29 Jun 2022

Government's preferred option for Wellington transport includes light rail to south coast

3:05 pm on 29 June 2022

The government's preferred option to remake Wellington's transport infrastructure includes light rail from the city centre to the south coast.

Watch Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Transport Minister Michael Wood here:

The option has trains connecting Wellington's central train station to Island Bay, an extra tunnel through Mount Victoria for buses bicycles and walkers, and rearranging roads around the Basin Reserve.

If the light rail option was too expensive it would explore using buses instead.

The plan is part of the $6.4 billion Let's Get Wellington Moving programme, a partnership between the government, Wellington city and regional councils, and Waka Kotahi.

However, the councils and Waka Kotahi are yet to agree to take the proposal to the business case phase.

There are no indicative costs released with the plan, nor many details.

More details on the plans

When LGWM was first announced in 2019 it was slated to cost $6.4b, but is now expected to be about $7.4b, in 2030 dollars which accounts for inflation.

The detailed business case is expected to be done by 2024, when the public can give more feedback.

Mass Rapid Transit: Mass rapid transit will run via the waterfront Quays, via Kent/Cambride Terraces, past the hospital and through Berhampore to Island Bay. Wood said there would also be bus rapid transit to the eastern suburbs and the airport via dedicated bus lanes in a new Mount Victoria tunnel. The current Haitaitai tunnel will remain in place, and will be used for local public transport services.

Second Mount Victoria Tunnel: Four lane in total - one lane each way for public transport and one for private vehicles.

Basin Reserve: It will no longer be a roundabout, and the Arras Tunnel will be extended towards the Mount Victoria. There will be greens spaces for walking and cycling. Local traffic will be physically separated from northbound State Highway 1 traffic at the Basin Reserve area.

Illustration showing roading around Wellington's Basin Reserve as part of plans to remake Wellington's transport infrastructure.

Illustration showing roading around Wellington's Basin Reserve. Photo: Supplied / LGWM

Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson said it was a once-in-a generation opportunity to reshape the city.

"[To] align transport and urban development, and help to address the climate crisis by moving more people with fewer vehicles."

Light rail would help service the significant amount of new housing needing to be built in the coming decades to accommodate up to 80,000 new residents expected to be living within the city limits, Robertson said.

He expected a 25 percent increase in the number of people coming into the central city each workday from across the region.

"Light rail will support more people living centrally, close to where they work, study and live their lives," Robertson said.

Robertson made a plea to all Wellingtonians including the business community to get on board with the plan, saying it was a chance for the capital to grow sustainably.

"This is the best chance Wellington has to develop a liveable city across the next couple of decades," Robertson said

Illustration showing light rail in Wellington as part of transport options in the Let's Get Wellington Moving programme.

The plan includes light rail from Wellington's city centre to the south coast. Photo:

Transport Minister Michael Wood said: "Our capital needs a linked-up rapid transit transport network that will serve Wellingtonians into the future, making it faster to move through the city, connecting communities, providing greater access to businesses, all while reducing congestion,"

Illustrations released by the government appeared to show a change to two-way traffic in some parts of the Basin Reserve, and an extension to the Arras Tunnel under the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. They also showed the current Mount Victoria tunnel converted to walking and cycling only.

Information on LGWM's website indicated the light rail or bus options would have dedicated lanes in parts of the network. It expects the morning commute from Island Bay to the train station to shorten by 12 minutes - from 35 minutes to 23 minutes.

It appeared the plan was for either option to run down Kent/Cambridge Terraces. It also indicated local traffic would be physically separated from northbound State Highway 1 traffic at the Basin Reserve area.

Green Party infrastructure and transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said the option the government favoured would cost the most and have the largest climate emissions.

She said it was not clear how this plan fitted with the government's climate goal to cut the number of kilometres travelled by private fossil fuel cars by 2035.

National Party transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said there was nothing new in the government's announcement today of its plan to overhaul Wellington's transport system and it wouldn't do anything to stop gridlock in the capital.

He said light rail - if it actually happened - and a second tunnel through Mount Victoria would not fix the problems.

Brown said Wellington needed a four-lane road through the city to the airport and Miramar.

He accused Labour of putting its ideological preference for light rail ahead of what Wellingtonians actually need.

The LGWM programme was officially launched in 2019 but has been beset by problems and delays - with so far little in the way of concrete action apart from speed limit reductions in the inner city.

Stuff reports Treasury analysis that the $6.4 billion pricetag is likely to increase significantly.

Funding for the programme is split with the Wellington councils funding 40 percent and the government picking up the rest of the tab.

'This is a massive day for Wellington' - mayor

The Capital's city and regional councils appear to support the direction of travel of the plan.

Wellington mayor Andy Foster said it was a "massive day" for the city and showed the government's commitment to its future.

"Committing to a second tunnel and a clear plan for sorting out transport around the Basin Reserve are important, long-awaited stakes in the ground.

"Important too is signalling of further detailed investigations into urban development assumptions along the confirmed [mass transit] route. Whether the ultimate choice is bus or rail-based will depend on the levels of urban development expected along the corridor."

Wellington should be a city that people could get around in easily, where there was a choice of transport but where there was more cycling, walking and public transport use, that would accommodate people, that was liveable and that was low carbon, Foster said.

"Today was really big day for Wellington city that aims to deliver on all of those objectives," Foster said.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chair Daran Ponter said the plan struck the right balance between action and flexibility, and was aligned with the council's transport plans.

Both councils will vote on the proposal next week.

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