Wellington Scoop

Rethinking the airport barrier

runway 3

by Glen Smith
Despite being surrounded by high hills, Wellington is fortunate to have an international airport that is under 10km from its CBD, with flight approaches over Cook Strait to the south and just missing the Newland hills to the north. The drawback is the runway which forms a major physical barrier over 2km long between the city and the airport terminal and the growing population of over 20,000 residents who live east of the airport on Miramar Peninsula.

There are currently three routes past this barrier

1. A tunnel on the south end. This route has major problems. It represents a large detour for the majority of travellers wishing to get past the airport runway, it is accessed on the west by a storm, climate change and liquefaction vulnerable road (Moa Point Road), and on the east it requires either a long journey around the coast to Seatoun or, following the effective privatisation of the Stewart Duff public road, a slow trip through the pickup or drop off areas of the airport.

2. A small tunnel under the runway which is an extension of Coutts Street and joins Miro Street on the east. This currently forms a useful route for cyclists and pedestrians but is owned by the Airport company and the Airport Masterplan states that “we propose maximising the tunnel’s use by dividing it in two, providing both continued public access and secure access for small (up to a maximum of golf-cart size) airport vehicles”. This would not only represent an inadequate, almost pathetic way of linking the eastern and western airport apron but would render the tunnel essentially useless as a pedestrian and cycle route.

3. A narrow just over 30m wide strip of land on the north end of the airport runway which houses SH1 and the main cycle and pedestrian corridors. This strip not only is highly vulnerable to storm surge and climate change but has high liquefaction risk in the event of an earthquake.

airport risks

Despite these vulnerabilities, the current plan appears to be to use this narrow strip of land to run essentially all transport modes to the Miramar area, including road, rail, bus, cycle and pedestrian corridors …. forever.

The airport runway is not the only barrier to the Miramar area. The second is the escarpment hills on the western side of Miramar that meet the airport runway at its southern end. From Cobham Drive there are only two ways around these hills. The approximately 18m wide Miramar cutting, excavated by hand in 1901, and a narrow strip of land between the main escarpment and the airport runway occupied by SH1 along Calabar Road.

Again the current plan appears to be to try to fit all modes into these two narrow corridors, despite there being inadequate width for a dedicated rail corridor and despite forcing many pedestrians and cyclists to detour through Miramar cutting, from where they are stranded in the narrow wind and rain exposed strip of coast tucked on the north of SH1 along Cobham Drive. It forces any future rail to the airport to take an illogical detour and forces all cyclists from the east to traverse Miramar Avenue, a busy shopping area with multiple side entrances and the highest cyclist injury rate in the eastern suburbs.

The third barrier is SH1 which, with exception of the Coutts St tunnel, forms an unbroken 2.5 km obstacle from Evans Bay Parade to the airport entrance on Stewart Duff Drive. The normal ideal where other modes cross main State Highways is grade separation. Instead no grade separation of any alternative modes is planned. Buses are forced to detour around the north end of the runway and are delayed as they cross SH1 from Caledonia St on the east and Troy St on the west. Pedestrians and cyclists have to run the gauntlet of traffic to cross SH1 with the only future crossing planned being a new at-grade crossing near the ASB sports centre. And any future rail is planned to cross SH1 at grade from Troy St on the west and Miramar Ave/Cobham Drive on the east, halting traffic possibly up to every 2-3 minutes.

None of this seems to be sensible long term design. The question arises as to whether we can do better. I absolutely think we can.

The ideal solution would be for alternative modes to cross the airport runway barrier in a new location away from the narrow strip of storm, climate change and liquefaction-vulnerable land north of the runway. This would mean a new tunnel. The route should avoid the Miramar hill escarpment while being as geographically central as possible to the mid point of the Miramar population to avoid detours. The logical location is immediately to the south of the escarpment on Caledonia St. And it should be grade separated from SH1.

All of this would be possible with a single new combined rail, bus, cycle, pedestrian tunnel linking Caledonia St on the east with Rongotai Road on the west, perhaps via Cairns street (see options below). The tunnel would be between 250 and 350m depending on the option chosen.

airport new route

The airport runway is not level but is higher at the northern end where it is around 13m in altitude. Assuming a tunnel floor altitude of around 3m (to anticipate future flooding with climate change) and a tunnel of around 5m height (to accommodate double deck buses and rail units with pantograms) still leaves around 4-5m of ground between the airport runway and top of the tunnel. This area is not fill but original solid ground as an extension of the eastern escarpment and has low liquefaction potential. Expert tunnelling advice would be required to assess the logistical challenges and feasibility of tunnelling under an operating airport runway, however it would almost certainly be achievable. The landing runway itself is only around 50m wide and the taxi runway could, with some inconvenience, be avoided during tunnel construction beneath it.

Below are some rough concept plans I submitted to the local councils around 2016. I have seen no evidence this solution has been considered. The option shown on the western side assumed a Cairns St approach and a fully dedicated rail corridor from the Station to the Airport to accommodate ‘medium weight’ rail (‘light metro’). This required acquisition of 7 houses – the only additional housing acquisition required for the entire Station to Airport dedicated rail corridor. A non dedicated Cairns St route or a non dedicated Rongotai Road approach would likely be achievable without house acquisition, but with loss of parking and limiting rail to ‘light’ rail.

airport new ideas

On the east side I had assumed rail initially going only to the airport with buses along Caledonia Street servicing Miramar and Seatoun. Rail would be possible along Caledonia Street but not a dedicated corridor (due to lack of width) which would limit it to true ‘light’ rail. This could be ‘trackshare’ with ‘medium weight’ airport units rail and be paired with true ‘light rail’ to a destination on the other side of the city such as Johnsonville. The diagram is concept only- for example the rail curvature shown is too tight and dimensions approximate.

airport new idea 2

airport new idea 3

A cycle or pedestrian trip via this tunnel to Kilbirnie from almost any location in Miramar would be either the same or shorter than going via the current proposed route through the Miramar cutting, along Cobham Drive and across the proposed new Cobham Drive crossing. It would avoid the wind and rain exposed section along Cobham Drive.

This tunnel would also allow a high quality dedicated corridor for either bus or rail units linking the main airport building with the western airport apron where WIAL owns a large area of land along Bridge St. Utilisation of this area of land could allow it to avoid destroying the large area of open green space they have acquired from the Miramar Golf club and which they plan to tarmac over to achieve a couple of additional air plane berths.

airport and golf club

The cost of a tunnel such as this is unclear. However since the tunnel is only required due to the barrier created by the airport runway, since it is required to house the required high quality rail service to the airport, since around a third of the traffic along Cobham Drive (and therefore effectively all of the congestion from the east) is generated by the airport, and since it would allow a high quality link between the eastern and western airport aprons, it could be expected that WIAL would contribute significantly towards the cost of this tunnel. The City Council could be expected to contribute for the cycleway component, perhaps using funds saved by no longer requiring a grade separated Cobham Drive crossing. And LGWM would contribute a large part since it would be a part of the high quality PT corridor to the east.

Think long term. Do it once and do it right.


  1. Steve Doole, 6. September 2021, 10:28

    By say 2060, airports as we know them are unlikely to be the same, even with electric planes, and fewer people travelling. For Miramar, sea level rise looks to be a major challenge. Good thinking, though your assumptions could be last century.

  2. luke, 6. September 2021, 11:06

    Move the terminals to the opposite side of the runway where the airport retail is, so less people need to cross the runway.

  3. Tony, 7. September 2021, 13:21

    Well done with some good ideas.
    My thoughts though go back to fundamentals on the location and size, both current and future, of this airport. WIAL have said that they are planning to have 12 million passengers use their airport by 2040, double what they get these days, outside Covid. Due to this they intend to extend and widen the current footprint. LGWM, as you mention, have plans to improve access from SH1 to the airport, although these change frequently. However this all ends with the location and, again as you mention, there are only limited access routes available that make its location a dead end.
    Therefore, and it has been suggested for many years, why don’t we relocate the airport so that it is not a dead end – with road and rail access heading North and South as well as being 30 minutes from Wellington’s CBD, which is what it takes now during peak times?? What about at the northern end of Transmission Gully, on Queen Elizabeth Park?? I know the environmentalists won’t like it and neither will the hundreds leaving Wellington now heading to the Kapiti Coast, but there is the room and there are access options which the current airport doesn’t have!
    Oh and what should we do with the current airport? Well don’t we need more houses for our growing population…

  4. Glen Smith, 7. September 2021, 17:15

    Steve Doole. Can you clarify the source of your claim that fewer people will travelling by plane in 2060? Sea level rise will be an issue for a number of places in Wellington but the Wellington CBD and lower Hutt Valley will be under water long before Miramar flats. Interestingly Miramar has been gradually rising with at least 4 uplift events in the last 7000 years and an estimated rising rate of 1m/1000 years as part of much greater rise across towards the Wairarapa. However it is unclear when, or if, the next rise will occur and whether this will this outpace sea level rise.

  5. Glen Smith, 7. September 2021, 17:30

    Tony. Again good luck getting WIAL to move all their infrastructure north and getting the public to support bulldozing QE park. The close by Paraparaumu airport runway is too short for an international airport (around 1300m) and “judged unsuitable for international operations in the 1950s due to Kapiti Island to the near west and the Tararua Ranges barely a mile east infringing the take-off and landing flightpaths” (Wikipedia). Navigation has improved since that time but QE Park would be even closer to the hills. The nearest alternative airport location would be the Wairararapa or north of Levin. Sorry but Wellington Airport is here to stay and we should be looking at ways to provide it with high quality PT, despite WIAL’s reluctance to do this due to the large parking revenues they collect without paying for all the road congestion they generate.

    Luke. Good luck convincing WIAL to move all of their infrastructure across to the other side of the airport. Far cheaper to provide high quality PT access across the runway to the current airport building, while also servicing the population of the Miramar Peninsula

  6. Ross Clark, 8. September 2021, 1:50

    There’s a lot that could be done now to improve the airport’s public transport access, if the regional council can ever sort out its procurement:

    * Service frequency is everything. A bus every five-six minutes or so to the Railway Station.

    * Make it more direct – run it as an Express, without having to pick up passengers on the inbound services, or have to cater for non-airport traffic on the outbound services.

    * Fewer stops work better – so, Kilbirnie, Courtenay Place, Taranaki St, Willis St (somewhere), Railway Station.

  7. K, 8. September 2021, 8:53

    Tony: there was a campaign not too long ago to move the airport to empty land north of Newlands, which seemed like a great idea. Not enough interest unfortunately. The cost I would have thought would have been recouped by a combination of selling the current airport land for housing and eliminating much of the LGWM-needed budget as traffic flows would reduce significantly.

  8. Mike Mellor, 8. September 2021, 14:50

    This article – detailed, interesting and technically ingenious, as we’ve come to expect – seems to be based on three assumptions: a) the primary purpose of transport to/from the east is to service the airport; b) Caledonia St near the airport is “as geographically central as possible to the mid point of the Miramar population”; and c) it is feasible to dig a shallow tunnel (and a large diameter one at that) under the airport’s only runway without significant disruption.

    Taking them in reverse order, I suspect that both the airport and its safety regulators would have a lot to say about c); and re b), looking at a map shows that the mid point of the Miramar population is in the vicinity of Miramar shops, ideally situated for the current access via the cutting (so much for “forcing many pedestrians and cyclists to detour through Miramar cutting” and “buses are forced to detour around the north end of the runway” – that’s where they mostly want and need to go!).

    As for a), while the airport is certainly a significant traffic generator, it’s not where most people (or freight, relevant to Miramar’s industries – it’s by no means a dormitory suburb) go via, or to, or from. Any transport solution needs to address those flows, and not try to force them to detour away from the suburb’s heart. That’s particularly important for light rail (or any other form of mass transit): any proposal that does not have central Miramar on its main route is setting itself up to fail.

    The best option is for mass transit is to go directly to/from Miramar and its centre via the north end of the runway and the cutting, running on reservation to the south and east of Cobham Drive to minimise conflict with SH1 – simple and direct.

  9. Cr Daran Ponter, 8. September 2021, 17:02

    Tony: Hands off Queen Elizabeth Park! In the process of investing $millions to re-wet and re-vegetate the Wetlands. Wetlands and peat that would make the construction of an airport a difficult proposition.

    Ross Clark – New Airport bus service well in hand. Tenders have closed and are being evaluated. An announcement will be made in a few weeks. It will be a limited stops service.

  10. Dave B, 8. September 2021, 17:19

    Mike Mellor, here are the 2019 and 2020 average annual daily traffic counts for the City-to-airport route:
    Source: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/state-highway-traffic-volumes/

    -2019- -2020- -Location-
    40540 33374 Patterson St (Sth of Basin Reserve)
    36012 29140 Ruahine St (Sth of Goa St)
    36097 27720 Cobham Drive (Sth of Evans Bay Pde)
    25596 18919 Calabar Rd (Sth of Caledonia St)

    You are correct that a significant amount of traffic using Cobham Drive turns off to Miramar before reaching the airport roundabout. However, about 70% of it continues either to Broadway or the airport itself. This is by far the majority-flow.
    While it would be nice to get rail to the Miramar shops, for anything other than trams in-the-street this would be hard to achieve. Higher-speed options on their own rights of way such as Glen Smith is proposing would require a rail-to-bus transfer hub at the airport and this could provide a quicker overall journey than a tram running predominantly in the street. In which case the airport should remain under consideration as a rapid-transit terminus.

  11. Ross Clark, 8. September 2021, 20:50

    Daran – thanks for clarifying the situation re the Airport Bus.

  12. Mike Mellor, 8. September 2021, 22:38

    Thanks, Dave B – interesting figures. Being focused on the state highway, they don’t show the considerable flows leading to/from SH1 on Troy St to/from Kilbirnie and on Cobham Drive to/from Miramar (nor the flow on SH1 between those two roundabouts, before the airport/cutting split), and these would need to be added to give a full picture.

    Yes, trams/light rail on the street would be needed on the Miramar section, a common approach all over the world.

    People in Miramar have already seen the issues associated with short bus feeders to high-frequency transport (albeit buses in this case), and the no. 18 shuttle from northern Miramar had a very short life. Extending that concept to longer, less convenient feeders from the whole of the peninsula, forcing deviations via and changes (with the associated waits) at the airport, would be a triumph of hope over experience (and over sensible transport planning). Designing a suitable interchange to facilitate the movement of both airport and local passengers, mass transit and local buses in the limited space available would be a challenge, too, one that I suspect the airport would not relish.

    It will be interesting to see what LGWM finally comes up with!

  13. Glen Smith, 9. September 2021, 7:53

    Mike. I’m not sure you have actually read the article when you say “the primary purpose of transport to/from the east is to service the airport”. The tunnel houses rail – initially to the airport but likely in future to the entire northern Miramar flats including Miramar shops (see the proposed routes in my 2019 article) – but also bus, cycle and pedestrian from the entire Miramar area. Nonetheless the airport is a huge generator of trips. Taking the 12 million projected trips in 2040 mentioned by Tony and dividing this over 365 days (33,000 trips per day) and assuming 14 hour days (7am to 9pm) gives a market of 2350 trips per hour (on average and not including airport/ service workers). How much of this market can be captured depends on how high quality a service can be provided. ‘Light rail’ advocates have a penchant for detouring rail customers away from the direct route to force them to take slow trips, mixed with general traffic, along busy shopping precincts where they don’t want to go. You also have a penchant for imposing a ‘trunk and feeder’ design where it isn’t justified (see my 2019 article ‘coming soon- bustastrophe 2’). So you want to detour airport rail passengers to slowly mix with traffic on the busiest main street in Miramar, then force Miramar and other eastern bus users to transfer to it, then take rail via a storm/climate change/liquefaction route before detouring via the zoo (of all places) before forcing them to slowly mix with general traffic along the busiest main street in Newtown on their way to the CBD, while forcing Island Bay bus users to transfer in Newtown. Really? I am waiting for your proposal to divert the Kapiti line to take a slow trip mixed with traffic through Tawa main shopping centre, then a slow trip along the main street in Johnsonville before detouring to take a slow trip along the main streets in Lower Hutt and Petone, while forcing Upper Hutt riders to transfer before proceeding to the CBD. If you don’t think these two are analogous from a network design perspective, then logically explain the difference.

  14. Glen Smith, 9. September 2021, 8:01

    Dave B. I hope you were giving bus riders the option of transfer to rail rather than forcing them to transfer by terminating the bus trip at your transfer station, which would impose an illogical ‘trunk and feeder’ design close to the city where none is justified (again see my previous article). And the airport would be a detour for most travellers from the east – Kilbirnie is the more logical transfer point for those who chose to transfer to rail (to take a Quays route across the CBD or beyond) rather than staying on the bus to travel along the Golden Mile.

  15. Dave B, 9. September 2021, 18:48

    Mike Mellor, of course you are right that a chunk of the traffic-volume using Cobham Drive will turn off down Troy Street and this must be subtracted from the total before the apportioning between what goes to Miramar and what doesn’t. My oversight. However even if rail made it to Miramar shops, there would still remain a large catchment requiring some sort of transport to access it.

    Glen Smith, I am happy to give all PT users whatever works best for them, be that bus, train or a combination. If a train/bus transfer hub is provided at or near the airport (didn’t I hear that Miramar Golf Course is up for grabs?), there is no reason why some buses should not continue to run all the way to town if demand for them remains. I am just mindful of how effective the train/bus hubs are at various points on the existing rail system and see no reason why something similar should not work in the eastern suburbs also.

  16. Ellen, 10. September 2021, 0:21

    Great ideas and good discussion! I like Luke’s simple solution to move the public facing terminals to the Kilbirnie side (somewhere near the pedestrian tunnel) that would remove most of the airport traffic from the peninsula and allow easy bus and walk access from many places.

  17. Mike Mellor, 10. September 2021, 10:17

    Luke’s “simple solution” does look attractive at first sight, and clearly what would be on the cards if we were starting from scratch – but we’re not.

    Looking at the map, the space required on the western side for all public-facing terminals and associated facilities (plane and car parking, etc) looks as if it would need the whole width of the isthmus at least as far west as Rongotai College, meaning all those residents, businesses, schools etc would have to move elsewhere – so not actually that simple.

    Glen, thanks for your detailed comments, including identifying a penchant that’s entirely new to me! But when lecturing others about “detours” (which are actually about striking a good compromise between directness and catchment, which is what every transport project has to do) you appear not to have noticed that if your rail proposal is to serve northern Miramar, heading south first may not be such a good idea. The elephant in the room is the prospect of building a large shallow tunnel under the airport’s sole working runway. Sorry, but realistically the chances of that happening are pretty small, and any transport project, whatever its benefits, that relies on that happening must be open to serious question.

  18. Keith Flinders, 10. September 2021, 10:55

    Ellen and Luke: That proposal was discussed about 50 years ago as well as since, long before the terminal was replaced and airport traffic made a real impact. To do it now would cost billions.

    Light rail or some other form of mass transit through the cutting to Miramar, then to Hobart/Broadway, with a travelator to the airport terminal, is likely the most practical solution when passenger numbers warrant it.

    Neither are likely in my life time though.

  19. Bob Altamont, 12. September 2021, 13:37

    Should be closed and moved to Kapiti.

  20. Stephen Moore, 13. September 2021, 14:45

    I like the idea put forward by Glen Smith as the tunnel removes any conflict between Mass Transit and SH1.

    I dont understand why Mike Mellor says running mass transit past the northern end of the runway and via the cutting minimises conflict with SH1, as the route will have to cross SH1 at some point if it’s coming from Kilbirnie. The only major change I would make to Glen’s plan would be to allow a mass transit route coming from the cutting via Aberdeen Quay to turn right into the tunnel. This would facilitate a loop via the Miramar shops.

    Also as part of Airport eastern expansion – The Stewart Drive to Moa Point link road needs to be retained with a spur to the intersection of RauKawa St and Monorgan Road. This will remove a lot of vehicles from Broadway and Cobham Drive as Lyall Bay and the Rongotai Retail centre are major destinations.

  21. Mike Mellor, 13. September 2021, 15:35

    Stephen Moore: the mass transit route I suggested minimises conflict with SH1 if a direct route to the centre of Miramar is chosen, with just a crossing of Calabar Rd at the existing roundabout. An indirect route such as Glen’s can avoid any such intersection, but at the cost of a tunnel (which may well not be feasible) and a round-the-houses route somewhat reminiscent of the route the no.2 trolleys used to take.

  22. Stephen Moore, 14. September 2021, 13:27

    Mike Mellor: – You are wrong when you say Glen’s is the “indirect” route. If mass transit comes down Rongotai Road, then Glen’s route is the direct route because it runs in a straight line without needing to divert around the northern edge of the runway. Yes a tunnel is expensive – but without one, a ground level mass transit crossing over SH1 will only add to congestion on this already busy route.

    You could compromise and run your route around the northern edge of the runway to Calabar Rd and then tunnel to Caledonia St intersection. Same result as Glen’s but no airport construction disruption = less cost.

    Dave B’s numbers show Calabar Rd is the main destination of vehicles and not the Miramar cutting as you propose so this is the optimum route (putting aside any discussion about a spur track to Miramar north).

  23. Mike Mellor, 14. September 2021, 23:05

    Stephen: between Rongotai Rd and central Miramar there’s no need to “divert” round the north end of the runway – it’s directly on route, which Caledonia St isn’t.

    As noted above, the figures Dave B linked to don’t include the significant traffic flows on Troy St nor the complete flow on Cobham Drive to/from the cutting, so the picture isn’t complete.

    And, of course, what’s important for planning purposes are the number of people and the amount of freight carried rather than the number of vehicles, recognised by LGWM’s mantra of more people in fewer vehicles. By not covering Troy St the figures quoted exclude nearly all the buses (and hence their passengers) to/from the peninsula, such as bus no.2, the region’s most frequent route.

  24. Glen Smith, 15. September 2021, 15:32

    Stephen. Yes the route to the airport is far shorter and more direct with the tunnel option. Using google earth path measure feature, the distance to the airport entrance from where the two paths diverge at the corner of Rongotai Road and Troy Street is 2.8km for the route through the Miramar cutting and 1.5km for the Tunnel route. I wonder how much the cost of 1.3km of rail would compare to the price of the tunnel? And how much quicker this would be especially since the route via the Miramar cutting goes though a busy multipurpose shopping precinct?.
    Of course the airport is only one group of travellers using the tunnel. Another is Miramar north PT users. The rail route through Miramar cutting doesn’t service north Miramar but relies on feeder buses that presumably terminate at Miramar shops. This imposes an actual bus to rail transfer penalty of up to the time gap between rail services and a ‘pure’ disincentive penalty of 17 minutes (from customer preference research). Rail through the Miramar cutting from the divergence point (Troy/ Rongotai) to the corner of Miramar Ave and Park Road (outside the Roxy where a station up to 50m long should be possible – this is the only station that would be required for the Miramar shops since the whole shopping precinct is within a 300m radius) is 1600m, and for the Tunnel 1700m.
    For buses, any route from north Miramar via the tunnel would be 100m longer but likely faster as it avoids congested routes. Bus routes from southern Miramar (Seatoun, Strathmore etc) via a Broadway/ Hobart/ Caledonia/ tunnel route would be around 0.5km shorter and, by avoided congested routes, much faster.
    Cycle and pedestrian routes via the tunnel would be shorter for almost the whole of Miramar except Maupuia and a small area on the north west serviced by Tauhinu Road.
    The tunnel is clearly the superior option for almost all commuters in all modes from essentially all of Miramar

  25. Mike Mellor, 15. September 2021, 21:10

    Glen, as you note (I think – the sentence gets a bit convoluted) the route via the cutting is a shorter, more direct way to get to the centre of Miramar from the west than via your tunnel. So “almost the whole of Miramar” having shorter cycle/pedestrian routes doesn’t actually apply to the main shopping area and north of there; and the tunnel being “clearly the superior option for almost all commuters” is unfortunately similarly exaggerated. Yes, your tunnel would be a good option for the southern half of the peninsula, but – even if it were feasible, which is a pretty heroic assumption – would it be worth the very large amount of money that it would cost?

    However, if rumours I have been hearing are correct, LGWM is leaning towards mass transit to the south, not the east, so this discussion may well be entirely academic. The southern option would make less sense in conventional transport terms, since employment and other facilities (e.g. the aquatic centre, the airport) in the eastern suburbs mean that there would be two-way traffic all day. The relative lack of such trip-generating features south of Newtown would mean imbalanced flows with more lightly-loaded or empty running, a less efficient (i.e. more costly) way of operating. But all will revealed in the fullness of time…

    So perhaps start thinking about the best mass transit routes to Island Bay!

  26. Glen Smith, 16. September 2021, 8:45

    Mike. LGWM looking at taking rail to Island Bay is bizarre to say the least. A dedicated corridor would be impossible and it would be surprising for the cost of a non dedicated rail corridor to survive any cost-benefit analysis compared to bus services (which is the logical choice given the population size/ trip base). My assumption is they started with the flawed axiom that Newtown HAS to be served by rail, then hit the obvious huge barrier of trying to get any sort of rail through Newtown and to the east. Instead of then reassessing the underlying axiom and coming to the realisation that a direct SH1 route is the best route to the east and the cheapest/ least destructive way of achieving this is via a multipurpose stacked second Mt Victoria tunnel (see my article of Feb 8th 2019), they then went ‘where else can we take rail from Newtown’ and came up with the brilliant idea (NOT) of going to Island Bay.
    Since Newtown sits naturally in the southern routes they are right that the trunk corridor to Newtown should be the same mode as the PT routes to the south, but this should be BUS based, NOT rail based. This is especially true since the most hospital visitors will be coming from Wellington suburbs which are served by bus.
    At this stage rail should only go to the east via a SH1 route and as a fully dedicated rail corridor that can accommodate ‘medium’ weight rail, allowing ‘tracksharing’ on our existing rail network and so enabling seamless regional/ across town PT services.
    I am waiting for the penny to drop with LGWM on this one, but then I am also waiting for the penny to drop with ‘light’ rail advocates.

  27. Mike Mellor, 16. September 2021, 23:27

    Glen, there’s no “flawed axiom” that Newtown – or anywhere else – has to be served by rail, since the form that mass transit will take is yet to be decided. There does appear to be a (sensible) axiom that Newtown needs to served, and it’s clear that that could feasibly be en route to either the south or the east (as already debated ad nauseam, so let’s not get go over that yet again).

    In any sensible decision-making process the mode of transport (rail, bus, whatever) will tend to follow from route selection – using whatever criteria are deemed appropriate – rather than dictate it (though there will of course be a feedback loop). So going into great detail about mode-specific operational features like multi-stacked tunnels, tracksharing, etc at this stage is at least to some extent putting the cart before the horse. Technical aspects like that, however ingenious and apparently attractive, are consequential matters, not the key issues.

    I suspect that you’ll be waiting a very long wait for your particular penny to drop with either of the audiences that you mention (if indeed it ever does).

  28. Glen Smith, 18. September 2021, 8:37

    Mike. I should have said ‘mass transit’ rather than ‘rail’ but current decision making is absolutely based on the flawed axiom that ‘mass transit’ has to go via Newtown. The closed “Mass Transit Route Workshop” on 5 July 2018 had the stated objective “to identify the preferred route for mass transit between Wellington Railway Station and Wellington International Airport” and started from the position that “the first stage of mass transit from the railway station to southern Newtown/Zoo was assumed as a given”. “Assumed as given” is the precise definition of an axiom.
    I will again use an analogy to illustrate why this is so self evidently stupid. It is like saying “we want a route for the large Kapiti population to get to the CBD and we are starting from the assumption that this has to go via the lower Hutt Valley”. Really? This would divert Kapiti commuters away from a direct and easy route and ignores the fact that the northern Hutt Valley has large enough population to support its own PT line. This line HAS to go via the lower Hutt Valley, so this area will be serviced whether you take the Kapiti line there or not. Similarly the southern suburbs (especially Island Bay) have a large enough population to support a separate line and this HAS to go via Newtown so Newtown will be serviced whether you take the Eastern line there or not.

    I also disagree that mode selection follows route selection. The primary deciding factor is population/ trip base which determines which mode you select (bus for lower load routes and rail for higher load routes). In an established city the route you then choose is determined by what is logistically possible (unless you want to demolish large swathes of the city). Fortunately – and largely by luck- the situation in Wellington suits this well. The trip load to the Eastern suburbs is large enough to justify rail and a dedicated high quality rail corridor is eminently achievable (but not via Newtown). The Southern suburbs have lower load which can be adequately serviced by bus and rail. Unless you want to impose an illogical ‘trunk and feeder’ design on southern commuters (with its inherent transfer disincentive) the southern bus lines should continue as direct bus lines to the CBD via the Golden Mile. So Newtown should be serviced by buses from the southern suburbs, preferably via a dedicated bus ‘trunk’ corridor from the CBD as far as the hospital.

  29. Daran Ponter, 18. September 2021, 11:23

    Glen Smith – the base proposition for MRT was originally CBD to Airport via Newtown. As the business case has developed this has changed to two separate MRT routes – one to Island Bay via Newtown and one to the Eastern suburbs.

    Both these routes will be described in the options that go public in November. The options may describe a preference for the type of MRT, which may differ on the two routes – but this will not be locked down at this point – ie subject to confirmation of the intensity of development due on both routes.

  30. Claire, 18. September 2021, 12:14

    Daran: where does the eastern one go. Does it branch before Newtown?

  31. Daran Ponter, 18. September 2021, 18:23

    Claire: Options coming in November.