Trams-Action is an advocacy group for better public transport (formerly known as Transport 2000+) based in Wellington, New Zealand.                                                                                                                                                  last updated 10/10/2016


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.

NOTE:  This website will be upgraded in the near future.  Expect it to be down for a while.  Our contact email is not currently working.

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."

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: