Trams-Action is an advocacy group for better public transport (formerly known as Transport 2000+) based in Wellington, New Zealand.                                                                                                                                                  last updated 26/09/2016


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:  Scroll down to see our assessment of the local body candidates, especially their policies on rail and road.

Wellington: A great place to live in but not so nice to get around in, particularly during peak hours.


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 serves Johnsonville, the Kapiti Coast and Lower and Upper Hutt but it ends right on the edge of the CBD, the worst possible place.  This forces people to interchange just to complete a basic trip into the city, the worst possible transport model, not conducive to good public transport.  It is not the scenario for effective rail transport and the inconvenience is a major disincentive for potential users, making them prefer to drive instead.  After all, the state highway is a continuous spine so why isn’t the rail?

The problem is really twofold.  The buses cannot provide the required capacity at peak times, even with up to 140 buses per hour, which merely results in bus congestion.  The second issue is that the vast majority coming in to Wellington want to continue their journey to the CBD and to points further south such as the regional hospital, or even as far as the airport.


The solution is really simple.  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.  It was pioneered in the German city of Karlsruhe in the 1990s and has become very successful.  It is often referred to as the Karlsruhe model.

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, mobility vehicles and even wheeled suitcases - just like getting into a lift.

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.

See Brent Efford's brilliant presentation "Rail Penetration of the Wellington CBD - The Search for Solutions."     Now available: part 2 - "Engineering a Solution."


Your most powerful weapon is your vote! The local body elections are now in full swing.  Below is our assessment of the candidates.

A note on the STV system, used in all the Wellington elections:  You rank the candidates in your order of preference from 1 to the last.  You do not have to rank all candidates.  Leave out the ones you don’t want under any circumstances.  You must, however, have the numbers all in succession, that is either 1, or 1&2, or 1,2,&3, or 1,2,3&4 but you cannot have 1,3,4,6, for example, otherwise your vote will not count.  The beauty of STV is that you can choose an outsider as your first choice and if he doesn’t succeed, your vote is not wasted but goes to your next choice, and so on.  Remember also, that road expansion is the enemy of light rail, so we reject candidates who support wanton road expansion which will make our city into an unliveable concrete jungle.  Overseas experience shows that road expansion is never enough.  As more people are lured away from public transport, the roads soon choke up again and even more road expansion is required.  Not only that, but the money would be better spent on light rail.  On that basis, here is our assessment of the candidates, ranking them in order of acceptability:


1. KEITH JOHNSON.  Strikes us as a sensible, thinking candidate with good policies.  Supporter of light rail.
2. HELENE RITCHIE.  A supporter of light rail and better public transport.  Not sure if she can push through her policies, though.
3. JUSTIN LESTER.  Does not openly support light rail, but will probably not push for roads, either.  Seems a safe bet to avoid road expansion.
4. ANDY FOSTER.  Another with his foot in both camps.  Makes some noise about a second tunnel but wants more consultation.
5. JOHNNY OVERTON.  An attempt to keep the worst ones out.
6. NICOLA YOUNG.  Wants to make Vivian Street into a cut and cover tunnel.  Waste of money which would be better spend on light rail.
X. (UNRANKED).  NICK LEGGATT.  Open supporter of BRT (which can never work in Wellington) and we think he using that as an excuse to justify road expansion.
X. (UNRANKED).  JO COUGHLAN.  The worst possible candidate.  Her slogans are “four lanes to the planes” and “toot for a second tunnel.”  She wants to use the government RoNs money for wanton road expansion which will effectively kill our city.


We include these next because they will probably have the greatest say in the future of Wellington transport.
1. SUE KEDGLEY.  An excellent and effective regional councillor with strong support for a completed regional rail system.
2. PAUL BRUCE.  Another excellent candidate equally supportive of a region-wide rail system.
3. KEITH FLINDERS.  A good, thinking candidate with stated support for light rail and tram-train.
4. SAM SOMERS.  Support for light rail, sustainable transport and sustainable energy.
5. ROGER BLAKELY.  Supporter of light rail.
6. JOHN KLAPHAKE.  Supporter of light rail.
7. RUSSELL TREGONNING.  Supporter of light rail but hasn’t quite “got it” regarding the necessity for an eventual region wide system.
8. DARAN PONTER.  Sort of sometimes says he supports light rail but would like more studies and consultation.
9. NORBERT HAUSBERG.  Sustainable transport infrastructure.  Unclear on light rail, but certainly not roads.
10. CHRIS LAIDLAW.  Took over chair of GWRC from Fran Wilde.  Not really a sustainable advocate, but suddenly realised he is outnumbered by the fantastic array of light rail supporters and belatedly tried to get in on the act.  Doesn’t fool us, though…
X. (UNRANKED). IAN McKINNON.  Avid road expansion supporter.  Old 1950s thinking.  Reject him.


1. IONA PANNETT.  Hard working, intelligent, effective councillor, probably the best councillor at present and an avid supporter of light rail.
2. MILTON HOLLARD.  Quietly spoken but does support sustainable policies and light rail.  Will not support road expansion, or be swayed from that.
3. TROY MIHAKA.  Young and energetic, mentions transport but no clear policy.  Well spoken at meetings.  Will most likely go the sustainable way.
4. BRIAN DAWSON.  Labour candidate and difficult to get anything definite from him regarding light rail; wants a second Mt Vic tunnel, though.
5. TONY JANSEN.  Now we get desperate to keep the bad ones out.  Presents and speaks well at candidate meetings, though.
6. MAZZ SCANNELL.  Strange candidate.  Very vague policy statements, as if she is trying to keep everyone onside.  She has read Cicero’s How to Win an Election.  Well that explains everything!  That makes us very suspicious as she could easily be another vote for the road lobby.
7. NICOLA YOUNG.  Mentioned Vivian St cut-and-cover.  Pity about her road-biased policies because in all fairness she does try hard.
8. DAVE GEE.  Scraping the bottom of the barrel.  Haven’t seen him at any meetings or seen any policy.  Did we read that he wants to revive the Basin Reserve flyover?  Unbelievable!


Probably the ward with the most road-orientated candidates and the least effective policies.
1. SARAH FREE.  Yes, a Green Party candidate but hardly mentions light rail in her website.
2. LINDA McGREGOR.  A safe Labour candidate, unlikely to support road expansion. Vague policy statements.
3. ROB GOULDEN.  Also unlikely to support wanton road expansion.  Very little in policy statements.
4. CHRIS CALCI-FREEMAN.  Disappointingly thin on transport policy for a transport planner.  We rank him low because he supports the second tunnel.
X. (UNRANKED). ROBERT MURRAY.  Wants expanded roads, especially the main corridors.  Can’t support that.
X. (UNRANKED). SIMON SWAMPY MARSH.  Sitting councillor with strong support for roads, tunnels, and more roads.  Not a care about green space.  Of course – he doesn’t live in the area.


6. JUDITH GRAY.  Supports roading improvements.


1. DAVID LEE.  Green Party candidate and urban planner, with emphasis on sustainability and low carbon emissions.
2. PAUL EAGLE.  Labour Party.  Good hard worker and effective councillor.  Mentions solutions to transport problems but doesn’t say what these might be.
3. BRENDON BONNER.  Mentions support for public transport.
X. (UNRANKED).  DON NEWT McDONALD.  Very strange manifesto on the council’s website.
X. (UNRANKED).  BRENT PIERSON.  Mentions the Basin Reserve but doesn’t tell us what he has in store for it.  Judging by letters he has written in the newspapers, not easy to trust him.  They do come back to bite you.


1. ANDY FOSTER.  He’s very cagey about his transport policies.  Admits light rail might be an option for the future, but the main thing he’s got going for him is… that his opponents are unknowns and don’t have any particular transport policy posted.
2. RAY CHUNG.  Not much to choose between the other candidates, except the last two who should be avoided.
X. (UNRANKED).  MATTHEW PLUMMER.  Mentions congestion but offers no solution.  We’re worried that he will be another pro-roads vote at the council table, since he is Nicola Young’s son.
X. (UNRANKED).  SIMON WOOLF.  Sorry Simon, we found your transport policy on your website.  Support for Transmission Gully, roads to the airport and a runway extension.  For goodness sake, where are all the cars going to park, man?  What’s wrong with light rail?  Half the cost, half the road space and three times the capacity.

For more information see our main website:  and the links below.  They make for interesting reading and viewing.  Note especially the ones regarding freeways and flyovers which have been demolished - a sobering thought for anyone still contemplating the possibility of a Basin Reserve flyover.

See an animation of light rail in Lambton Quay.  


Tram-train in Karlsruhe, this is the definitive video (10 minutes):

Another interesting video of tram-train in action:

Tram-train in Saarbrucken:

Tram-train in England:  Second generation tram-train:

Light rail in the USA:

Wikipedia on tram-train:

Removing freeways, restoring cities:

Freeways without futures:

Transit oriented development: