Wellington cityscape

NEW ZEALAND: The government has backed the further development of plans for a light rail line from Wellington railway station to the Regional Hospital and Island Bay under the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme.

A study of four potential public transport options had concluded that light rail offers the best social, environmental and urban development outcomes, provides the greatest benefits to commuters, and would support the development of up to 21 000 homes.

Public engagement had showed strong support for light rail, because of its capacity, reliability and frequency, as well as environmental benefits.

‘This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape Wellington’s future, align transport and urban development, and help to address the climate crisis by moving more people with fewer vehicles’, said Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson on June 29.

‘The southern light rail option is our preferred choice for Wellington because of the significant potential it offers for new housing and neighbourhood growth. By 2050 we’re expecting up to 80 000 more people to be living within the city limits, and 25% more 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.’

Further development of the proposals will now be undertaken, along with continued investigation of electric bus rapid transit ‘because emerging technology may be able to deliver similar or more capacity to light rail in the future’.

A detailed business case is to be developed by 2024, with the design phase then expected to run to 2027. Construction could begin in 2028 and take eight to 15 years, depending on the chosen options for the light rail and an additional Mount Victoria tunnel with dedicated bus lanes to improve links eastwards to Miramar and the airport.

‘I know Wellingtonians are keen to see progress and we have asked the programme for options to fast track progress and early works, with consideration of phasing options’, said Transport Minister Michael Wood.