Rail light­ens city car load


When the New Zealand Trans­port Agency in­ves­ti­gates the fea­si­bil­ity of a light rail sys­tem for Welling­ton, it will be du­pli­cat­ing work car­ried out 15 years ago.

Light rail is a form of ur­ban rail pub­lic trans­porta­tion that gen­er­ally has a lower ca­pac­ity and lower speed than heavy rail and metro sys­tems, but higher ca­pac­ity and higher speed than street-run­ning tram sys­tems.

In 1995, Welling­ton city and re­gional coun­cils com­mis­sioned a com­pre­hen­sive re­port into light rail.

It con­cluded that light rail from John­sonville to Courte­nay Pl, along with new trains to ser­vice the Hutt Val­ley and Kapiti Coast, had a ben­e­fit-cost ra­tio al­most four times higher than that of Trans­mis­sion Gully.

Ben­e­fit-cost ra­tios com­pare the ben­e­fits of a pro­posal, expressed in mon­e­tary terms, to its costs.

The trans­port agency will carry out the new study as part of the Ngau­ranga to air­port trans­port strat­egy at the same time as it stud­ies the fea­si­bil­ity of new tun­nels at The Ter­race and Mount Vic­to­ria, grade sep­a­ra­tion of roads at the Basin Re­serve and widen­ing Ruahine St in Hataitai to four lanes.

The ear­lier work was car­ried out by Works Con­sul­tancy Ser­vices and Bri­tish rail com­pany MVA Con­sul­tancy Ser­vices.

The re­port pre­dicted a 50 per cent in­crease in car traf­fic in to Welling­ton by next year, lead­ing to se­ri­ous con­ges­tion.

Back­ground notes com­mented that, in com­par­i­son with other ma­jor cities, cen­tral Welling­ton is un­usual in that the main rail­way sta­tion is lo­cated out­side the cen­tral busi­ness district.

‘‘This re­sults in a high pas­sen­ger trans­fer to buses and other modes, and an in­cli­na­tion to­wards the use of cars in lieu of pub­lic trans­port,’’ it said.

‘‘In sum­mary, the eco­nomic anal­y­sis clearly shows that a light rail tran­sit scheme which ex­tends rail ser­vices into the cen­tre of Welling­ton is worth­while.’’

The op­ti­mum sys­tem would ter­mi­nate at Courte­nay Pl, but a lower- cost scheme would stop at the Wil­lis St-Lambton Quay in­ter­sec­tion.

Welling­ton City Coun­cil trans­port en­gi­neer Steve Spence com­mis­sioned the re­port at the request of then­coun­cil­lor Sue Ked­g­ley.

He said it was ei­ther con­sid­ered by the coun­cil’s traf­fic and trans­port com­mit­tee or the built and nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment com­mit­tee in 1995.

It was de­cided to not pro­ceed fur­ther.

Ms Ked­g­ley, now an MP, said the re­port had been caught up in the 1995 lo­cal body elec­tions and for­got­ten about.

Do­ing noth­ing was not an op­tion in 1995 and still isn’t, she said.

‘‘There is a cer­tain point when the cars in Welling­ton city will make the city un­liv­able; that’s the re­al­ity.

‘‘We have got to find ways that will pri­ori­tise com­muters to come in through rail.’’

A light rail sys­tem would cost a com­pa­ra­ble amount to more tun­nels and four-lan­ing Ruahine St, she said.

Its eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity de­pends less on pop­u­la­tion size than pop­u­la­tion dis­tri­bu­tion along trans­port cor­ri­dors and Welling­ton re­gion is ide­ally-suited to light rail.

‘‘The peo­ple who sup­port light rail most strongly are the ones who have seen how it has trans­formed cities over­seas,’’ Ms Ked­g­ley said.

Noth­ing new: MP and for­mer Welling­ton city councillor Sue Ked­g­ley on what could have formed part of a city light rail net­work.

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