This had to happen eventually, in fact I’m surprised it took this long:

After a long night of discussions, the Wellington City Council has voted in favour of exploring alternative options to the proposed Basin Reserve flyover.

The decision came the same day Auckland architect Richard Reid announced he has drafted a solution to the traffic congestion, without needing the $90 million dollar flyover proposed by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Councillor Justin Lester said the council will apply $50,000 toward looking at different options including Mr Reid’s idea of a second tunnel.

The vote was won eight to seven.

The flyover proposal is straight out of the 1950s transport engineering handbook – the kind of thing that most cities around the world are tearing down. Let’s check what it might look like:

There has also be a bit of a row break out about this process as the NZTA sent a letter to the council effectively saying that if the council changed its mind then it would re assess a whole host of other transport projects in the region, this has led to accusations that the agency is trying to bully the council into accepting the deal. This part in particular is probably what is causing the most offence and I had to particularly laugh at the line saying that the NZTA won’t invest in sub-optimal transport developments.

Wellington Letter

My understanding  of part of what has caused both the regional and local council to start reconsidering their support of the flyover has been the governments decision to underground Buckle St to remove traffic from between the National War Memorial and Memorial park, a project I believe the NZTA weren’t previously keen on.

I think out of all the Roads of National Significance projects, the Wellington Northern Corridor is probably the worst – for a variety of reasons:

  • Wellington’s population is hardly growing so there unlikely to be massive future demand for transport improvements, unlike Auckland which may grow by up to a million extra people over the next 30 years.
  • The cost-benefit ratios for sections of the Wellington RoNS are simply terrible: 0.6 for Transmission Gully and 0.2 for the Kapiti Expressway.
  • The urban impact of many sections of the Wellington RoNS are horrific, with the Basin Reserve flyover being the worst example of this.

I don’t know Wellington’s transport situation that well, but it seems that there must surely be better and more sensible options available than the $3 billion proposed to be ploughed into an unnecessary and destructive motorway?

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  1. But it’s a motorway, new motorways always make us rich whether there’s anyone to use them or not. That’s what the government says, I’m sure they must have some evidence for this somewhere, they must just be too busy to find it….?

    1. The flyover isn’t part of a motorway. It’s a two lane local road that simplifies one of NZ’s most congested roundabouts. It’ll make bus travel to Newtown faster. And it must be a pre-requisite for building light rail to the hospital, which is one of the Mayor’s campaign promises.

      1. Haha, most congested, see image below. And no this is a RoNS, not merely a local road and it has nothing to do with PT improvement, this from the NZTA:

        “The Wellington Northern Corridor is being developed as a 110km four-lane expressway from Levin to Wellington Airport.”

        This is all about the apparent amazeballs lift to the nation’s economy that automatically accrues when people on the Kapiti coast can get to Wellington Airport quicker and without giving way to another human in a car. Yup.

        1. Patrick, you have got to be joking:

          – Your image is taken off-peak, the reserve does get congested.

          – How is it nothing to do with PT. Buses use roads too, removing conflicts at junctions will help both cars, buses and future trams.

          – This section of road is obviously not an expressway, and still won’t be when a flyover or tunnel is built.

          – There are many connections that will be sped up by this improvement, not just SH1 –> Airport.

          1. Look I’m just quoting NZTA, they call the thing an expressway- see the quote above. If it helps some buses then that is a little happy coincidence it is not designed to aid PT, it is designed and expressly so, to get extra-urban traffic directly to the airport and as such is consistent with all the RoNS which are predicated on a theory of connecting ports and especially airports with the countryside. This is how the amazing lift to the economy is to be delivered. Cities are little more than an obstruction to valuable movements in this worldview.

            I visit Wellington frequently and like most of the country I find it hardly congested at all. It is pretty clear our ideas of congestion are proportional to size- three cars at a stop sign is unbelievable congestion in Dunedin. And the same applies to Auckland. We know nothing of congestion compared to SE Asian cities. This observation does not mean that this area shouldn’t be improved- it should, it’s daft having the traffic circle the Basin and Mt Vic does need another tunnel. It requires an urban solution that doesn’t add to road dis-benefit to this important place. Option X looks like a way better solution

            Separately, I just don’t believe in the idea that our nation’s economy can be improved by the vast RoNS spend with its strange conception of cities as economically irrelevant and the idea that there is some massive blockage between the countryside and our export ports. It just doesn’t stack up. It is faith-based not evidence based and to gamble some 10-15 billon on this single unproven idea is crazy.

      2. How bad is the congestion there though? It has never struck me as being terrible. Maybe the new “bypass” made it worse? Certainly, the bypass has made the city worse — a real waste of good quality flat land right in the city centre.

          1. Well the Mt Vic and Terrace tunnel duplications are both part of the RONS project. However they have been pushed back to post 2020 due to the RONS blowing the budget. The problem point always shifts. Even if all these RONS projects are built, will still be congestion caused by running the SH along Vivian St and Buckle St. That means if the RONS are built then will be huge pressure to spend another billion or two to build a full trench from Mt Vic to the Terrace tunnel.
            Either way roads will dominate more and more an area with a lot of character and huge potential for continual residential intensification to take advantage of the urban life (Cuba St etc) nearby.

          2. I don’t see how this project affects urban life except at the Basin itself. If a full trench is built it will be wonderful for urban life, and I would support gradual extension of the trench with covering to create urban areas afterwards.

          3. Try: “I don’t see how a flyover over the Domain would affect urban life except at the Domain itself…”

            The Basin is part of the Wellington urban fabric. Screw the Basin and you screw part of Wellington.

      3. Its not a pre-requisite for light-rail at all. Thats just NZTA being devious and trying to get people onside. Light rail only one line each way so could manage with mini underpass, or heaven forbid a couple of cars could be forced to stop to let a few hundred people on a tram through!
        Its not a two lane local road at all, it is designed to link in the the duplicated Mt Vic Tunnel, and motorway standard road they are building on other side of Mt Vic. It is 2 lanes in one direction, and will be part of the State Highway network.

  2. I stopped watching the video as soon as they used B&W shading for the flyover. If they want to convince me they need to present the options on a level playing field.

    1. Hasn’t NZTA offered to build a new stand at the Basin so that cricket patrons wouldn’t see the flyover? You’d think they could show that in the video. Maybe they used all their budget making everything grey and rainy?

      1. Yeah that would be nice to. Of course inside the cricket ground isn’t the only place that the flyover will cause visual destruction.

  3. No one is proposing to spend billions expanding the rail capacity in Welly though are they?

    But look there are three issues here:

    1.The need for a project of this scale to solve a small amount of queueing at the Mt Vic tunnel
    2.The needlessly ugly solution they have chosen
    3.NZTA’s threatening and heavy handed approach to attempts at improving their ideas [community consultation!]

  4. The thing with the basin is that there are other options that will improve traffic flows and provide dedicated PT lanes. NZTA dismissed them, but the buckle street undergrounding changes things.

    This particular project will have some undesirable urban impacts and only for minor gains. But according to NZTA will save less than 1 minute in travel time during the peak hour…

    1. Yeah its the fact that buckle street is now going to be under grounded that has really changed things. The cost differences between carrying that work on and bringing the road up to the surface, building a flyover and a new stand for the basin must surely tip things in the favour of a tunnel or be very close.

      1. The road isn’t being brought “up” – at that point the surface comes down to meet the road. The trench ends at Tory Street at about the height of the top of the flyover, so if everything goes ahead as planned the whole route – the Mount Vic tunnel, Basin flyover and Buckle Street trench – will be pretty much level the whole way.

        The road currently dips a fair bit at the Basin just to follow the natural ground level. Going deeper still into a tunnel would make the route pretty steep. So even without thinking about how much more it would cost I can see why the car nuts at NZTA want the flyover rather than a tunnel.

        But I think the best option is doing nothing except adding a pedestrian crossing on Sussex St. I’ve both driven and caught the bus around the Basin at all hours including peak times, and anyone who calls the moderate traffic there “congestion” is just a big wuss.

        Wellington’s population and traffic aren’t growing. If they get light rail at some point, that would be the time to think about grade separation – and then it would be better to just run a little tunnel north-south under the Basin Reserve itself just for the trams.

        1. All light rail needs are dedicated lanes and T lights. Tunnels and flyovers and whatnot have almost no additional benefit for trams that have priority measures (for cars maybe).

          1. Sure, that’s a fine option too. Wellington’s transport needs are pretty minor. I’d two-way Featherston street, improve the bus frequencies and paint a few more bus lanes but mostly I think Wellington’s pretty much set for the forseeable future.

      2. In fact I find the obsession with the teeny tiny little queue at the Mount Vic tunnel a bit weird. The traffic there is nothing compared to Auckland, of course, but it’s pretty tame compared to even Glenmore Street.

        1. Steve i couldn’t agree more but Joyce is obsessed with never pausing on the way to the airport.

          What Welly also needs is ks and ks of bike lanes, the roads are often so wide that they have angle parking [!] and dedicated lanes for every movement at each intersection. That and more ped priority- you wait for ever on the side of a road with very few cars on it… or more often just walk….

          1. I’m with you on the bike lanes and the pedestrian priority Patrick. Welly also needs a few more cable cars and lifts to facilitate walking and cycling around its hilly terrain. I caught the cable car last week and walked up to Kelburn Village to get some dinner. I spotted 3 more private cable cars that I hadn’t spotted before just on that short section of Upland Road. Compare Welly to a map of Monte Carlo with its 29 public lifts and escalators, pedestrian tunnels and the public carparks also rent electric bicycles. A plethora of public lifts, gondolas, cable cars, funiculars and escalators allowing for facilitated walking and cycling is such a better PT geometry than just its fleet of buses.

  5. “NZTA will not invest in sub-optimal transport developments”
    They’ve obviously got a sense of humour over at the NZTA since they are hell-bent on sub-optimal projects all over the country at our expense.

      1. Well, I think we could allude to something a bit more highbrow…but it has occurred to be that if NZTA’s definition of optimal is satisfying sub-intellectual Gerry Brownlee’s whims then they could say it with a straight face!

  6. I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the Wellington CC is not pushing for a skytrain type rail line or modern tram from the airport to the CBD. It’s a 5 to 6km line. That would surely make an extra road tunnel and the flyover redundant?

    1. Bryce, that is exactly what is happening actually. The Mayor is getting quite a bit of flack for it from various car-lovers, but there is a study being done at present that is looking at the viability of either Bus Rapid Transit, or Light Rail, or the status quo. She is obviously quite keen on Light Rail / Trams as an outcome, as are many Wellingtonians. The study is looking at the route from the existing main Rail station at one end of the CBD, through the Golden Mile and down to the Hospital – not quite out to the airport yet, although that would be an obvious endpoint.

  7. Either a) underground the Buckle Street tunnel to Paterson St. This is known as Option F, which was rejected by the NZTA as too costly before the Govt put up the money for Buckle Street undergrounding Preferably this should be futureproofed as two way to eventually get all of the Westbound through traffic off Vivian. Or b) Cut and cover a tunnel north to south from Cambridge Terrace to Adelaide road. I suspect this is the Richard Reid suggestion which the council are having a look at.

  8. I’m not too fussed about the flyover. Wellington has enough ugly flyovers already to care too much – north of the Cake Tin and around the Interislander wharf is pretty bloody ugly already for instance.

    But once the Inner City Bypass is done there is then no excuse not to slow down the Quays and put them on a road diet, with separated cycle lanes and maybe the light rail route. Currently along the Quays the pedestrians are treated like dirt with missing crossings because of the one ways and long waits for the green men. Currently cars go way faster than the 50 km/hr limit. It’ll then be time to make it 30km/hr along the Quays.

  9. A 2-lane one way 400m long 50km/h bridge is not a motorway, this sort of hyperbole is mindless. Sue Kedgley used to screech on that the Inner City Bypass is a multi-lane motorway that would destroy Te Aro – just lies that scare people, when it was a 700m two-lane at grade street to finish a one-way system (her ilk moaned when the bypass was going to be a tunnel from Vivian Street to the Basin, so she was never too fussed about the urban environment).

    Most cities in the world are not mindlessly tearing down grade separation of major roads, that is another hyperbole.

    A 2nd Mt Victoria Tunnel will do nothing to resolve the congestion, because the key source of congestion is the traffic from the tunnel queuing for the southbound traffic at the Basin (and the traffic orbiting the Basin to get to Buckle Street). In fact, the 2nd Mt Victoria Tunnel without Basin grade separation will make it worse, as the choke points at Wellington Road and Taurima Street will be gone. The tunnel is needed, and should be appraised over a 90 year appraisal period (the depreciated life of this asset), but this is about getting an effective long term bypass for Wellington, which SHOULD be the original Tunnel-link plan, which would enable the waterfront route to lose a lane each way and help integrate the city with the harbour.

    The “alternative” plans have fundamental flaws that have already been pointed out by the Opus report, it creates new safety risks, does not effectively reduce congestion and has simple flaws like failing to provide any road access to St Marks or Wellington College, or drop off points for school buses or cars.

    Oh and I do love the opportunistic politics by a Labour Party that was in power when funding was approved to study options for Basin grade separation (and made provision for capex on it as well), which of course are opposed now because it is no longer in power and is trying seeking to bleed local support from the Greens.

    The BCR of the Basin project is not as dire as Transmission Gully, but nobody arguing this point seriously gives a damn about that when it comes to their pet projects.

    1. Whether its a multilane motorway at 100kmh or half that speed the effect is the same – it makes it a crappy place to be if you’re not in a car.

      The flyover won’t improve traffic flow a great deal. There’s still going to be traffic lights at the Taranaki, Willis and Victoria St intersections – they will just become the new pinch points, and the solution will be to extend the flyover above those 3 intersections. The nzta acknowledge that the new tunnel under Memorial park will be more successful if it exits past Taranaki St rather than before it, to cut out that intersection. But we’re not good at future planning in NZ, it comes down to what’s the rudest and cheapest job we can do?

      If the nzta can’t work with either the Auckland and Wellington councils, what are they then going to do, be left buildings motorways in Timaru to the New Christchurch?

      1. There was going to be a cut and cover tunnel between Vivian St (where the motorway ends) and the Basin Reserve, until the embryonic Green Party jumped up and down, and a sympathetic rural constituency National Minister of Transport cut funding for it. So there is plenty of future planning to do it right, and it would have made a huge difference.

        The inner city bypass as was built was only meant to be a stopgap for 10 years, but with the Greens opposing that small one way road extension for many years, it ended up being the “permanent” solution. Of course the tunnel under Memorial Park should continue to the motorway onramp, but that wont happen soon.

        1. The ridiculously expensive cut and cover was never going to get out of the starting blocks and Liberty knows that. Blaming the Greens is simply dishonest.

  10. Wrong about the congestion, such as it is, and it ain’t much, it is more pronounced on the other side of the tunnel where the tunnel approach meets the Ruahine and Taurima St intersection often resulting in a little queuing.

    There is no doubt that the roading here can be improved, and that it certainly needs to involve much more consideration of place value than NZTA have exhibited thus far. Furthermore their dictatorial attitude is appalling, and, frankly, not very clever.

  11. Hey, seeing as the government is, quite rightly, intent that these projects have strong economic benefit to justify the cost, has it commissioned an independent review of the Rons (and not NZTA) in the same way that they recently required of the crl project?

  12. I have long advocated that Wellington’s rail system needs extending from its present, sub-optimally-located “end-point”, to serve more of the city and its rail-less southern/eastern suburbs. What we have is an amazingly effective regional rail artery that currently stops dead at a single node and tosses 15,000-or-so people out every day (11-12 million journeys/year), regardless of their actual desired destination. This is significantly more than those that get forced out at Britomart, for which city-extension is so clearly justified. The only reason both cities currently get away with this is that the vast majority of those evicted passengers disperse and continue on foot – a very cheap and benign way to move huge numbers of people – but severely restricting of continuation-options from there on. Imagine if all car occupants arriving on Wellington’s motorway were forced to get out in Thorndon, leave their vehicles and continue on by foot or other means! Unthinkable for road-users, yet unquestioningly accepted for rail-users. Now $1.2 billion dollars is currently on offer to extend that motorway in order that those same car-occupants, who can already drive on to wherever they want WITH EASE, might save another few minutes of their highly-valued time. Nothing meaningful is currently on the books to fix the truncated public transport “spine”.
    What also needs to be considered is that the large majority of those 15,000 people arriving by rail and continuing on foot have destinations within 1Km of the station. A minority of keen walkers continue on, but the clear implication is that people from the north (i.e. the rest of the rail-served region) whose destinations lie significantly more than 1Km from rail, DO NOT TEND TO USE THE TRAIN. If, hypothetically, the service was extended by 1Km, then another whole 1Km of the CBD would come within reach of rail. How many potential users are therefore put off from using this highly effective system because of the lack of this? How many more thousands would use it (and be unloaded from the road network) if this impediment were fixed?
    Current talk of light rail envisages an entirely separate tram system relying on a continued forced interchange at Wellington Station and street-running from there on. An attempt perhaps to recreate a small part of the tram-system Wellington once had, but far from what is needed. Proposals have also been put forward for “tram-train”, whereby light rail vehicles can continue on to existing tracks and share them with existing trains. However the potential numbers of peak-hour passengers who would wish to avail themselves of a seamless, onward rail extension do not sit easily with a tram-service running down a main shopping street like Lambton Quay.
    Prior to 1975, and about the time that “Robbie’s rail” extension was being envisaged for Auckland, Wellington also had an extension under consideration. Both cities’ schemes were dropped in favour of motorway-building, despite forecasts at the time showing that rail-extensions were needed as a vital component of the system. 40 years on, Auckland is now enjoying the major benefits that Britomart has brought and is contemplating again its CRL. Wellington has done nothing and is in reality contemplating only more roading. I maintain that if that $1.2 billion currently earmarked for the “RoNs” within Wellington City, were instead used to fund an extension to the existing “heavy rail” system, a major step-change would occur in accessibility and modal share, rendering the RoNs unnecessary. Unfortunately the “Spine study” currently being undertaken has dismissed both this and the tram-train option without meaningful consideration.

    1. Yes the ‘terminus’ model for urban transport is poor, and is in fact using an inter city structure to run an intra city system. And is clearly as flawed in Wellington as it is in Auckland.

      There are two big differences between the cities now which explains why the Auckland’s dead end will be fixed by around 2020 and Wellington seems saddled with theirs. Auckland is big and growing, Wellington is neither. Which means that while Auckland has bigger problems it has [or ought to have] more money to address them.

      But also there is an obvious and elegant solution to Auckland’s set-up that completely removes any inner city terminus rather than simply moves it to another place. Completely transforming in one move the existing AK rail ROW from a half-pie in-and-out system into an exponentially more useful trans city pattern. The value in the CRL is really in the unlocking of the huge potential in the existing network: it is very hard to see any other project of scale on the table anywhere in NZ that offers such a transformative result for the cost. Certainly no RoNS; especially after VPT. But of course such an evaluation requires an openmindedness to all modes that seems to be beyond the capacity of the current government [certainly ] and its institutions [?].

      Anyway; how would you fix the problem in Wellington, what’s your route?

      One thing it should involve is moving the MoT and NZTA to new offices next to the furthestmost new station- the current terminus suits them all too well.

      1. There’s also another reason why its getting urgent and that is the infrastructure capacity. Britomart is a 5 platform terminal station with a two track approach, Wellington has a 9 platform terminal station with a three track approach. In short Wellington can terminate a lot more trains in one place than Auckland can. I would bet that if Britomart and its approaches were the size of Wellington, we wouldn’t be having the CRL conversation for a long time.

        1. Well I’m not so sure, but if you’re right then there’s the one silver lining to our usual shortsightedness! Because regardless of Britomart’s capacity there is a world of difference between it remaining a terminus and it becoming pert of a through route to various elsewheres. And that difference is as great as Auckland being a successful and dynamic city or merely a bloated and struggling provincial town.

  13. I drove this road at soon after 6pm on Friday night. I was heading from city towards Newtown. The SH1 traffic finished well before their green light ended.
    Sure there is congestion at 5.30pm, but it takes me 5 mins (usually 1min) to get out of central Feilding just after 5pm, does that mean NZTA should grade separate that SH54 roundabout?

  14. @ Patrick:
    I agree, Wellington’s situation is not as fundamentally urgent as Auckland’s for the reasons you mention. And in no way do I suggest that a rail extension for Wellington should take precedence over Auckland’s. My main gripe is that a huge amount of money is set to be spent in Wellington anyway (the RONs), but it is being spent on entirely the WRONG thing! The effect of channeling this amount of money into a rail extension could be utterly transformative in its benefits to not just the city but all rail-served parts of the Wellington region.
    Although Wellington’s present terminus has 9 tracks to Britomart’s 5 (and 4 approach tracks including the Johnsonville line), the station is pretty much at-capacity under the present peak-hour operating regime. Mainly that is because of the number of criss-crossing movements necessary to access and vacate each platform, and also the adjacent EMU storage sidings. But also there is a tendency to allow lengthy layovers on certain platforms including double or even triple-stacking, as well as splitting and joining of sets. It is a complex operation, concomitant with having a terminus station and an intensive peak-hour service.
    “Anyway; how would you fix the problem in Wellington, what’s your route?”:
    1960’s and 70’s studies considered cut-and-cover tunnelled alignments along various of the main north-south streets, and a bored-tunnel alignment beneath the Terrace. How feasible any of these would now be, after 40 years of development without any consideration of this I do not know. However an option exists which has never to my knowledge been considered, and that is to partially-sink and cover(+landscape) a double-track route along the waterfront, which is a route long-intended to become some sort of traffic-reduced boulevard. A next-station stop beside Frank Kitts Park (approx. 1Km from the present terminus) would enormously facilitate access to the south end of Lambton Quay, Civic Square etc, and could even be justified in itself as a temporary terminus for a restricted number of trains. Immediately beyond there would require some creative planning, until rising ground is encountered and conventional tunnelling could then take over. However of most significance would be the “terminus” of such a line, and my proposal would be a balloon-loop somewhere in the Eastern suburbs (e.g. the Airport, since this is where the RON’s corridor is supposed to end), which would enable trains to loop right around without formally “terminating”, rather like in Sydney or Melbourne or Auckland with a CRL. Effectively then a double-track extension serving selected intermediate stations would also act as a turn-around, obviating the problem of traditional criss-cross threading into multiple-platforms. And given that it may be undesirable to send every train all the way around the loop, a centre-slip road plus “Y” junction could be provided as an intermediate turnback (e.g. as currently at Taita in the Hutt Valley) at a suitable location.
    I am not an urban planner or a civil designer, however I consider there to be options for achieving something like this which are affordable (if RON’s funding can be re-directed) and feasible (if a little “thinking outside the square” can be engaged in instead of the usual “it can’t be done”!). With such huge sums at stake as are currently earmarked for the RONs, common sense would suggest that alternative possibilities should be carefully analysed before committing to anything. Unfortunately common-sense and transport-politics rarely seem to go together, at least in the English-speaking world.

  15. I agree:
    1. Cut and cover under Customhouse and Jervois Quays is the obvious route to the first new station serving the civic centre
    2. Wakefield St then south under Cambridge Tce to the Basin and the Nation Monument. With two more stations…
    After that it could extend out all the way to Island Bay in one direction and then east to the airport on another line.
    But there’s no need for a loop, which would be extremely expensive, as you already have the existing lines on the northern side of the current terminus that could be balanced with the two new ones on the south.
    I am not familiar enough with the current system to suggest how to structure this, but you are right, as in Auckland all of the money is hoovered up by the RoNS. But I am surprised there is so little advocacy like ours in Wellington. I guess the cost plus the population and rate of growth make it a hard task. I can see why many have settled for pushing for a LTR solution, more coverage for the money….?
    And as I still maintain Wellington is not congested.

  16. 1. Full cut-and-cover along this route would be costly due to adjacent sea-level and numerous likely underground services to deal with. If the depth of cut can be reduced and the finished level raised and landscaped into a sort of “linear mound” (remember the popular “grass mound” that used to exist beside the lagoon), costs of building this section could be slashed with little obvious disbenefit. Think of it as a variant of the growing trend to “develop airspace” over urban rail facilities, though in this case a not-yet existing one!
    2. I haven’t tried to plan or evaluate a ‘best route’ beyond here, and in a sense it probably doesn’t matter. What can be achieved most expediently may be the best option as a new station anywhere in the Wakefield St / Courtenay Place / Cambridge Tce area would immediately unlock yet another prime area to rail.
    3. I had not considered more than one branch of an extension, hence the suggestion of a balloon loop simply to handle the likely volume of traffic without having to create another large terminus. Such a loop need not be expensive, if you consider that at a cheap-and-nasty minimum, it need only be a single track circle of 100m radius (this may be insufficient for Matangis as tight as this), and this could be covered over and the land enclosed being free for other uses. At greater cost, the radius could be eased and storage roads or additional platform roads added. Horses for courses as they say. However if the route was to branch and serve two destinations as you suggest, then indeed the extended system would more-closely balance the existing, rendering a loop unnecessary.
    4. Advocacy for rail extension in Wellington is dominated by light rail / tram-train visionaries. They tend to be quite anti the idea of heavy-rail extension, trotting out arguments such as prohibitive cost, excessive spacing of station-stops, dingy underground versus nice shiny trams in the “Golden Mile”, etc. I firmly believe that if all proposals were subjected to the proper scrutiny of professional transport planning and from a regional perspective not simply local, then a “simple” extension of what we already have would win hands-down over schemes involving whole new systems, at-best only partially compatible with the existing. The entirely-separate Station-to-Newtown LRT currently remaining in the present “Spine Study” would be no more than an expensive toy for the CBD. It would do nothing to address the wider transport issues of the region. Tram-train proposals attempt to bridge this divide, but no planning or costing of what would be necessary to achieve the required level of operation have been attempted, particularly in regard to the interfacing with existing rail. The assumption is always made that “anything will be far cheaper than building an underground Metro” (the scare-off term for heavy rail!), but the reality is that if Tram-train were to be introduced in stages as-proposed, it might be a long time if ever before real benefits would accrue to the region. Meanwhile, any extension to heavy rail would potentially benefit the whole regional network immediately. And the unfortunate thing is that sceptical bodies such as NZTA and much of the uninitiated public are rightly unable to see how these much-trumpeted Light Rail proposals can reasonably be pushed as alternatives to the perceived need for the RONs.
    I for one would strongly welcome a more balanced debate and more informed heavy-rail advocacy down our end of the country. Indeed my hope has long been that if Auckland can pave the way by demonstrating the success of an underground extension to its existing system, Welington may wise up and follow suit.

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