Wellington Scoop

Why we should do what Auckland has done

by Guy Marriage
If we continue to leave the Regional Council (a bunch of out-of-their-depth councillors with no training in transport solutions) involved in organising a valid transport solution for Wellington, they will never achieve a decent end result – or even start along that path.

We are in effect being punished by the NZTA’s last leadership team for not agreeing to a flyover at the Basin – but gradually the NZTA is replacing key personnel and so one day we will get a team which is actively interested in Wellington having a decent working solution. LGWM seems to be a legless organisation with few ideas and little integrity. They have had four years and produced no concrete plans, just some wonderfully pretty pictures that don’t quite translate into reality. LGWM and the Regional Council need to go.

What needs to happen is for the Regional Council to be stripped of responsibility for organising transport for the region, and a new body set up that can take ownership of transport, with qualified people who know what they are doing.

This is the model that the Auckland Council has followed, with Auckland Transport making plans, making decisions, and generally getting things done. AT are both organising the roads in Auckland and running the Rail, the Buses, and even most of the Ferries. Co-ordinated planning, integrated ticketing, and a vision for Auckland that has seen them go from hopeless basket case to NZ’s leading solution providers in just a few years. We need to do this too.

We’re currently in the situation where both the city council and the regional council have agreed to a “plan” from LGWM, which is great except for one thing – no one knows the details of the plan.

We have a Wellington Mayor who has had someone whisper sweet nothings in his ear about trackless trams – and he has got the hots for this solution. He may well be right – but we should not commit to it from the basis of a mayoral desire, but instead only from people who know what they are talking about. Information on Eye of the Fish and also here indicates that the trackless trams are not as great as they are cracked up to be.

Lester is right about going to see them in action in China. It’s not a junket – it’s a crucial decision-making voyage that needs to happen. But the experts need to go on the trip, not just the pollies. They should also go to see the installations of trackless-trams in France and Germany where they have failed and been removed from service because the technology kept failing. Trackless trams are being promoted on the basis that nothing needs to be done to the roads prior to their introduction, but indications from Europe are that this is far from the truth and extensive work needs to be done to the roadbed, just as it does for Light Rail.

The situation is getting urgent – local and regional government elections are coming up fast, and owing to the vagaries of our electoral system, the nobodies at the Regional Council are going to get re-elected and the same stalemate will be extended until they collect their pensions or shuffle off this mortal coil. Most of them need to be removed from the scene.

Wellington needs a unified Transport For All for our region to start functioning properly again.


  1. Concerned Wellingtonian, 27. June 2019, 17:30

    It is a junket if you have “no training” in transport.

  2. mason, 27. June 2019, 18:46

    Couldn’t agree more. Time for a tfw (transport for wellington) to replace the regional council in the transport sphere.

  3. Russel C., 27. June 2019, 20:26

    City Link has gone way over budget, petrol excise is going up and up and so are the rates. AT wants to control everything. Be very aware of giving bureaucrats more control.

  4. michael, 27. June 2019, 20:54

    Absolutely agree Guy but unfortunately I doubt it will ever happen even though it is the most sensible solution.

  5. Tony Hurst, 28. June 2019, 1:58

    Was recently in Padua (Italy) where a trackless tram system was in use. Much rougher ride on rubber wheels than a steel-wheeled one (light rail). This was despite evidence of lots of work to strengthen the road. This French system is/has been removed in Caen and Nancy, I suspect the last routes in Italy will go fairly soon also.

  6. Kelly McGonagal, 28. June 2019, 7:21

    Agree Concerned Wellingtonian, the Mayor going to China is a junket. Mayor Lester like the other Council transport decision-makers is without needed knowledge, specialized transport solutions training (wisdom) and skills. Wellington transport is a long time problem created by Council and NZTA failures made worse by taking wrong action. The Councils’ priorities (and the mystery plans) are not inline with what is needed. Seemingly they are preoccupied with serving private interests.

  7. David Mackenzie, 28. June 2019, 7:25

    I could agree less, but not by much, about the Basin flyover as a solution. The points about the competence and effectiveness of the transport team seem just.

  8. Neil Douglas, 28. June 2019, 9:21

    @Tony – Padua’s guided trolley bus was manufactured by Lohr Industrie of France. Here is a video.

  9. Conor, 28. June 2019, 9:27

    Yep, Auckland is kind of killing us on the public transport front: https://conorhillformayor.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/a-tale-of-two-cities/

  10. Guy M, 28. June 2019, 14:25

    While I agree that the Mayor going to China sounds like a Junket, he and the GWRC Councillors are going to be the ones making the decision. He’s probably going to be the person getting back in again, as apart from Conor, nobody seems interested in putting their hand up for the job. But it is vital that it is not just Lester and Laidlaw – it needs to have a few people who are actually clued up on the subject. I’d suggest John Rankin and Brent Efford for starters, so they can see the technology first hand, and then know whether it really does have a chance, or whether they should continue to oppose it. Doesn’t need to be a whole heap of people, just a few.

  11. Concerned Wellingtonian, 28. June 2019, 17:22

    The Chair won’t be standing and the Mayor will have a serious opponent.

  12. michael, 29. June 2019, 9:39

    Who is making these decisions? It is reported this morning that city councillors and Justin Lester’s staff had never seen or approved the proposed ratepayer-funded study tour to China before it was presented to the regional council.

  13. Ms Green, 29. June 2019, 12:15

    I think the mayor assumes he has majority support. Till recently (with the exception of Wellington.Scoop) there has been virtually no worthwhile reporting of political decisions (or in this case non-decisions). That has been bad for democracy, transparency and good for wasteful spending on Vanity projects such as the Convention Centre. They could and did get away with anything and ..all kinds of P.R.spin.

  14. Manny, 29. June 2019, 14:04

    That is a good question Michael. It’s another waste of money as it’s a junket.

  15. michael, 29. June 2019, 17:09

    How much influence do WCC councillors have in what goes on in the council. Doesn’t seem like much.
    I also note the councillors have gone quiet lately – wonder why?

  16. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 29. June 2019, 21:33

    Not sure this particular councillor has gone quiet lately Michael, just busy that’s all. There’s huge progress being made within LGWM towards advancing the proposed mass transit link between the railway station and the airport via Newtown, although it may not seem so to the casual observer. Whether light rail or an alternative is chosen will have a major bearing on the final route decisions and the cost and speed of implementation. Hence WCC’s desire to progress this investigation without further delay. We need to get Wellington moving.

  17. Steve Doole, 30. June 2019, 3:42

    Guy, politicians are the only people who should be approving schemes and budgets. Just as most politicians have no training in construction of buildings or healthcare or defence, training in transport is not necessary to make decisions, or to take action when things go wrong. (And all the training in the world won’t overcome cronyisim and employing your mates.) A transport authority may not be any improvement.

  18. Donald T., 30. June 2019, 7:14

    Only another road tunnel is going to get most Wellingtonians moving again Chris.

  19. Kerry, 30. June 2019, 8:49

    Chris. Why does the mode choice affect the route choice?
    Bus Rapid Transit is not an option because it needs four lanes, so that leaves ‘trackless trams’ or light rail.
    Either will have to be two-lane, with similar widths for lanes, tracks and platforms. The only real differences are that light rail needs greater minimum curve radius (easy enough), can offer greater capacity, and is a well-established technology.
    Maximum gradient is a red herring: light rail can deliver up to 10% grade, more than enough for any rapid transit route proposed for Wellington.
    The choice has to be light rail, once it is recognised that lower operating costs make light rail cheaper than buses; the operating cost-savings are more than enough to pay the capital charges. The dominant operating cost is driver’s wages, and light rail needs far fewer drivers.

  20. Brendan, 30. June 2019, 12:13

    Kerry, the operating costs of Light Rail will turn out be more than for buses especially if GWRC is planning more hub bus feeders for LRT. So set aside say $3 billion for a up front concession payment for a 30 year operating period?

  21. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 30. June 2019, 12:13

    Hi Kerry. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two options: LRT or trackless trams. Not BRT. The basic route corridor (via Newtown) has been agreed in the LGWM “recommended programme of investment” and the govt-funded “indicative programme”. But within this corridor there are several route alignment options upon which mode choice may have a bearing. Curvatures and grade at several locations is one; time & disruption to install the permanent way is another. The trackless tram proponents claim cost and installation time savings, which need to be explored. If there are time savings, this will also affect other LGWM deliverables as well. Vehicular size/capacity and operating costs are also very important of course.

  22. Walter Dance, 30. June 2019, 18:40

    Chris Freeman – there has to be a base case option to evaluate the incremental benefits of trackless tram and light rail options. The base case will either be bus ‘as now’ or bus priority given that by 2028 one would expect that some improvements in the existing bus services will occur. My money will be on the base case or bus priority getting by far the highest economic return (aka BCR).
    Spine Study II anyone or some super fudged Big 4 put up job.

  23. Traveller, 30. June 2019, 18:51

    Walter. You haven’t been paying attention. It has been clearly established that bus rapid transit will not work in Wellington because the roads are not wide enough. And re “economic return…” surely what we need is the best service for passengers, not the cheapest calculations on a spreadsheet.

  24. Glen Smith, 30. June 2019, 23:27

    Chris Calvi-Freeman. The LGWM team is acting in the same way as the NZTA did with the Basin flyover. The NZTA decided, before they consulted with anyone affected, that a flyover was what they were going to do and, as an afterthought, undertook a sham consultation while at the same time advancing their predetermined agenda. In doing so they paid lip service to (including failing to undertake proper business cases for) any alternative (including an Option X layout despite this being demonstrably superior) and were heavily criticised by the Basin Board for this failing.
    Yet LGWM has apparently made a ‘Royal Executive’ decision on our behalf that the mass transit corridor to the east is going to go via Newtown without consulting with the shop owners (who will likely lose all their parking), the shoppers (who will have to park long distances away), the residents of Newtown (who will have to endure huge trains through their suburb carrying tens of thousands of people from east who don’t want to be there), the residents of multiple residential streets (who will lose parking or have their streets turned into main car thoroughfares), the drivers from the south who have to traverse Newtown (who will have road capacity unnecessarily sacrificed to accommodate commuters from the eastern suburbs), and bus commuters from the south (who I gather will be forced to transfer to rail in Newtown).
    This plan appears to have been decided, just as with the Basin flyover, while ignoring or paying lip service to alternatives that are demonstrably superior in almost all objective outcomes (including likely cost and network function), the best being mass transit to the east via a SH1 route, with Newtown being serviced by the major north/ south (Island Bay to Johnsonville) and east/west (Karori to Seatoun) bus lines. This decision doesn’t appear to be based on any rational decision making process objectively comparing alternatives, but (just as with the NZTA and the flyover) based on the predetermined agenda of a small group of light rail advocates and (I am sad to say) the Green Party.
    If you feel the LGWM team has acted in a thorough and objective manner I challenge you to present the costings and modelling of a mass transit route to the east via Newtown combined with the inevitable car only second Mt Victoria Tunnel versus a direct SH1 route for both mass transit and additional car capacity via a stacked multipurpose second Mt Victoria Tunnel. You won’t be able to because it is clear no objective comparison has been undertaken. I am preparing a formal Official Information request and will present this information (or lack of this information) in an article and to the inevitable Environment board of enquiry who will hopefully decide that, just like the NZTA, the LGWM team has failed in their professional duties.

  25. Keith Flinders, 1. July 2019, 0:58

    It is interesting how some think that LRT can’t operate on Wellington’s hills. There are many of my vintage who remember taking the trams over Constable Street and Crawford Road, as well as to Karori and Wadestown. Not exactly flat terrain on these former tram routes.

  26. Kerry, 1. July 2019, 9:19

    You are quite right about the Mt Victoria route being the best, IF fast trips to the airport are all-important. That is why there were calls for main line rail to Auckland airport. After a proper study it was rejected. Light rail gave a better and cheaper service overall, serving the airport, destinations along the route and connecting to other routes.
    In Wellington, factors ignored in choosing a Mt Victoria route include:
    — It doesn’t go past the most important destination of all: Wellington Regional Hospital.
    — It needs a very costly tunnel, and cheaper options are available.
    — It has a surprisingly low residential density; mass rapid transit will serve little except the airport.
    — It ignores a good route past the Hospital, through the denser suburbs of Mt Cook, Newtown, and Kilbirnie, and past Berhampore.
    — It bypasses good places for hubs, missing the opportunity to give bus passengers a faster run by connecting to mass rapid transit.
    Ignoring the ‘inevitable’ second Mt Victoria tunnel for cars makes sense if the objective is fewer cars, and mass rapid transit has far greater passenger-capacity than two traffic lanes each way. Paris is planning to reduce congestion by closing car-lanes, and Wellington should do the same. If you don’t build it they won’t come in their cars, but they will come.

  27. Glen Smith, 1. July 2019, 13:42

    Kerry. Your points don’t bear up to logical examination.
    – The airport, with projected daily transport load of 59,000 trips, while a very important destination is not ‘all important’ (whatever that means). Rail could supply a large proportion of the whole eastern suburbs directly, which is why I propose additional rail ‘lines’ to Miramar and Lyall Bay to pair with lines to the north. For ALL these eastern locations, SH1 is the fastest/ most direct to where most riders want to go – the CBD or beyond.
    – most Hospital patients come from Wellington suburbs which are serviced by buses. Hutt and Porirua have their own hospital. With the 2 major bus lines travelling through Newtown, a large proportion of Wellington patients could access the Hospital directly. Your plan forces these patients to transfer to rail – imposing a bus to rail transfer disincentive (17-18 minute ‘pure’ penalty). Regional patients under your plan would have one transfer (at the station). With a connective radial design of seamless regional rail lines, they would also have one transfer – at the Basin. This could be onto specific hospital shuttles that meet each train and take patients directly to different departments rather than just dumping them on the main street.
    – you say ‘cheaper’ options are available without any evidence such as research or business cases. In fact the research evidence presented by international tunnelling expert Alun Thomas is that a combined tunnel would be cheaper than separate rail and road tunnels in the order of magnitude of hundreds of millions. In addition the route is shorter (important when rail can cost hundreds of millions per kilometer) and the approaches and route along Ruahine St/ Wellington Road would be achieved in conjunction with road changes at likely very low marginal cost compared to the huge logistical problems facing a Newtown route.
    – Hataitai and Kilbirnie north are not low-density suburbs (I suggest you view a population density map)and have just as great potential for intensification as Newtown. The main point is the major frequent southern line has to run through Newtown and this is adequate to service it. Rail through Newtown doubles up coverage while missing important destinations on any major line(southern Mt Victoria, the Colleges, Hataitai township, Hataitai Park, Kilbirnie, Kibirnie park, the Aquatic Centre/ library/rec centre).
    – Pretending we don’t need extra car capacity to the east is like an ostrich putting its head in the sand. A significant proportion of transport trips can only be made by car or are most efficiently made by car. I suggest you re-examine eastern trip projections and come to the realisation that, even with the most optimistic PT share, additional road capacity is required. Achieving this at the same time as mass transit is the cheapest/ least destructive option.
    – ‘good places for hubs’ betrays your underlying design ethos – which is for a single central line across the CBD that ends at ‘hubs’ where riders are forced to change mode. You assume this is somehow desirable, despite the fact this imposes unnecessary potent transfer penalties that, just like the recent bus changes, deter PT use. Have you asked the public if they want this design imposed upon them? Or do you, like the NZTA with the flyover, just assume that you have some god given right to force it on them.

    Chris I’m anticipating the costings and modellings.

  28. John Rankin, 1. July 2019, 15:44

    @WalterDance’s comment looks at transport benefits only and omits the wider benefit of building urban rapid mass transit: economic value created through transit-oriented development around the stations on the route. This value creation does not happen with buses; it does happen with light rail, because rail gives developers certainty; proponents of trackless trams promise it will happen with TT, if built in a train-like way with fixed and permanent stations.

    LGWM appears to be considering this wider city-shaping perspective in its rapid transit proposals. The kinds of outcomes we should see from the investment are: promoting economic growth and opportunity; supporting the acceleration of housing delivery; promoting equity and choice; and promoting sustainable growth and development.

    If LGWM gets this right, we can expect the projected growth in travel demand in Wellington city will be met through people choosing to use of public transport, walking, and cycling/scooting: “moving more people with fewer vehicles”. Bus priority alone will not get us there.

  29. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 1. July 2019, 18:10

    Hi Glen et al. LGWM’s recommended programme of investment and the government-funded indicative programme of investment have agreed upon a single mass transit spine running from the railway station through the CBD, Te Aro (Taranaki St) and Newtown then via a tunnel to Kilbirnie and through Rongotai to the airport and Miramar. This single spine route has been recognised as linking the highest number of destinations, and running through the best areas for intensification and regeneration, so as to ensure the greatest possible patronage.

    The route will start at the railway station, allowing reasonably quick transfers from the heavy rail services. The route will serve the CBD through to Taranaki Street, with an easy walk to Te Papa, the proposed convention centre and Courtenay Place. Running via Taranaki Street then through to Adelaide Road means that Massey University, Wellington High, the Basin Reserve, Wellington College, Wellington East Girls’ Colleges and St Marks School are all within an easy walk. The value of stops at the hospital, Newtown central (c Constable St/Riddiford St intersection) and the zoo are all self-evident. The Aquatic Centre, EBIS and St Catherine’s College are in easy reach of a stop in Kilbirnie and the ASB stadium would be served by another stop nearby. Finally, stops at the Airport and Miramar Central will be self-evidently popular. I would envision services running to predictable clock-faced timetables, from say 5am through to 1am daily, with an end-to-end travel time better than peak-hour cars/taxis and current public transport.

    LGWM has not considered the extension of the current heavy rail network through the CBD and on to the east, as the cost would be prohibitive. Heavy rail requires much larger track curvature radii, shallower gradients and higher platforms than would be acceptable within and through the city centre. “Track-trams” able to run on light rail type alignments in the city centre and on the heavy rail alignment north of Wellington station are incompatible with freight trains running on the main lines and cannot be accommodated within the tightly-spaced “paths” taken by the existing commuter trains at peak hours. There would also be problems with power supply and platform heights.

    History may establish this as a missed opportunity to have a fully joined up regional rail system. However, given the above issues (especially the cost), I don’t believe that any progress would be made whatsoever towards regional rail or trackless trams in the coming decades. Instead, we can have a fast, attractive, comfortable, accessible and reliable mass transit system (LRT or trackless trams) that will connect a wide range of destinations and serve a very large number of journeys, up and running in 5-15 years, depending on mode choice and other factors. Workers and visitors to places such as the hospital, the zoo and the ASB stadium will reach these destinations without transfer if within walking distance of the route, or with one simple transfer if coming from the north or west by rail or bus. Access would be easy, through ticketing of course available, and journey times predictable.

    I believe this is the right approach for Wellington.

  30. Glen Smith, 1. July 2019, 21:32

    Chris. Thanks for confirming that LGWM are behaving the same as the NZTA did with the flyover. The NZTA said ‘we have decided that you are having a flyover, we don’t really care whether it’s the best solution – we are going to impose it on you whether you like it or not.’ LGWM are doing the same with the proposal you outline – no alternatives to be considered. I am continually astounded by the lack of professionalism in our public services. Imagine if I undertook my job that way. “Yes Mrs Johnston, I know that research shows radiotherapy may be the best option but you’re going to have chemotherapy whether you like it or not because I’ve decided for you. I haven’t bothered to work out if radiotherapy is cheaper or has better outcomes.”
    You say ‘history may establish this is a missed opportunity to have a fully joined up regional rail system’. This is the understatement of the century. The proposal you outline will cripple our PT forever. All potential across town PT users will face at least one and commonly two transfers – no one will take this up – they will all still be in their cars. Southern commuters who currently travel to the CBD directly will be forced to transfer at Newtown, eastern commuters at hubs in Miramar or Kilbirnie. Once National inevitably builds the second Mt Victoria Tunnel everybody will be in their cars. Your proposal is a plan to guarantee poor PT uptake forever. If you think this isn’t the case, then present the modelling that shows otherwise.

  31. Meredith, 1. July 2019, 22:12

    Chris what an interesting announcement you make here! Does anyone else know about this?
    What is a clock-faced timetable? Is that something to replace the unreal realtime timetables that light up every busstop?

  32. D.W., 2. July 2019, 8:21

    I trust the LRT Business Case will factor in accidents to cyclists from tram tracks as I see two Edinburgh cyclists have just won damages over injuries caused by tram tracks, with dozens of people now in line for payments after the judge’s landmark ruling.

  33. John Rankin, 2. July 2019, 9:54

    Wellington City Council’s Planning for Growth initiative identifies where there will be increased residential density in future. The route @CCF describes above follows, and ought to be a catalyst for, the southern and eastern growth areas.

    Regarding @GlenSmith’s claim that a service with transfers means “no one will take this up”, I can only speak from personal experience. Having lived, studied and worked in cities with far worse climates than Wellington, where reliable transfers are a fact of life, I can say that in those places, transfers are a non-issue and public transport usage is way higher than in Wellington. The need to transfer does not figure in surveys of user and non-users experience of the services. There is an extensive body of research to inform how to make transfers work well; it’s not rocket science — do a whole lot of little things really well. As far as I can tell, the research which Glen cites into transfer penalties was in cities with far from best-practice transfer design.

    It will be interesting to see what CCF’s indicative travel times translate into during the design phase. FIT’s calculation, using a route similar to that proposed, suggest that an optimised service would make the trip from the airport to railway station in under 20 minutes. This would be a game-changer for public transport.

  34. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 2. July 2019, 10:22

    Glen, as a cancer “sufferer” a decade ago, I was presented with a treatment plan, which was compiled by a team of experts and which proved effective. Yes, I did some googling and asked some questions but was not prepared to challenge the oncologists etc at every step of the way. Imagine their reaction if I had asked them to lay out all the “site-specific” data and assumptions and presented them with my own treatment plan – I think I’d still be waiting for my treatment. (Or if I had publicly criticised their intentions – some of my treatment was publicly funded under the NHS in London as I was resident there at the time.) But this is exactly what you are doing.

    If I have learnt one lesson from 40 years of transport and traffic planning, it is this: every city and every location is different, and there are huge dangers in seeking to presume that what works in one city or at one site will work at another. This, in a nub, was the mistake made about 8 years ago with the Island Bay cycleway. And to continue the analogy, what if I had discovered a treatment that was 10 times what the available budget allowed for, and had been used in some overseas cases, on patients with different circumstances, would the suppliers of my treatment have immediately provided it for me?

    The simple point is that you are proposing a completely, utterly and totally unaffordable and therefore inappropriate solution for a city and region the size of Wellington. LGWM, a multi-agency initiative, has proposed a workable, affordable, deliverable and fit-for-purpose solution, which is one I am backing.

    Meredith, the material I have provided has all been released previously, starting with the May announcement of the government funding for the LGWM proposals. “Clock faced timetabling” simply means that a train (or whatever) reliably arrives at regular, predictable intervals, for example on the hour, 10 past, 20 past etc. (Often more frequent in the peaks, say every 5 minutes, every 10 minutes off peak and perhaps every 20 minutes in the late evening.) The key difference between mass transit and buses is the presumption that the service will operate in such a way that it is unaffected by other traffic – i.e. on a separate right of way and/or with the traffic signals giving it immediate priority at intersections. (This priority can really only be achieved with large vehicles – you cannot give an immediate green signal to every bus approaching an intersection as there are simply too many of them but if more passengers are transported in fewer vehicles they can be prioritised.)

  35. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 2. July 2019, 10:40

    John, yes. There are 18 mainline railway stations in London. The vast majority are terminus stations, on the edge of the CBD. Most commuters exit these trains and transfer to the Underground or buses to complete their journeys. (Through-ticketing is of course available.) Why don’t they all use cars instead? Because of traffic congestion and the cost of CBD parking! Sound familiar to Wellington?

    Sure, if you live on one side of London and work on the other, you may drive via the M25 or find a way through inner London. The same with Wellington, effectively: people make their choices depending on the speed, cost, comfort and reliability of the alternatives. An airline pilot living in Waikanae and needing to book on at noon may elect to continue to drive to Wellington airport, where he/she may have affordable parking (for them). A retail worker in the airport bookstore, living in Tawa and needing to be at work at 8am, would find a train to Wellington, a quick transfer to mass transit and a reliable 20-25 minute trip to the airport somewhat more attractive in terms of cost and comparative speed and journey time reliability.

    Uptake on mass transit, if it’s properly designed and reliably operated, will be huge compared to our current bus network.

  36. Glen Smith, 2. July 2019, 11:06

    John. The research I cite in my transfer article of 2 April is not from a city with ‘..far from best-practice transfer design’ but from Sydney – a city with a very well designed, efficient and extensive rail and bus network where commuters will be familiar with transfers. Yet these commuters rate a bus to rail transfer as a 17-18 minute ‘pure’ penalty. Your proposed Newtown route may have a theoretical 20 minute trip time (we’ll see how that works out with people crossing the track, cars backing out of driveways and turning corners etc) but if you add 17-18 minute ‘pure’ transfer and the likely 5 minute minimum actual transfer time you end up with 40-45 minutes. No one will do this. Everyone will be in their cars through the new Mt Victoria Tunnel. Why design a system with transfers when you can design one without them that is likely cheaper.

  37. Brendan, 2. July 2019, 12:45

    JR – your times are theoretical and I bet it won’t be faster than half an hour unless you don’t pick up many passengers, which will be possible on quite a few off peak runs (just like the off-peal buses with an average load of six excluding the driver).

  38. Glen Smith, 2. July 2019, 14:20

    Chris. Sorry to hear about your illness and happy to hear that things went well.
    I encourage patients to ask all the questions they like. If I am confident in my knowledge and advice, I have no concerns answering them (perhaps you can do the same). If I don’t know the answer, I research it or seek advice. The main thing I try to do is advise of all available options and encourage patient choice.
    You say what I propose would be ‘utterly unaffordable’ but provide no evidence or figures to back up that statement. There are two separate issues here- route and integration into a seamless network by ‘track sharing’.

    In terms of route, as with my reply to Kerry above, the evidence is that a SH1 route would be cheaper than a Newtown route. The advice from Alun Thomas was that a combined road/ rail tunnel would likely be cheaper than separate road and rail tunnels (he offered to do a feasibility study, requested information on geology and hydrology and I got the feeling could have come up with a rough proposal within a few months had the NZTA taken up his offer. Compare that to LGWM). Do you have different advice from a world tunnelling expert?
    The route along Ruahine St and Wellington Road is shorter, would likely have few services (Newtown large numbers), would involve minimal additional disruption above that required for roading changes (Newtown huge disruption) and would only involve the marginal cost of altering roading plans to create a corridor around 6m wider than currently proposed (the marginal cost of this is likely to be low). The largest cost would be a short around-200m-long cut and cover rail tunnel under the high ground at the corner of Ruahine St and Wellington Road (large earthworks are proposed here anyway) partly for gradient but partly for grade separation of mass transit crossing SH1 (which you propose to occur around Arras Tunnel…somehow. I’ll be interested to see how you achieve this).

    ‘Tracksharing’ could be achieved at a later date (even decades later) if the across-town rail corridor is ‘futureproofed’ to be compatible with our existing network. However you provide no evidence that the cost of this would be ‘utterly unaffordable’ in the short term either. No major construction would be required (our current network already exists) and changes would be operational. A high-quality train control/signalling system would be required (but this is required anyway) and the ‘pinchpoint’ north of the station addressed (but this requires addressing anyway). Voltage differences can be solved by dual voltage units. Platform height by building new platforms. Units can be tailor-made for any radius of curvature required and any braking capacity required. And if we are going to expand our rail network, we will need to find a way to add additional commuter units between freight trains whether they are ‘across town’ units or ‘station’ units.

    Since you feel this is unachievable I feel certain that it must be on the basis of a detailed business case. Could you supply it for the public to peruse (or admit that, a bit like the Regional Council and the option of ‘off-wire’ trolleys, this is something LGWM just hasn’t done).

  39. John Rankin, 2. July 2019, 16:42

    @Brendan: my recent real world experience does not match your intuition. In April and May, I repeatedly timed how long it takes a busy rapid transit service with all-door level boarding to load and unload passengers. Average dwell time at stations: 20 seconds. “Busy” means the vehicles were sufficiently full that many passengers were standing and many people got on and off at each station.

    Details of FIT’s estimate are here. Other on-street rapid transit systems routinely achieve this level of performance (average speed about 30 kph).

    @Glen: it’s an over-simplification of the PT customer’s experience and satisfaction to focus only on one aspect (transfers), to the exclusion of others. In real life, people make more nuanced decisions. For you, avoiding transfers is important; for others, things like service frequency, reliability, trip duration, value, and provider communication are also important. We need to move beyond “transfers are bad and must be avoided” to optimising service delivery performance across multiple factors.

    A more useful customer survey would ask PT users about all aspects of the service, to gain insights into how connection satisfaction compares with other aspects of the customer’s experience.

  40. Brendan, 2. July 2019, 18:25

    NZBus has a ‘real’ commercial service called the Airport Flyer with no GWRC interference. The buses do railway station to the airport in 30 minutes. I bet you don’t beat it with GWRC/WCC/NZTA involvement. Same as Edinburgh where the express bus is faster than the expensive but still quite slow Light Rail.

  41. Glen Smith, 2. July 2019, 23:30

    John. I am not focussing ‘only on one aspect (transfers) to the exclusion of others’. Other major design objectives are corridor quality (and hence reliability and trip duration – this was one of the main advantages of a Quays route) which will inevitably be poorer via Newtown, and line length (and hence construction cost and trip duration) which is longer with the eastern line detouring via Newtown. However transfers are a major deterrent so I repeat, why design a network with these when you can easily design one without.

  42. John Rankin, 3. July 2019, 12:06

    @Glen, I have linked to the calculation and assumptions behind FIT’s estimated travel time of under 20 minutes from airport to station; as @Brendan notes this is over 10 minutes less than the current bus travel time. What is the estimated duration for the route you propose?

    As I see it, the attributes you mention, and there are others of course, are there to serve a higher goal: to maximise the lifetime ridership that the investment attracts. This means putting a high priority on aligning the route to the city’s future development plans, with stations strategically located to meet the needs of the most people with the fewest stops, as directly as possible. Providing options for people who don’t live on the line, but wish to take advantage of the service, is a key part of this.

    The conclusions are contestable and you may be right and I may be wrong.

    If I was a proponent of trackless trams, I would be less worried than you and @CCF about how the future will judge the decisions being made now, that this may be a “missed opportunity”. If the TT proponents are right, continuing rapid transit north by converting the Johnsonville line to a 2-lane dedicated high frequency rapid transit corridor (including the northern development areas) just got a whole lot cheaper.

    FIT has struggled to see how we could justify the cost of extending light rail to Johnsonville, while recognising that this would be highly desirable. So while I am sceptical of the claims made for trackless trams, I hope I’m wrong. Having all Wellington City’s future growth areas served by rapid transit would shape the city for a century and help us achieve our zero carbon ambition.

  43. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 3. July 2019, 14:01

    Yes, continuing the mass transit spine to Johnsonville certainly makes sense. Elimination of the mode transfer penalty at Wellington station is a greater proportional journey time benefit to J’ville line passengers than to rail passengers from further afield. But there are lots of challenges, mainly involving cost and capacity, if LRT or TT is to replace the J’Ville Matangis.

  44. Dave B, 3. July 2019, 17:50

    Chris, the mass transit spine already goes to Johnsonville, in the form of the new high-frequency bus service which extends into the CBD and beyond. True it is not immune from traffic, but it does provide an effective service.

    Unfortunately it is seriously abstracting Johnsonville patronage from the train which takes significantly longer outside of the peaks, and only goes as far as Wellington Railway Station. What you will observe is that the train is still well-used for intermediate stations un-served by the high-frequency bus route, but between Raroa Station and Johnsonville station it runs very lightly loaded. Speeding-up the service would help, but it also needs extending.

    Now the trouble with extending it as a separate light rail route through the city is that it will do little to solve the real traffic problems of Wellington which are regionally created. I think many are awakening to the reality that more roads are not the answer. Maybe more high-frequency buses running on exclusive bus-corridors to the Hutt Valley and Kapiti would provide a fix. But why would you do this when there already is a well-used regional rail system (of which the Johnsonville Line is a part), which needs better-recognition for the massive contribution it already makes, but needs to be extended to bring this same massive contribution to the Southern Quarter.
    Seriously, what is the alternative that will impact the Hutt Valley, Porirua and Kapiti rather than just Johnsonville?

  45. D.W., 3. July 2019, 18:23

    CCF – Replacing the Jville with a trackless tram! Interesting idea: just lift up the rails and sleepers, remove the ballast, concrete the path, paint a guidance line and voila! Cheaper buses doing the ‘heavy lifting’ with a much lower wage bill and much lower rates bill. Novel thinking Chris!

    I recall the same idea back in mid 2000s and the Bus&Coach Association’s busway idea. But Michael Cullen came in to save the Tramway Union’s bacon. Perhaps we need a Big 4 A/C company to crunch some new numbers?

  46. steve doole, 3. July 2019, 21:00

    “4 lanes to the planes” slogan seems to induce blinkers at LGWM. A one eyed blinker, as costs of extending the motorway including tunnels seems to be labelled acceptable, but rail extension south of CBD is labelled as ‘prohibitively expensive’ without evidence. No cost vs benefit at all. And calling all possibilities ‘heavy’ rail is a misnomer. (Freight trains are not proposed). 25 years ago a single rail line in Waikato was priced less than $2m per km for construction. Land take cost was extra. Ok, standards change, no embanking or tunnels were needed in Waikato, costs have risen, and any land take in Wellington is going to be costly. (Let’s not rule out short elevated sections either, just as the existing motorway is across Thorndon.) A motorway lane and a single track of railway occupy about the same space. Presumably a dual track railway is the same space as two motorway lanes. And modern metro railways are constrained less by slopes and curves than motorways are.
    Of course the number of people carried – one of LGWM’s objectives – is much higher than a motorway. Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London is a very good example of an urban railway that fits between, around, over, under, and across large and small buildings, rivers, and roads, completely separated from traffic. The DLR network has been extended in several directions since 1987, with more planned.

    Two route options for metro rail through Wellington CBD are with SH1 motorway, and via the Quays from the station to at least Newtown. There may be others.
    Capacity for more trains on railway tracks from Ngarunga to Thorndon is inadequate too. Current trains are not suitable. I pick through-walking trains, as many cities have – long and rapid.

    Expensive? comparable to motorway.
    Disruptive construction? not much.
    Effective? very, for people north from Newtown, or south from the region, a fast journey for 12,000 per hour is easily possible.

    Wellington could have this or better if LGWM took its blinkers off.

  47. Russel C., 3. July 2019, 23:46

    How many billions have you got Steve? Wellington is not London! People can walk across town. The big waste of space is the railway yards for ‘vehicles’ that can’t do a 3 point turn!

  48. Glen Smith, 4. July 2019, 8:10

    John. I’m not sure you can produce accurate travel times based on the relatively coarse and unrefined methodology you use. You assume travel speeds without justifying these. Some are likely to be accurate (the zoo to kilbirnie via dedicated tunnel space – although this assumes no wait time for your proposed single lane tunnel). But you assume the travel time between Kilbirnie and the sports centre at 40km/hr despite this going around 2 tight corners through multipurpose commercial and residential spaces. Similar for large other stretches of your route through busy multipurpose spaces.
    My proposed route to the airport is around 2km shorter and of far higher quality (eg Ruahine St vs Adelaide Road/Newtown). I have avoided, wherever possible, residential streets (partly for corridor quality but also to avoid rail impacts such as noise on residents) and busy multipurpose spaces. It would definitely be quicker.
    Steve. Absolutely agree that any rail that isn’t a lightweight ‘tram’ is somehow seen as ‘heavy rail’, causing the mind blinkers to descend. Rail forms a wide continuum and aiming for midway along the continuum would seem logical (‘heavy’ enough to trackshare on our existing network but ‘light’ enough for across town trips. Matangis are likely a little on the ‘heavy’ side). I think this can be achieved with a ground level corridor and virtually no additional land take – my proposal uses only existing or planned public road/ open spaces with the exception of around 8 houses at the eastern end of Rongotai Road (which may have to be purchased anyway under the airport noise plan). Also agree with options being labelled as ‘prohibitively expensive’ without any analysis or business plan. Not sure about a SH1 across CBD route. Also you automatically assume a Newtown rout e- a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes, there seems to be a communal delusion that this is the best route to the east.

  49. steve doole, 5. July 2019, 10:22

    Wellington could eventually have more than one rail route south from the CBD, whether tram or something else.
    Newtown area is my first target choice as Newtown people may use public transport more often than most, Newtown has population density and hospital trip attractor, and a line passing near several other trip attractors can be probably be designed and delivered within 9 years (3 election cycles), assuming it is not mixed on streets with traffic.
    For the Eastern suburbs I wouldn’t rule out a railway junction north of the hospital, say near or under Government House. Depends on whether fast journeys for Miramar peninsula and airport are prioritised over connectivity at Kilbirnie, but that is after phase 1.

  50. Wellington.Scoop, 5. July 2019, 12:39

    Comments on Guy’s article are now closed, as we have reached the maximum number that our system can cope with.