Trams-Action is an advocacy group for better public transport based in Wellington, New Zealand.                                                                                              last updated 05/11/2019


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.


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


Wellington’s streets are often congested. Public transport in Wellington is a mess. It is reliant solely on buses, which cannot provide the required capacity. A major reconstruction of the routes and timetables was undertaken last year which drastically reduced the level of service. To make matters even worse, the fleet of 60 trolleybuses was removed and replaced by diesels and 10 battery electrics with a vague promise of more to come but no action, adding to Wellington’s transport emissions - an inexcusable state of affairs.

There is also a suburban heavy rail system which serves Johnsonville, the Kapiti Coast and Lower and Upper Hutt but it ends in a stub terminal, right on the edge of the Central Business District (CBD). This forces people to interchange just to complete a basic trip into the city, the worst possible transport model for rail transit. 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?

Several studies carried out in the 1990s pointed the way to extending the rails through town using either light rail (on the Johnsonville line) or tram-train on the Hutt line and eventually the Kapiti line, too. The 1999 Regional Land Transport Strategy foresaw rail services extending to residential suburbs as far afield as Whitby and Stokes Valley. However, this was all forgotten when the time came to replace the aging English Electric multiple units and an opportunity was lost.

In 2013, a proposal to build a flyover at the Basin Reserve, a frequently congested road interchange, was rightly thrown out. This resulted in the formation of Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM), a collaboration between the Wellington City Council (WCC), the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). After a lot of fluffing around, they came out with some very weak and vague proposals.  So far, LGWM has been a total waste of time.  Despite Trams-Action consulting with them no less than three times, they have refused to acknowledge the essentiality of a mass transit system going through the corridor of highest demand (the CBD) and having it linked seamlessly to the existing rail system.  They have not even acknowledged that mass transit must be rail-based, leaving the door open for such untried systems as trackless trams or bus-based systems, which would leave the discontinuity at the railway station a permanent blight on our transport system.



The local body elections 2019 are over and the dust has (almost) cleared.  At the time of writing, the Wellington mayoralty is very close and there is a good chance that a recount may be called.

The results are expressed in the order they came on the first iteration, that is, the number of first choice votes they recorded.


WELLINGTON CONSTITUENCY.  23 candidates for 5 seats.  This went to an incredible 29 iterations before the last candidate, David Lee ousted Victoria Rhodes-Carlin for that fifth spot, after Helene Ritchie had claimed it on the first count.

Elected:  Thomas Nash, Roger Blakeley, Glenda Hughes, Daran Ponter, David Lee.

We are extremely disappointment that members of the Wellington Party polled ahead of John Klaphake.  We consider this a great injustice and it shows that the man in the street has simply not “got it” when it comes to good future planning for a liveable city, and really doesn’t care about the urgency of addressing climate change.  Especially disappointing was the election of Glenda Hughes who was elected quite easily.  She did not appear at any of the many candidate meetings we attended.  Her apology was heard at one meeting.  That was the only mention she got.  Hughes is an ex-member of the National Party board (she was voted out) and it is clear that the National Party must have garnered support for her behind the scenes.  It could also be explained by the fact that the road expansionists had to have someone to vote for, after Ian McKinnon stepped aside.

As for the others, we are pleased that Thomas Nash did so well claiming first spot, that Roger Blakely and Daran Ponter were re-elected.  It remains to be seen where David Lee really stands on a second Mt Victoria tunnel ahead of mass transit.  We see him as a bit of a dark horse, despite previous Green credentials.

LOWER HUTT CONSTITUENCY.  Six candidates for three seats.

Elected:  Ken Laban, Josh van Lier, Prue Lamason.

An excellent result got Green light rail advocate Josh van Lier into the regional council, although road expansionist Prue Lamason also got in.  The Hutt is generally very focussed on a giant interchange at Melling and a new cross-valley road link, so an interesting fight looms.

PORIRUA-TAWA CONSTITUENCY.  Seven candidates for two seats.

Elected:  Jenny Brash, Chris Kirk-Burnnand.

Justice was served when Donaldson got her come-uppance after her extremely poor performance as chair of the regional transport committee and utter failure to take responsibility for the bus disaster.

KAPITI COAST CONSTITUENCY.  Two candidates for one seat.

Elected:  Penny Gaylor.

UPPER HUTT CONSTITUENCY.  Four candidates for one seat.

Elected:  Ros Connelly.

MAYORAL:   Nine candidates for one seat.

Elected:  Andy Foster, by only 62 votes.  We hope that Justin Lester’s application for a recount is successful.

We did say there was a decided lack of talent despite the nine candidates.  The one standout candidate, Hill, did not really feature, coming in fifth.  Therefore it was a race between a bad candidate and an atrocious candidate, that is, our sixth choice against no choice.  It is only to be hoped that Foster can be toppled on the recount, because his policies are dangerous for the sustainable and liveable future of the city.  Years ago, he convened an informal meeting between sustainable transport advocates and we discussed light rail in detail.  Nothing came of this meeting and the email follow-ups, and now Foster has done a 180-degree turn and gone with the road lobby, claiming that we need this tunnel to improve “multi-modal” transport.  Past experience indicates that “multi-modality” simply means more roads, with the money conveniently running out before mass transit can be implemented.  Eventually these new roads will clog up and still more roads will be required.  Remember what happened with the inner city by-pass?

Worse still, Foster has come out on television to say that he hopes to see business cases for the various options available, but that he thinks he already knows what the business cases will show.  In other words, he has pre-determined the outcome of the business case.  Business cases can be manipulated, as the much discredited PTSS showed.

The only positive we can see, is that a large number of sustainability-minded city councillors have been elected, as well as a regional council much more strongly focussed on light rail, and that they will fight Foster tooth and nail to prevent him from fulfilling his promises.  After all, Foster (if finally elected) will only have one vote at the council table.

And on that last point, we are gladdened to see a completely different age and gender balance around the council table, and we have high hopes that they will steer Wellington in the right direction.  After all, the future is theirs.


LAMBTON WARD:  Seven candidates for three seats.

Elected:  Iona Pannett, Nicola Young, Tamatha Paul.

A fantastic result for young Tamatha Paul, joining long-time Green light rail advocate Iona Pannett at the council table.

SOUTHERN WARD:  Four candidates for two seats.

Elected:  Fleur Fitzsimmons, Laurie Foon.

An easy one to call, and indeed the only ward where our choices were elected, all at the first iteration, too.

EASTERN WARD:  Seven candidates for three seats.

Elected:  Sarah Free, Teri O’Neil, Sean Rush.

A shock result here, with Chris Calvi-Freeman ousted by road expansionist Wellington Party member, Sean Rush at the fifth iteration, after coming in third by ten votes at the first iteration and being overtaken by the third iteration.  The Eastern Ward is a very volatile one, with a strong road lobby, and it appears from the way the iterations went, that Calvi-Freeman did not get sufficient second and third choice votes from the outsiders who were excluded early.

Worse still, the rumours are that Rush could get the transport portfolio.  This would be disastrous, as he is a known climate change denier.  This makes the mayoral recount of even greater significance.

NORTHERN WARD:  Eight candidates for three seats.

Elected:  Jill Day, Malcolm Sparrow, Jenny Condie.

Congratulations to new councillor Jenny Condie who gets in at the expense of Peter Gilberd.  It would have been better if she had ousted Malcolm Sparrow, but you can’t have everything.  The Wellington Party again polled surprisingly highly for fifth place at the first count.

ONSLOW-WESTERN WARD:  Nine candidates for three seats.

Elected:  Diane Calvert, Simon Wolff, Rebecca Matthews.

Probably the most disappointing result for a sustainable city, with road expansionist Diane Calvert polling top, followed by Simon Wolff, who I suspect is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Note that the result here could change if Andy Foster loses the mayoralty on a recount.

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 the excellent presentation by Brent Efford, the NZ agent for the Light Rail Transit Association, entitled “Direct through service beats two stub terminals”, presented to the Railway Technical Society of Australasia on 14 February 2019 which gives excellent background on the ongoing battle to bring tram-train to Wellington, despite the many obstacles and naysayers.