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.