Wellington Scoop

Second Karori tunnel proposed, to solve traffic jams in western suburbs

karori tunnel 2

News from Karori Residents Assn
The Karori Residents Association has come up with a comprehensive proposal that would see greater access for around 18,000 Karori residents plus Karori businesses and public transport of all types, as well as at least 7000 more western suburbs residents.

Karori development – residential and commercial – has been plagued by severely restricted transport access according to proposal writer, retired civil engineer and Karori resident Bill Guest.

“For many years, Karori was, and may still well be, the biggest single suburb by population in Wellington City,” Mr Guest said. “With proposed new suburban development plans and plenty of available developable land, Karori is likely to be an area of significant further growth.

“However, Karori is already at a tipping point, and further growth without addressing our transport bottlenecks will make us all worse off.

“Our proposal solves these transport problems and unlocks economic benefits in the short and long term.

“It is centred on a new 350m long tunnel alternative with a reasonable gradient that starts further north on Chaytor St than the current tunnel and connects to The Rigi beside Glenmore Street. It solves the problems of access for double decker bus public transport and similar restrictions on goods vehicles. It also solves other significant issues associated with re-designing the existing tunnel or previous other tunnel options that were investigated going back more than 60 years.

“Right now, both the suburb’s residents and wider catchments of Makara, Creswick Valley, Northland, Wilton and Otari are captive to a now hopelessly inadequate tunnel that effectively throttles residential and commercial transport of all types, particularly at peak hour. Traffic jams occur either side of the current tunnel and the flow-on impacts Kelburn, Aro Valley, Northland, Thorndon and beyond.

“It directly stifles public transport such as double-decker buses and is dangerous to ordinary buses, commercial trucks and vans, cycle traffic, pedestrian traffic and private vehicles. The tunnel in its current form is well past its ‘best-by’ date.

“We propose that a properly resourced and governed strategic study is undertaken by the Wellington City Council, the NZTA, and the Regional Council. This should align with the zoning strategy for Karori. An economic analysis needs to identify the transport benefits as well as the property development benefits enabled through up-zoning and confirm that they exceed costs.

“The subsequent step is to protect the route through a designation and develop a funding plan based on the beneficiaries pay principle.

“We propose that the long-term local funding contributions be used to finance the project’s own debt, using the new Infrastructure Funding & Financing Act. There is no need for the debt to add to Wellington City Council’s public tax-backed debt.”

Full proposal for second tunnel

William (Bill) Guest is a retired civil engineer who has lived in Karori for 26 years. He graduated with a B.E. (Civil) from the University of Canterbury in 1968, and later earned an M.E. (Civil) (First Class) from the University of Auckland in 1976. This postgraduate degree was focussed on transportation engineering. He later completed Diplomas in Business Administration and in Business Computing from Massey University.Bill spent most of his career in transport, much of it in or associated with railways, including senior management roles. The last seven years of his career were with Veolia Transport (now Transdev) in Auckland, first as Safety Manager than then as Strategy and Network Development Manager. In these roles, Bill was part of the management team that overhauled the rail passenger operations in Auckland. Bill retired in 2011 and returned to his home in Karori. After spending some time renovating the house, he became interested in local Karori issues. Subsequently he joined KRA as Infrastructure Coordinator and has spent a lot of time (with assistance from other members) on drainage, transport planning, and public transport matters.


  1. Westie, 24. November 2020, 11:38

    It’s about time that money was invested in the west.

  2. Peter Steven, 24. November 2020, 11:50

    This idea seems like a massive waste of money and it will create more problems than it will solve. There are so many other bottlenecks in the area – the tunnel is only a tiny piece of the problem. I don’t think we will ever ‘fix’ peak hour car congestion to Karori, because of how space-inefficient cars are and the concept of induced demand (adding road capacity creates more drivers which creates more congestion). What we should focus on is giving people options to avoid congestion entirely. Instead of increasing road space for private vehicles, we should be improving the speed and quality of public transport. Some major improvements could be made simply by getting rid of the shitty old diesels and getting some nice new electric buses on this route, reducing fare prices/cheaper monthly passes and re-allocating road space from parking to bus lanes.

    Long-term, I believe the solution will be a light rail line following a route similar to your proposed tunnel, separated from general traffic as much as possible.

  3. Mal P, 24. November 2020, 12:48

    Light rail will never come to Karori and the tunnel is too narrow for today’s vehicles. Karori is the largest suburb in Wellington by far and should get the attention and budget it needs.

  4. QB, 24. November 2020, 12:52

    Hi Peter. You’re largely missing the point of both the release and the full Proposal. It talks about ALL traffic, and specifically about public transport. That includes buses – however they are currently or likely to be powered – bicycles, scooters, mobility scooters and foot traffic, not just private vehicles. Access is currently restricted to all those forms of transport, especially in peak traffic. For example, by increasing the amount of buses including double decker buses that is bound to decrease private vehicles. Light rail is highly unlikely to ever make it to such suburbs as Wadestown, Wilton, Northland and Karori.

  5. James, 24. November 2020, 13:20

    I don’t think a second road tunnel is a good solution for traffic in Karori. Buses already have priority at the intersections for the tunnel, another tunnel would benefit drivers rather than bus riders. We should be trying to get fewer people to use cars, not building infrastructure for the current amount of traffic. The solution to traffic is higher capacity public transport, because it is far more spatially efficient, plus, we’ve seen from the lockdown how much nicer roads are with less motor vehicle traffic. Higher capacity shouldn’t mean double decker buses, which increase dwell times. Articulated buses have around the same turning radius as rigid bodied buses, so they would be fine on our roads; either we switch to those, trams/LRVs, or we run buses more frequently.

  6. Annabel, 24. November 2020, 13:52

    Karori will need a new tunnel in order to encourage more public transport through. No double decker buses can go through the existing tunnel. Currently the buses and cars just don’t mix well in there at peak times and it’s down right dangerous. A new tunnel would mean the cyclists could be separated and safe and I’m all for that.

  7. Wellington Inc, 24. November 2020, 17:14

    What is needed is a new secondary school in Karori. That would reduce morning and afternoon congestion as Karori is one of the biggest catchment areas for many schools across town. The old teachers college was the ideal opportunity but that has been lost with VUW’s sale to Ryman. There hasnt been a new secondary school in Wellington City boundaries for 50 years. In that time the population has almost doubled. A second Karori tunnel would be way down the list of Wellington roading priorities. Improved public transport should definitely take priority here.

  8. Dave B, 24. November 2020, 22:38

    Given that the existing Karori tunnel used to accommodate light rail in the form of Wellington’s trams, you would think that a modern form of light rail could be re-introduced on the route. This would significantly increase the capacity of the existing tunnel over the present mix of buses and low-occupancy cars. What is really needed is to reduce the number of people choosing to drive at peak periods. Making it easier to drive will encourage more people to drive. Making it easier to use PT will encourage more people to use PT. Isn’t LGWM supposed to be all about “Moving more people with fewer vehicles”? Were our forebears who introduced the trams in the early 1900s really so much more capable than we are today?
    And I agree with Wellington Inc above. Throwing away the opportunity to use the former teachers’ college for a Karori high school is symptomatic of our decision-makers’ inability to see that this is just as much a part of transport policy as building new roads.

  9. leviathan, 25. November 2020, 9:49

    Dave B – “Were our forebears who introduced the trams in the early 1900s really so much more capable than we are today?” Yes.

  10. Lesleigh Salinger, 25. November 2020, 11:09

    Bill Guest’s magnum opus ‘The New Karori Tunnel’ project has involved months of research, thought, consultation and writing and built on his several years experience on the KRA committee. It encapsulates a solid concept of how best to create access to the largest of Wellington’s suburbs and its neighbours. It acknowledges the reality of future development in the west. Currently ALL infrastructure in the west is outmoded and in need of upgrade, the town centre is dying socially and economically. This excellent proposal would contribute to making Karori fit for modern living. Fantasies of lightrail ‘solving’ all the problems are just that – dreamtime! Congratulations Bill for your invaluable offering to Wellington – let’s get our city moving.

  11. Alan, 25. November 2020, 12:20

    How long would the tunnel take to complete, given that it took almost a year just to earthquake strengthen the existing tunnel’s portals? NZ is legendary for the time it takes to get anything done. And how much will it cost and overrun? A good idea but fraught with the usual issues.

  12. Claire, 25. November 2020, 12:24

    The geography of Wellington does curtail traffic movement and house building. How about dynamiting the tunnels and opening up hillsides. Then you could have as many lanes of road as needed. This is a bit fanciful but no more than I have read on Scoop in the last month or two.

  13. Dave B, 25. November 2020, 13:21

    Lesleigh Salinger, can’t you see that over-dependence on inefficient use of cars spoils a city rather than improves it? I fail to see how the proposed tunnel will not encourage more driving and more traffic. This is not what Wellington needs and I doubt it is what Karori needs. I think the problem is that people who are wedded to car-use cannot conceive of how good public transport can positively influence travel patterns away from cars and reduce traffic at-source. Hence the seeming disdain for suggestions of light rail, which works very well all over the world. Simply replacing single-decker buses with double-deckers is hardly the step-change improvement in PT needed to encourage its use, especially when car-driving gets the nod of a multi-hundred-million-dollar tunnel and presumably a capacity-increase along the whole City-Karori route. Decades of large-scale road-spending and only crumbs for public transport is why we are in the mess we are. This seems like more of the same.

  14. luke, 25. November 2020, 22:35

    A new road tunnel to encourage more car-dependent suburbs, really? There are plenty of roads to drive on already, how about some decent public transport before spending probably half a billion dollars on adding extra roading capacity. Where are all the induced cars going to park when they get to the other side of the tunnel?

  15. Northland, 26. November 2020, 18:53

    No luke, a new road tunnel to allow the buses to have a priority lane from CBD through to Karori Central. Imagine that! The current situation of cramming all road traffic through the narrow tunnel does not allow for anything like a decent bus service.

    As per usual the anti car brigade conflate car=bad with road=bad. So short sighted!

  16. Peter S, 26. November 2020, 20:52

    So @Northland, a new road tunnel between Chaytor St and Glenmore St magically becomes a bus priority lane from the CBD to Karori Central?
    While it looks like a beautiful engineering project, the simple fact is that the “anti car brigade” are correct in that new road space will always always mean more cars using it. Then the problem will just be shifted from the Karori tunnel down onto Tinakori Rd and Bowen St. Then you’ll need a new tunnel to bypass that, and that will shift the problem down to Lambton Quay and Whitmore St, then more tunnels needed…
    FREE public transport is the answer here, and more of it. And some creative priority measures to get those buses through the tunnel.
    Also, we all agree pedestrians and cyclists are hard done by at this tunnel, so how about a new pedestrian/cycling/e-scooter tunnel about 10 or 20 metres north of the existing tunnel, problem solved.
    In the same vein, the “existing” pilot tunnel through Mt Vic should be turned into a pedestrian/cycling tunnel!!!

  17. Dave B, 26. November 2020, 22:08

    Karori Residents Assoc / Bill Guest if you are reading this – I notice from your proposal document that you had trouble copying extracts from the 1963 De Leuw Cather Report because it was hard-bound. Well just to let you know, the National Library has a copy that is spiral-bound and I was able recently to photograph every page with ease.
    I am guessing the hard-bound copy you accessed was from the city-library which is where I began my search shortly before the library closed. I found the same difficulty as you in trying to copy that.

  18. Northland, 27. November 2020, 7:32

    Seems like a perverse argument against a bus lane Peter S. Why would you not want a dedicated bus lane if you lived in Karori or Western Suburbs? And remediating the other pinch points is going to be way easier and cheaper than, say, putting in light rail.

    The big catch with this nice thought is building a second tunnel which I feel would be too costly to ever get off the ground unfortunately.

  19. Dave B, 27. November 2020, 12:10

    @ Northland, I don’t know where you get the idea that this proposal includes a dedicated bus lane. It would be great if it did, but if you follow the link to the full proposal you will see that the proposed tunnel is 2-lane only: one lane of general traffic in each direction (although high enough for double-deckers). A separate smaller tunnel would be built for pedestrians and cyclists, and the existing tunnel would remain open for traffic to/from Birdwood Road only. The report mentions the need for “giving public transport vehicles priority”, but gives no indication of how this might be achieved.

  20. Mike Mellor, 27. November 2020, 15:58

    Northland: “a new road tunnel to allow the buses to have a priority lane from CBD through to Karori Central”, but only if buses have priority through the tunnel. Agreed that that would be an excellent idea for those most efficient motorised users of road space (space-hungry cars could continue to use the existing tunnel) but there’s no indication in the document that that is intended.

    Without that, buses will get caught up in the additional car traffic that a new tunnel would generate – and a new tunnel will make no difference to the ability to provide priority lanes on each side of it.

  21. Northland, 27. November 2020, 18:59

    Amazing that proposing a bus lane could cause so much controversy (?) I wasn’t implying it was in the proposal, so apologies if that wasn’t clear. Just seems like a good idea to me. That simple! Do you not agree Mike, Dave and Peter that a dedicated bus lane to Karori is a good idea ?

  22. Walktowork, 27. November 2020, 19:30

    No one in the report appears to be saying you should use cars ahead of PT. What you must agree on is that the current tunnel was built for 1900s vehicles and volumes. With more people coming into Karori, cars will also come. You can’t tell them they’re not allowed to bring cars with them!

    Everyone in NZ gets the PT ethos, but there are plenty of workers who need cars, and what about nights and weekends when people need to run around further afield?

    You’re also missing the point that buses (PT you moan is inadequate) and trucks/heavy vehicles (developing housing and roads) can’t get through safely with other vehicles. Again reiterating: the Karori tunnel was designed for the early 1900s.

  23. Dave B, 30. November 2020, 20:10

    @ Northland. Yes, adding a dedicated bus lane would be a great idea in theory, but how do you suggest it be done it without making the proposed tunnel project even more prohibitively expensive?

    @ Walktowork: I believe people must be deterred from making unnecessary car-trips at peak times. The cost of trying to accommodate every trip that everyone might wish to make regardless of how important it is, is getting totally out of hand. Congestion-charging would be a good start towards weeding out those car-journeys which can be made by another means, or at another time, or do not need to be made at all, but because there is currently no cost-disincentive these journeys are made and the wider cost on all of us is high. Many of the world’s cities would simply not function were it not for public transport taking a large volume of car-traffic off the roads, so you need to get used to the idea that even in little-old Wellington, unrestricted freedom of car-use at all times is not achievable. The existing Karori tunnel is fine for railed-vehicles and these would greatly increase its people-carrying capacity. Truck-journeys are not a huge component of traffic to Karori and trucks can and do get through the existing tunnel, albeit with some care required. How much is it worth spending and how many other important needs is it worth down-prioritizing just to chase the elusive pipe-dream of a transport-system that allows unlimited freedom of car and truck-use?

  24. Tom McGrath, 4. December 2020, 8:52

    Building a second Karori tunnel will cost billions of dollars, assuming that any construction team is willing to take on the work. The residents of Karori will have to pay for that either through a user pays charge (similar to those for major roads in Tauranga) or levies or increased rates if the council is involved in the work. Were the tunnel built, we ‘d finish up with traffic congestion at the intersection of the Rigi and Glenmore Street, instead of by the viaduct and the existing tunnel.