Light rail for Wellington too ?

Credit: Cameron Burnell/ Stuff

The chances of Wellington getting a billion-dollar light rail system are looking good, mayor Justin Lester believes.
He reckons there is a “strong likelihood” of the long-talked-about project happening, after the Government’s latest transport policy announcement prioritised rapid rail above state highway upgrades.
Plans have already been drawn up for a “spine route” from the railway station to Miramar, taking in the zoo and the airport, and it could all happen within the next nine years.

A second spine could follow, with options linking to Johnsonville or the ferry terminal.
The proposed spine route would take congestion away from the Mt Victoria tunnel and the Basin Reserve, which have remained the source of Wellington’s traffic problems since the rejection of the Basin flyover project in 2014.End of quote.

Take away congestion: sounds good, but whether that will actually be true or not will depend entirely on how this is done. If light rail shares the road with vehicles, and that?s what it sounds like based on the proposed routes, then congestion will likely get worse.

It would head from the station along Featherston, Wakefield or Victoria streets to Taranaki St, going underground at Mt Cook from Wellington High School to Adelaide Rd, near the southern end of the Basin.
It would then take in Riddiford St and Mansfield St, head across the top of Newtown Park past Manchester St, and enter a second tunnel under Mt Albert, opposite the zoo, to Coutts St in Kilbirnie.
From there, it could enter a third tunnel under the airport runway, and continue to Miramar.End of quote.

So this plan includes three tunnels that will be used exclusively for light rail. It would be so much cheaper and less disruptive to just drill those three tunnels and let vehicles use them. Get rid of the Basin Reserve and put in a decent connection to the Arras Tunnel, job done. No need for tracks and carriages and timetables. That would make a significant improvement to the inner city issues at a fraction of the cost of light rail.Quote.

Wellington city councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman, who holds the transport portfolio, said he had pushed hard for light rail as an integral part of the city’s transport future.End of quote.

This is the same council that refused to include motorcycles in their transport plan because they are ‘inherently dangerous’. ? That’s inherently stupid.Quote.

“If it happens, it will not be a return to trams, with light rail going everywhere,” he said.
“We envisage a single spine route from the railway station to the airport to Miramar, and this would run via Newtown, through a single tunnel under Mt Albert, opposite the zoo.
“My prediction is the light rail has a very high chance at succeeding.”End of quote.

We need more than a ‘prediction’. We need to see real numbers and honest facts before any decision is made.
In 2013 light rail was taken out of the mix of possible solutions to improve Wellington’s public transport, after an 18-month investigation found it would cost almost $1 billion.
So the last time this was costed?five years ago it was abandoned because of cost. What has changed? Nothing, it?s probably got even more expensive, we are just expecting someone else: central government: to pay for it.Quote.

Lester said he had been in discussions with the Government for some time. “I look forward to working with the Government further to get a more modern public transport system for Wellington and improve the network.”[?]
[?] Greater Wellington regional councillor Roger Blakeley, who is part of a working group looking at public transport issues, said light rail was the best solution for getting the city moving.
“Light rail would have the capacity for 12,000 people per hour, which is three times the capacity of two Mt Victoria tunnels.”? End of quote.

Wow, 12,000 people per hour. That sounds impressive, but let?s check the numbers.
Based on the carriages used for Sydney light rail, each unit has a standard capacity of 206 passengers with a ‘crush’ capacity of 272. So 12,000 divided by 272 = 44. To achieve that lofty proclamation of light rail having three times the capacity of two Mt Victoria tunnels, it would need 44 units per hour to transport 12,000 passengers. That would mean one unit passing through the tunnel every one and a half minutes. You might as well say there would need to be a continuous stream of units through the tunnel. Which is clearly ridiculous and not going to happen. Yet that is the kind of deception used to sell the lie.Quote.?

Fellow councillor Sue Kedgley, who is on the same group, said: “It’s the only way to avoid paralysing congestion in Wellington, which will ruin our city.”? End of quote.

I have worked in a few offices over my many years in Wellington, and without exception, the transport issues relate to people travelling into the city from the greater Wellington area: from Waikanae south on State Highway 1 and from Featherston south on State Highway 2. Putting in a light rail system in the city will do nothing to resolve the problem of getting in and out of Wellington. Further to that, the inner city of Wellington is mostly already developed. While there is some opportunity to subdivide and in-fill, that will only ever lead to a small increase in population numbers. The opposite is true for the areas to the north of the city, that are expanding every day. That is where the need is greatest.Quote.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said Wellington now had the opportunity to make the case for investment, from the $4.7 billion earmarked by the Government for rapid transit projects in major urban centres.
However, National transport spokesman Jami-Lee Ross doubted light rail was realistic for Wellington, given that funding for mass transit would drop off once light rail was completed in Auckland.
“I can’t see how light rail in Wellington could possibly be afforded under the mass transit allocation that they’ve put into the [Government policy] statement,” he said.
Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme director Barry Mein said a “a fair swag” of the Government money would go to Auckland initially. But light rail was “in the mix” as part of the group’s planning.End of quote.

Excellent, let?s hope Auckland grabs all the light rail dollars so there is none left for Wellington, and this stupid idea can be buried, hopefully for good this time.Quote.

Fair Intelligent Transport Wellington (Fit Wellington) spokesman John Rankin believed “all the pieces were lining up for a very positive outcome for Wellington”.
“We have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes that Auckland’s made, and it’s really up to us to seize that opportunity.”End of quote.

Perhaps they should sit back and wait a while, see how well the light rail from Queen Street to Auckland Airport goes before we follow like lemmings.