Trams-Action is an advocacy group for better public transport (formerly known as Transport 2000+) based in Wellington,
New Zealand. last updated 04/04/2013
Artist's impression: Modern tram-trains in Wellington. Left: In Lambton Quay / Hunter Street, one on its way to the airport, the other on its way to Queensgate in Lower Hutt. Right: The same tram-train in Ngauranga, using the suburban network tracks, shared with the units. Courtesy of: W.W. Trickett.
LATEST! See for yourself - light rail in Lambton Quay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FbyW6drMLg&feature=youtu.be
Wellington: A great place to live in but not so nice to get around in, particularly during peak hours.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Public transport in the city centre is reliant solely on buses and trolley buses. At peak times, they struggle to get through the narrow Central Business District (CBD) in a timely manner, often banking up to 6 or more vehicles waiting at bus stops (we have spotted as many as 11 buses waiting to enter a bus stop!) and making their slow progress through the streets.
There is also a suburban heavy rail system which starts at the northern end of the CBD and extends further North to the Kapiti Coast, Lower and Upper Hutt, and Johnsonville. It operates basically three types of Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), one type from English Electric dating back to the 1950s, another from Ganz Mavag dating back to the 1980s and now we have the �Matangi� units from Rotem Mitsui, which are slowly being introduced into the system. The infrastructure has recently undergone an upgrade to cope with the new units. Unfortunately, the new Matangi units will do nothing to solve the transport problems within Wellington city itself.
The problem is really twofold. Firstly, the buses cannot satisfy the demand placed on them. Capacity is limited (about 50 passengers per vehicle) while operating buses with trailers is not really an option for the narrow streets of Wellington, with frequent sharp curves. Secondly, the vast majority of those people coming in to Wellington by train want to continue their journey on to the CBD and points further south such as the regional hospital, or even as far as the airport. At present they are forced to get off the trains at the railway station and either continue on foot or head for the buses en masse like a flock of sheep (you only have to see them in the morning to know that this is not an exaggeration) and then continue their slow laborious journey through the streets of Wellington. So slow in fact, that it is often faster to walk than catch the buses.
SO WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
The solution is really simple. It's not rocket science, but involves a type of light rail vehicle already in use in many cities in the developed world. It's called tram-train, a type of modern tram which, as its name suggests, is both a tram and a train, in other words it is equally at home in city streets as on the heavy rail system.
A typical tram-train vehicle can carry over 200 people (you need at least 4 buses for that many people!) through city streets, pedestrian malls, even through buildings such as airport terminals, and seamlessly move on to the heavy rail system at 100 kph, sharing the lines with electric multiple units, long distance trains, and freight trains. It can provide level entry from low platforms, allowing easy access for prams, wheelchairs and mobility vehicles.
With tram-train, both problems can be easily overcome, namely the lack of capacity afforded by buses and the forced interchange at the railway station.
It was perfected in the German city of Karlsruhe in the 1990s. Have a look at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzFgSOTUVPM
Good on them! They solved all the problems you can and cannot think of 20 years ago, including voltage changes betweeen systems, and compatibility of signalling.
Photos: Tram-train in and around Karlsruhe:
Far left and middle left: Sharing the main lines with units and trains. Middle: In a pedestrian mall. Middle right: In the street. Far right: In segregated right-of-way.
THE CURRENT SITUATION IN A NUTSHELL
We were pleased to see Celia Wade-Brown elected Mayor of Wellington as she is a strong advocate of light rail and tram-train for Wellington. Unfortunately, much of the council are strong advocates for more roading and she has encountered many obstacles. The NZTA has pressured her into accepting their roading plans, but she managed at least to have amendments passed to the effect that any improvements must be multi-modal.
Currently the GWRC, in partnership with the WCC and NZTA, have commissioned AECOM to undertake a year-long public transport spine study. GWRC are also doing a survey on high quality public transport in the Wellington CBD area. You have until 18/11/2011 to have your say at: http://haveyoursay.gw.govt.nz/ptspinestudy
The DomPost has been very prejudiced against Mayor Wade-Brown, coming up with several unjustified and scathing attacks on her, especially in the first few months after she took office.
The National Party are also strongly in favour of more roading while paying mere lip service to rail. The NZTA (=New Zealand Transport Agency) has come up with two flyover options (named Option A and Option B differing only in distance of the flyover from the Basin Reserve) to separate east-west traffic from north-south traffic but the Architect Centre came up with Option X which involves separation of traffic using an underpass, or more accurately, a tunnel which would extend the length of Buckle Street. This is much more acceptable but in our opinion a simple north-south underpass under the Basin Reserve is the best option to actively speed up public transport and prepare the way for light rail.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
(1) Your most powerful weapon is your vote. When voting, whether for central government or local government, find out which party or parties support the concept of light rail and are willing to actually push for it rather than just paying lip service to it. The Green Party are strong advocates for rail transport generally, and light rail in particular and it is pleasing that they did so well in the last general elections. On the other hand, the National Party has always been heavily in favour of building more roads - a very short-sighted policy. Its RONS programme (=Roads of National Significance) involves, among other things, building a flyover next door to the Basin Reserve, a second Mount Victoria tunnel, and widening or Ruahine Street. These projects, aside from being a blight on the landscape, will not be required if light rail is introduced, as people will be attracted to use public transport. This has proven to be the case overseas. Building more roading infrastructure will lock us into oil dependency and will waste money on infrastructure which will soon be obsolete. This money should be channelled into extending the rails through to the airport. If you don't believe that new highways are a waste of money and will soon be obsolete, see:
From every point of view, RONS do not make sense, so why is this government so hell-bent on it? The Road Transport Forum was the National Party's single largest donor at the last elections. They have a vested interest because their members, the truckies, do not pay their full share of road maintenance. In effect we are subsidising the truckies' business. Rail does not have this luxury because it pays for the full cost of maintenance of its tracks and other infrastructure. The future infrastucture of New Zealand should not be decided by who has made the largest donation to the governing party. Incidentally, the RTF also made a sizeable donation to the Labour Party - hedging their bets no doubt! http://thestandard.org.nz/nats-still-involved-in-dodgy-donations/
(2) We urge you to discuss this topic with your friends and drum up support in any way you can. The DomPost is extremely prejudiced against rail and we urge you to write a letter to the editor whenever you see any misinformation in this rag.
For more information see our main website: www.wellingtonlightrail.org.nz Please note that this website is currently in the process of being upgraded and expanded.
We always welcome your comments. To contact us and request our regular newsletter by email: email@example.com
LATEST! See light rail in Lambton Quay! OK, so it's only an animation... for now. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FbyW6drMLg&feature=youtu.be
Tram-train in Karlsruhe, the definitive video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzFgSOTUVPM
Another interesting video of tram-train in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsdJPaih0Fw
Tram-train in Saarbrucken: http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/saar/saarbruecken.htm
Tram-train in England: http://www.pteg.net/NR/rdonlyres/A6C2D764-EECE-4363-B506-0075EE7679D8/0/TramTrainBriefingSheetfinal.pdf
Lightrail.nl: http://www.lightrail.nl/ Second generation tram-train: http://www.lightrail.nl/TramTrain/tramtrain.htm
Light rail in the USA: http://www.lightrailnow.org/
Wikipedia on tram-train: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tram-train
Removing freeways, restoring cities: http://www.preservenet.com/freeways/index.html
Freeways without futures: http://www.cnu.org/highways/freewayswithoutfutures
Transit oriented development: http://www.transitorienteddevelopment.org/