Wellington Scoop

No decisions, but 4 more options

LGWM logo update
LGWM is continuing its indecisiveness for a sixth year, with four transport options to be announced next week. According to the NZ Herald, all the options include a new Mt Victoria Tunnel, and three of the options include grade separation at the Basin Reserve.

The four options were leaked to the Herald last week, and reported by Thomas Coughlan.

After they’ve been officially launched, there’ll be another period of the consultation which is LGWM’s speciality, in preference to making anything happen.

It’s strange to learn that grade separation at the Basin is being discussed again.

No need to repeat the fact that the plan for a hideous flyover alongside the Basin Reserve was twice defeated, first by a Board of Inquiry and then by the High Court, with thousands of pages of evidence about why it was unacceptable. The Transport Agency said it accepted the High Court’s ruling, which “provides useful clarification on a number of points of law for future infrastructure projects.”

As a result, there’s an expectation that there’ll be no new attempt to propose a bridge in the sky overlooking the Basin. Instead, we’ve been hearing about plans for grade separation on the western side of the Basin. They were reported by Leviathan on eyeofthefish in 2019.

At that time, Save the Basin reported:

The roading changes proposed around the Basin do indeed seem to avoid bridges or flyovers…

But it added:

The level of detail available to the public remains vague enough that continued vigilance is needed – just as it is to ensure that the project meets its overall goals of reducing transport emissions, reducing dependence on private cars, and promoting walking, cycling, public transport and rapid transit.

Two years on, the vagueness continues. But next week we may be told the details.

The Herald tells us that three of the four options for mass rapid transit are for light rail from the station to Island Bay, with priority buses on other routes including to the airport. As variations of a new Mt Victoria Tunnel are in all four options, can we expect that this means another tunnel will actually be built? And as for grade separation – unspecified – at the Basin, the single option that excludes it will no doubt be studied with interest by everyone concerned about the urban landscape of this central area.

Will any of the options be recommended by LGWM? Will long public consultation next year do anything to bring mass rapid transit any closer to reality. Will another Mt Victoria Tunnel be welcomed, when consultation begins? Will grade separation alongside the Basin be any more acceptable than last time?

Stay tuned for next week’s announcements.

NZ Herald: Extra tunnel, but no extra car lanes


  1. Ms Green, 25. October 2021, 11:21

    What a surprise! Looks as if all their/our dosh has been blown on Transmission Gully and now court cases … public private partnerships? So, this is a major scandal: all our dollars are going into consultants, consultation, court cases, cost overruns, spin consultants, and salaries for elected chairs and mayors who tell us we will have plenty of time to argue. Sack the lot! Get on your bike LGWM … what expensive nonsense.

  2. D'Esterre, 25. October 2021, 12:59

    Grade separation at the Basin? What on earth has LGWM got in mind that would a) be acceptable to citizens and b) wouldn’t cost gazillions of dollars that NZ – never mind Wellington – doesn’t have? And end up languishing unfinished, either on account of unexpectedly dodgy ground conditions, or contractors’ disputes à la Transmission Gully.

  3. Cr Daran Ponter, 25. October 2021, 13:32

    Okay, a bit of calm may be required here folks. “Grade separation” is transport engineer language for putting one road over another. In a previous proposal related to the Basin Reserve, a Bridge was proposed. There is no bridge proposal in any of the four options coming out on Monday 1 November. The solution that is being proposed is, in my view, an elegant means of separating North-South and East-West traffic. You will have to be the judge.

  4. Lindsay, 25. October 2021, 14:42

    Daran. As all four options include another Mt Victoria tunnel, does this mean it’s a done deal?

  5. Penelope, 25. October 2021, 16:55

    Daran why are you saying we should stay calm, and that we have plenty of options to argue about? Gee thanks. About that new tunnel Lindsay is questioning – is that why there is no MRT to the airport, or is there?

  6. John Rankin, 25. October 2021, 19:47

    According to the Herald, new Mt Victoria tunnel options are:

    (a) The new tunnel will have two lanes for traffic and two for bus priority. The existing Mt Victoria tunnel will be converted for walking and cycling.

    (b) A new tunnel will be dug through Mt Victoria for walking and cycling, which will mean traffic continues to use the existing tunnel.

    As reported, there is no option for a new walking, cycling, 2-lane bus priority tunnel. It is also not clear what role the existing bus tunnel will play, eg under (b) above.

    It appears MRT to the airport is no longer part of the plan.

  7. Hel, 25. October 2021, 20:25

    I’m hoping the options actually have some detail behind them and are not simply another set of concepts for further jawboning. After more than six years with nothing to show, time to deliver!

  8. D'Esterre, 25. October 2021, 21:46

    Cr Ponter: I know what grade separation is. Hence my doubt about whether LGWM could propose any solution – elegant or otherwise – that would be feasible and not impossibly expensive.

  9. Cr Daran Ponter, 25. October 2021, 23:21

    Lindsay – No it doesn’t. The options contain tunnel options that do different things.
    Penelope – Calm refers to those who are thinking that a flyover will emerge in the options – it won’t. The options all have MRT to both the South and the East – but the type of MRT depends very much on the level of urban intensification anticipated in both these directions. The higher the level of intensification the more likely the mode will by light rail (LRT). The lower the level of urban intensification, the more likely the mode will be Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) (or possibly bus priority). Both LRT and BRT modes will be high quality …. and there will already be some very strong preferences amongst readers for one mode over the other.

    Many Wellingtonians have firm views on LGWM, a liveable city, urban intensification, active modes, PT, provision for cars etc. So, yes, I have no doubt that the options will deliver much debate.

  10. erentz, 26. October 2021, 9:03

    Does this look to anyone else like road builders designed new roads then slapped on some bus paint to say, “no trust us it’s good for transit too!”
    Because the idea of running buses on an alignment through these proposed new Mt Vic tunnels is a terrible transit route. These proposals all short change the eastern suburbs and the people around Adelaide Rd. Even Newtown has an inferior service under this proposal with its constrained LRT route that is rumored to go via Mt Cook.

    We shouldn’t be slapping a transit solution onto a road solution. We should be designing a transit solution that is optimal for all of the southern and eastern suburbs. If you were to do that, you’d wind up with LRT on a fully segregated right of way via Cambridge/Kent Terrace, a widened Adelaide Road, Riddiford St, and a tunnel from near the Zoo to Kilbirnie, and then via Rongotai Rd, to Miramar and south to the Airport as it’s a terminus. You’d in future add a spur from near the Zoo through a tunnel under Berhampore to Island Bay.

    I’m not opposed to a new road tunnel (I happen to think all of SH1 should have been planned to go underground from the days when we were still arguing the bypass). But the optimal solution for SH1 is not the optimal solution for a transit route. They’re just shoehorning this in there to sell it. I really hope people aren’t suckered into liking this because they finally have wanted LRT for so long they’ll take this crappy design.

  11. erentz, 26. October 2021, 9:31

    Cr Ponter, I’ve asked LGWM for documents relating to the transit design but have not had any reply for months. Are we going to be able to see the framework laying out how they conducted this project, how they developed these proposals? Documents on the alternatives, alignment analysis, and their analysis so we can see why they did not make the cut. And the detailed analysis on these proposals relating to stop locations, capacities, speed, catchments, and so forth? Has any of that work actually been done?

  12. bssmith, 26. October 2021, 12:43

    This is all quite amusing. On the one hand we have a group opposing any form of commercial upgrades etc at the airport, and on the other, another group complaining about no MRT to the Airport ?

  13. Talk Wellington, 26. October 2021, 14:58

    “No additional lanes for cars” – exactly as it should be. Anyone who tries to tell you more lanes for cars will fix our congestion problems – yes including anyone in Authority – needs to go have a liedown & come back when they’re ready for the real world. [via twitter]

  14. Cr Daran Ponter, 26. October 2021, 16:42

    Hel – the concepts should have sufficient detail for this stage in the process. But if you are looking for curb heights, tunnel dimensions, LRT stop location and spacing, you will be disappointed. That all comes at the design stage – we are a way off that yet.
    Erentz – and I am very pleased that you haven’t received anything yet from LGWM, because that would mean you had leapfrogged many other people in the community who want precisely the same information – the process for public engagement is from 1 November. As per my above response, you will get to respond to broad design proposals, but the detail you refer to will come at the design phase, which is still some way off. Documentation on the options analysis will be released. MRT is not going via Mt Cook (if you mean Wallace Street).

  15. Erentz, 27. October 2021, 11:54

    Cr Ponter. So alternative alignments that were discarded and the analysis behind them will be released? So we will be able to clearly see how eastern suburbs via bus lanes in a road tunnel on a rather strange alignment was chosen over say light rail via a tunnel to the zoo? Or will that analysis be kept hidden?

    Usually by this point there’d be a lot more documents explaining the framework for how the study will be carried out, how options will be evaluated, alternative alignments would all be drawn out and available, they’d then be analyzed for things like conflicts with infrastructure, cost, travel time, catchment, community benefits, etc. to reach a shortlist. In this case none of that seems to exist anywhere. It’s a black box.

  16. Cr Daran Ponter, 27. October 2021, 13:46

    Erentz – I don’t know precisely what you are looking to uncover, but documents related to how the options were arrived at will be available. LGWM is at the indicative business case stage for MRT and State Highway improvements. Many of the things that you are referring to are likely to be addressed in the detailed business case and design phases.

    The “string of pearls” route from Eastern suburbs to CBD via the Zoo was an early proposal. I don’t know that it has to be heavily defended. The cost of a bespoke tunnel and longer journey times for the string of pearls route will have put the knife into this proposal.

  17. Dave B, 27. October 2021, 17:36

    Daran – are you saying that Rail Tunnel (bespoke) = Non-starter, but 4-lane Road Tunnel (also bespoke, as all tunnels are, and vastly more expensive) = Good to go? Or have I misunderstood your comment above?
    Is this 4-lanes-to-the-planes in another guise, with two of these lanes re-labelled (for now) as “bus priority”? If this goes ahead, how long before pressure from the cars-first-brigade sees the bus lanes downgraded to general traffic? Probably before the project is even off the drawing-board! Or is this really the plan all along, masked by a bit of PT-wash?

  18. luke, 27. October 2021, 21:29

    My suspicion is four lanes to the planes by stealth.

  19. Cr Daran Ponter, 27. October 2021, 21:46

    Dave B: If PT goes through a multi-mode tunnel (ie with cars), PT shares the cost of the tunnel. If we build a tunnel just for PT, then PT pays 100% of the cost and the cost benefit ratio goes down. Whatever the case, there will be no tunnel between the Zoo and Kilbirnie – that is not in the mix.

  20. John Rankin, 28. October 2021, 9:30

    Daran: LGWM appears to have rejected a multi-mode tunnel for public transport, walking and cycling at Mt Victoria. Surely this would be both lower cost and higher capacity than a PT and cars tunnel? I also question the statement that “the cost-benefit ratio goes down” for a PT-only tunnel. The cost of a tunnel is (roughly) proportional to the square of its radius. The volume of a tunnel is the area of the entrance times the length and area is pi r squared. The cost is roughly proportional to the volume of stuff you have to remove (plus the cost of lining, which for a fixed length is proportional to the radius). So a 4-lane car plus PT tunnel costs about 4 times a 2-lane PT tunnel. Your 2 PT lanes in a 4-lane tunnel cost roughly twice a 2-lane PT only tunnel.

    If I’m wrong, can we see LGWM’s evidence to support the claim that the cost per lane of a 4-lane tunnel is less than the cost per lane of a 2-lane tunnel? I trust the indicative business case will show LGWM’s workings that led to rejecting a (one lane) MRT tunnel between the Zoo and Kilbirnie on cost grounds.

    Also, will we see the evidence that “bus priority” between the station and airport will deliver a travel time less than the 20 minutes LGWM estimated for a light rail route via the Zoo?

    Thanks; looking forward to Monday’s launch.

  21. Cr Daran Ponter, 28. October 2021, 15:22

    John Rankin: a multi mode tunnel is still planned for MT Victoria, but in all cases cycling and walking will be in a separate tunnel.

    Upon testing through the business case process, the 20 mins travel time on LRT from Station to Airport could not be achieved.

    You should be able to see most of the information you are seeking. If not, come back to me and I will prompt the LGWM team.

  22. Dave B, 29. October 2021, 1:01

    Cr Ponter, I strongly suspect a 4-lane road tunnel (or twin parallel 2-lane road tunnels) will cost at least twice as much as a 2-track rail-tunnel. So the additional cost for those two PT lanes which, if they really are to be exclusively for PT, must be 100% borne by the PT budget – just as would a separate PT tunnel. I don’t think your argument stacks up, that a joint PT + Private-car tunnel would be cheaper for PT, unless all 4 lanes are usable by cars (and mostly paid-for by the ‘cars budget’) and a lesser portion only is charged to PT. In which case, how are we seriously going to “move more people with fewer vehicles”?
    Simply the principle that more funding appears to be justified for the car-mode than for PT suggests that this project is going to perpetuate car-dependency, encourage traffic-growth and achieve nothing particularly transformational with PT. Is this really where we are still headed, in the 2020s?

    I am no advocate of LRT to Kilbirnie via the zoo, by the way.

  23. Cr Daran Ponter, 30. October 2021, 8:43

    Dave B: you’ll have to look at the proposals when they arrive on Monday.