No light rail: eight-year plan for bigger, faster buses and more bus lanes

Press Release – Greater Wellington Regional Council
The Wellington Regional Transport Committee decided today that Bus Rapid Transit through central Wellington is the best solution for a high quality public transport spine through central Wellington.

The spine will run on a dedicated corridor along the Golden Mile, Kent and Cambridge Terraces, then around the Basin Reserve, along Adelaide Road to Wellington Hospital. Another branch will run through the future duplicated Mt Victoria tunnel, along Ruahine Street and Wellington Road to Kilbirnie town centre. An extension of the spine to the Airport will be future proofed.

BRT will be a progressive move from better Bus Priority – more bus lanes and more traffic signals giving buses right of way – over the next eight years. BRT vehicles will be introduced as operators renew their fleets and improved interchanges will be developed at Wellington Station, Wellington Hospital and Kilbirnie.

Fran Wilde, Chair of the Regional Transport Committee, says work can now begin on a first class, modern, bus system for Wellington City. “Wellington City is the daily destination for many thousands of commuters and others going to the hospital and the airport. BRT will move them rapidly though the Golden mile, as well as enabling residents in the growth areas of the southern and eastern suburbs to commute more directly and quickly.”

She says the spine will be a crucial part of the region’s integrated public transport network. “Along with other major improvements such as the metro rail upgrade and integrated fares and ticketing, public transport in the region is being transformed. We are creating the kind of step change that’s needed for people to make the switch from the car to the bus or the train.”

Mayor of Wellington Celia Wade-Brown says modern, progressive cities expect good public transport. “Progressing Bus Priority to Bus Rapid Transit through Wellington’s central city will boost capacity, reduce congestion and increase the use of public transport,” she says.

“By improving capacity, reducing “bus-jams” along the Golden Mile, and making the public transport system more reliable, we’re making the best choice for Wellington for now and keeping options open for the longer-term.”

“What we’re seeking to achieve is ultimately quite simple. We want to make public transport journeys along the spine quicker and more reliable so that people can use public transport with a high level of confidence that they will reach their destination at a particular time – benefits which Bus Rapid Transit is best placed to deliver,” says Transport Agency regional director Central Jenny Chetwynd.

Ms Chetwynd says today’s decision is an exciting milestone, and noted that the Public Transport Spine forms part of an integrated package of proposed improvements to Wellington’s transport network, including highway improvements and walking and cycling facilities. Together with Greater Wellington, the Agency is also making other investments to make public transport more attractive, such as the new Matangi trains, park and ride facilities. and the proposed integrated ticketing system.

Fran Wilde says the new public transport spine will meet future needs as Wellington’s population grows. “The capacity of the Spine to meet the region’s growth was a valid issue that was raised in the recent public consultation and hearing process. The modelling showed that, despite the restraints of the narrow Golden Mile corridor, BRT will have more than sufficient capacity to meet projected growth to at least 2041.”

A joint Wellington City and Regional Council and NZTA project team will work over the next year or two on the detailed planning and design of the Spine, including the design of bus lanes within the street environment and on parts of the state highway, the design of stop and interchange facilities along the Spine corridor, completion of the design of the future City-wide bus network and consideration of the future, modern high capacity, low emission BRT vehicles that will be used.

“BRT gives us a fabulous opportunity to access the exciting sustainable technology being developed including a range of electric and hybrid engines. As the Matangi have taken train travel in Wellington to a whole new level, so will BRT for bus travel.”

For more information, see

Wellington’s Public Transport Spine: The journey so far
• The Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan identified the need for a high quality, high frequency public transport spine through central Wellington to reduce severe bus congestion, speed up travel times and meet the needs of future population growth.

• The Public Transport Spine Study was carried out from late 2011 – 2013 to identify the best options for a spine. The Study identified a ‘long list’ of 88 options combining a range of corridors and a range of modes from heavy rail through to personalised rapid transit pods.

• After assessment against criteria such as accessibility, attractiveness to users, ability to meet future demand and engineering and financial viability, eight options were evaluated further. These options were: on-street bus options along a central (Golden Mile / Kent & Cambridge Tce / Adelaide Rd) corridor and a waterfront corridor; bus rapid transit along both corridors; light rail along both corridors and heavy rail along a waterfront corridor and an underground corridor.

• The waterfront corridor was ruled out, largely because the route was not as accessible to as many people as a central corridor and there would be less potential for public transport patronage growth. A heavy rail underground option was not taken further because of the large costs and a particularly poor resilience rating. Heavy rail along the waterfront was ruled out largely because of the impact on urban design and how it would restrict access to the waterfront from the CBD.

• The three options identified for further evaluation and assessment were bus priority, bus rapid transit and light rail along a central corridor from Wellington Railway Station and along Adelaide Road to Wellington Hospital. Extension of a light rail and bus rapid transit spine out to Kilbirnie was also considered evaluating because of the strong travel demand predicted in Wellington’s southern and eastern suburbs.

• These three options were taken out for public consultation between 24 July and 1 October 2013. At the same time, the Regional Council and Wellington City Council carried out online surveys of about 2,500 people. A total of 278 submissions were received along with one petition, organised by Generation Zero, with 514 signatures.

• A hearings sub-committee heard submitters and considered the feedback at various times between November 2013 and February 2014. The Regional Transport Committee on 4 March 2014 accepted the subcommittee’s report and recommendations for a bus rapid transit spine through central Wellington to Wellington Hospital and out to Kilbirnie were presented to the Regional Transport Committee on 4 March 2014.

• Funding for the design and implementation of the BRT spine will be included in the Regional Land Transport Plan 2015 – 21.

• A joint project team of the Regional Council, Wellington City Council and the NZ Transport Agency will be set up to proceed with detailed planning and design of the spine. This work includes the design of bus lanes within the street environment and parts of the state highway; the design of stop and interchange facilities along the spine corridor; completion of the design of the future bus network; consideration of the future modern, high capacity, low emission BRT vehicles that will be used; and consideration of supporting infrastructure – such as traffic signal priorities and speeding up boarding through fare and ticketing systems.

Generation Zero: Serious questions about bus congestion in CBD
Brent Efford: Why buses won’t make public transport more attractive
Peter Dunne: Why Wellington needs light rail
Transport Blog: The right decision?

Content Sourced from
Original url



  1. Kerry Wood, 5. March 2014, 9:43

    A very disappointing decision, and a huge setback for transport in Wellington.

    Perhaps GWRC will now confirm its decision — and boost confidence all round — by accepting three challenges.

    1 Send a delegation to visit the two cities where the photographs in the Dompost advertorial were taken, to confirm that the design proposed for Wellington can deliver the capacity expected. I think I recognise one of them, and if so it will not perform as hoped.

    2 Also visit two equivalent cities running light rail, to confirm that GWRC has made the right mode choice. I suggest Zurich (which Paul Mees specifically recommended as a good model for Wellington) and Freiburg (which has made excellent use of very narrow streets).

    3 Publish the revised terms of reference for the project, in the form amended by the project team (see page 1 of the project Summary Report). This will confirm the problem that BRT is expected to achieve.

  2. Cr Judith Aitken, 7. March 2014, 15:08

    One of the alarming aspects of the decision on Wellington’s bus transport arrangements is the assurance given about future capacity.

    I dont think I have ever belonged to any organisation or agency or education or health services system (with the possible exception of the Te Awamutu Geriatric Men’s Tap Dancing Club) that turned out to be right about future demand.

    It is true that unlike Auckland, for instance, Wellington’s population growth is not forecast to be sustained at high and unmanageable levels, or evenly across the region.

    And it is expected that in some seven years or so, demand for public transport will decline unless there is a sustained intervention that trumps the seduction of cars and trucks on the massive roads now being built.

    Nonetheless, I remain suspicious about the longer term capacity of the preferred bus system, and am worried about their design and clumsiness on our fairly narrow and curvy roads.

    On the other hand, the arguments against light rail now are cogent, but they do need to be more persuasively made by the three women who announced the decision if the citizenry is to relax and applaud the tormented process and extremely difficult decision.

  3. CC, 7. March 2014, 19:32

    Judith, what you seem to have missed in your scenario is that Infratil win every way but with light rail. No doubt, if they could corner the option, it would happen yesterday with no delays.

  4. Maximus, 8. March 2014, 8:59

    I object to Councilor Aitken’s denigration of the very fine tap dancing ability shown by our venerated elders present in the Te Awamutu area, and have every confidence that they will be able to continue to pull peak audiences well into their (short) future…

    On the other hand, I also think that it is defeatist for Clr Aitken to say that Wellington will not be growing so much in the future, and that therefore we will not need a decent train set to play with. I’d like to reverse that thinking, and point out that condemning our city to having a Bus only transit system, is more likely to cause continued drop in demand and thereby low growth. It is immensely short-sighted to refuse Light Rail – it is clearly a far superior system to buses, and all the major cities around the world have grown through extension of rail systems, not through provision of buses.

    The key to the uptake of decent public transport, whether bus or rail, is however a dedicated route free from other traffic. The proposal to create this at ground level is one thing – it has been made clear at the Board of Inquiry that this will cause delays not only to private cars at times, but will also impede progression of cyclists and pedestrians. You can’t have a high speed bus route in dedicated bus-only lanes with thundering great articulated double decker buses capable of 80kmph, and then allow cyclists doing 10-20kmph to merrily tootle along in the same lane. So: massive, massive problems still to be resolved. Light rail, grade separated at key junctions, would still seem to be the most logical, best solution for Wellington to get its groove on.

  5. Wellington Commuter, 8. March 2014, 15:35

    Judith, rest assured that a lack of bus capacity will NOT be a problem while you and fellow Wellington City representative Councillors Fran Wilde & Chris Laidlaw continue to slavishly vote every year to increase our city’s bus fares even though they are already the highest in the country.

    When you voted to have Wellington child fares higher than Auckland adult fares and adult bus fares well above the cost of driving, you have already done enough to ensure Wellington City never need worry about buses becoming over-loaded.


Write a comment: