnitude answer with two independent estimating methods makes me think that the likely demand is going to be a lot closer to 5,000 than to 15,000+ passengers per hour.

    I realise these are error-prone back of the envelope calculations. Dave, maybe you can show me where the numbers are out by a factor of 3. The lesson I draw from this conversation is that if LGWM builds on-street light rail MRT, it needs to optimise the design for speed (average speed at least 30 kph) and growth potential (at least 10,000 passengers per hour).

  48. Dave B, 21. October 2020, 19:03

    @ John Rankin. I base my numbers on Tranz Metro’s 2015 assessment that “Nearly 9,000 people arrive at Wellington Railway Station between 7-9am on an average work-day. 1/3 of the arrive in one 15-minute period” (Tranz Metro “Scorecard” fact-sheet, 2015). This indicates 3,000 arrivals in 1/4-hr, or 12,000pph over that short period.

    De Leuw Cather (1963) proposed that “More than three quarters of the railway commuters would be better served through reduced travel time and more convenient delivery to central area destinations. Passengers would use the station closest to their place of business in the central city. . .”. This implies that 3/4 of 12,000pph (i.e. 9,000pph) would stay on their train if it ran further into town.

    De Leuw Cather went on to estimate that by 1981, with a rail-extension to Newtown, there would be 32,000 daily rail-commuters travelling each way. This figure was projected from 21,200 daily commuters in 1962, multiplied by projected a population-growth rate of 1.5%pa. We know now that commuter numbers fell instead of rose, but this must in large part be due to the Urban Motorway extension being built, and the railway extension not being built.

    Clearly De Leuw Cather’s figures would require re-validating or updating for a rail extension today, but the general indication is that daily patronage would be large, and if commuter-patterns remain as ‘peaky’ as they currently are then the peak capacity requirement would be very large. 9,000pph is based on today’s usage only. Add-in those who might transfer from road, plus new journeys that are not being made at the moment because it is too awkward, plus the relentless patronage-growth that is occurring anyway, and I suggest we could easily top 15,000pph the peak.

    And this is just considering flows from existing rail-served areas onto an extension. I have not looked at new flows which would be generated the other way, from commuters in the south who would switch to train from car or bus, plus others making new journeys they didn’t previously make, thereby unloading the congested roads in that area. However, these flows would be in the counter-direction to those from the north so would not add to the above figures.

    I believe your figure of 5,000pph might be appropriate for a separate MRT system that has no direct feed from the existing rail system. But I strongly suggest it is way too low for a full extension of the current arterial metro service.

  49. Mike Mellor, 21. October 2020, 19:47

    JR: I agree with your last two sentences. While I support the aims of both Glen and Dave, they appear to me to be very high capital cost, very high capacity all-or-nothing approaches, from which we are likely to get nothing. In addition, I don’t think Glen’s takes the complexity of integrating with the existing rail network fully into account, and appears to require very sophisticated and complex control systems operating at a level of reliability that would be difficult to achieve with either on-street running or sharing with heavy freight trains on steep gradients, let alone both. (Several times I’ve asked Glen for examples of networks in the world that operate at a similar level to what he proposes in Wellington, but with no response).

    But whatever we do is going to take at least ten years, so something has to happen in the meantime. That something clearly has to be bus priority in the short term (roll on the Golden Mile etc) and improving the interchange at Wellington Station. Major disincentives to catching the bus to/from the station are ticketing incompatibility (due to be fixed), bus reliability and speed (due to be fixed), and the fact that interchange is poor – the buses are a long way from the trains, and well off the direct walking routes to most of the city centre. I would start with putting the public transport interchange out the front of the railway station (just like nearly every German/Swiss hauptbahnhof), closing Bunny St to all but pedestrians, buses and bikes (other vehicles on station business could use platform 10). Quite how through buses to/from the north would fit in I’m not sure!

    An express bus along the quays/Victoria St (say) sounds like a good idea (they used to exist, leaving from the forecourt), but would need priority in both directions, which would be a political challenge.

    Whatever we do, the foundation has to be bus priority, now.

  50. Glen Smith, 22. October 2020, 11:19

    Mike. Track-sharing (‘tram-trains’ being its most common form – a term I don’t like because ‘tram’ implies rail at the very ‘lightest’ end of the spectrum while we want ‘heavier’ rail) is now common. Wikipedia lists 29 networks with over 30 planned (they note this list is incomplete). The archetype is Karlsruhe in Germany. Their network has 13 lines that interact in a complicated manner as well as sharing with freight and ‘heavy’ intercity trains (including high speed). A review of track-sharing notes that “Certain Karlsruhe and Cologne lines have their light rail vehicles sharing the tracks with significant levels of freight trains, as well as regional DB Railway trains. On the line between Karlsruhe and Baden Baden, the observed ratio of LRVs to freight and passenger trains was approximately 8 to 1. ….the general rule seems to be that long distance passenger and Intercity Express (ICE) high-speed trains take top priority, followed by regional DB trains and then LRVs (which often replace heavy rail consists in such services). Freight trains take last priority” (page 28). The City Transport site (http://citytransport.info/Share.htm) notes that “Included in the network are some inter-urban and InterCity services to nearby towns such as Heilbronn in the neighbouring Neckar region and Baden Baden, which is on the mainline towards Switzerland. Some services share tracks with all manner of (international) freight and passenger trains – including sometimes the very high speed ICE (InterCity Express).”

    So while Germany can integrate 13 separate rail lines at the same time as sharing a number of lines with “all manner of trains” you feel that us Kiwi’s can’t even integrate 2 lines (where trains effectively just follow each other sequentially) and that we shouldn’t even bother critically examining this option. Really?? Remember my proposal doesn’t necessarily change the current timetable or rail yard organisation (although I suspect it could be improved). It simply adds extra units immediately after current timetabled units with sufficient infrastructure change (mainly moving tracks without any major earthworks) to separate these north of the current rail yards onto an ‘across town’ corridor.

    In Europe most ‘track- sharing’ cities had to integrate existing ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ networks. The German Track Sharing review runs through some of the technological innovations needed to marry the two systems in different places. We are in the advantageous position that we are starting our across town corridor from scratch so can design it to whatever specifications we like. This includes an effective train control system. In a previous e-mail Neil Douglas stated that “..Wellington (if it hasn’t already) should look to adopt the European Train Control System (ETCS).
    Here is a video that has more acronyms than … So you’d need a rail electrical engineer to make it understandable.

    I did a peer review of ETCS for Brisbane of introducing ETCS and it was a winner enabling greater capacity cost effectively (i.e. an acceptable BCR > 1).” Of course I’m sure that LGWM, who I am confident are undertaking their task in a thorough and objective manner, have looked at all these options and undertaken comprehensive modelling and costings. Perhaps they could share their findings, including the outcome of meeting with international experts familiar with track sharing. What’s that you say?… they haven’t even bothered looking at this option at all, despite it being ideal for Wellington? Why I am all astonishment!
    [Comments are now closed as we’ve reached the maximum that the Scoop system can handle.]