Earlier this week the Herald reported that the Wynyard Quarter tram will shortly cease operation, with no clear indication about whether it will ever be revived:

The Dockline Tram is due to halt its service from next Monday, August 6, as the area gears up for a busy period of construction work.

A statement released today said the “beloved Dockline” historic tram, which opened for service in 2011, had operated a reduced out-and-back service since late 2015 due to ongoing development within the Quarter area…

…The tram’s original loop was a 1.5km trip.

“Ongoing roadworks and construction in the Quarter mean it is not cost-effective to run a tram service during this time,” the statement said.

“It is unknown how long the tram will be out of operation. We are having ongoing discussions with our development partners to assess future options.”

The Wynyard tram has never been a serious part of the transport network, it’s more like a horizontal Ferris Wheel, a tourist gimmick that is a bit strangely at odds with the modern mixed use area being created at Wynyard Quarter. But back when it was first proposed, the Wynyard tram was seen as a bit of a “foot in the door” to see whether light-rail could be brought back to Auckland. After all, once upon a time Auckland had a very extensive light-rail network:

There was even talk at one stage to get a modern light rail vehicle in to run on the tracks as a demonstration for what might be used if we built a new network. From memory, that was to come from Japan but ended after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The image below shows some of the early thinking about the Wynyard route and how it could be extended to Britomart. The red line, with the western side moved to Daldy St, became what was built while the green line was next step to link Wynyard to Britomart, along a similar alignment to the existing pedestrian bridge at Te Wero Island. The lifting bridge was only meant to be temporary but I believe the foundations were even strengthened so they could be used in a replacement bridge.

The line cost about $8 million to build back in 2011 but in the years since its opening has been dug up multiple times with the various road works that have occurred in the area. If only the now planned proper light rail would cost that much to install.

Ironically, it seems that the goal to use the Wynyard Tram to get light-rail back on the table in Auckland has eventually led to the downfall of the Wynyard Tramway itself. Because we are now looking at light-rail to play a major role in the rapid transit network, rather than being a dinky tourist attraction, the route of the Wynyard Tram and its planned extension to Britomart are now woefully inadequate – for a number of reasons:

  • The high planned frequencies (up to a service every 2-3 minutes each way) mean that the Te Wero bridge would need to be down all the time, which is not feasible due to the number of boats in the Viaduct Harbour.
  • Because light-rail will be part of the rapid transit network, running services in the same lane as cars along Halsey Street and Jellicoe Street would create all sorts of problems.
  • Because light-rail will use long vehicles capably of carrying many hundreds of people, the many sharp bends on the loop likely create major geometric problems.

So in a strange way the Wynyard Tram perhaps achieved its purpose, while also making itself obsolete. Ultimately it has to go down as quite a waste of money though, given the millions the tracks cost to put in – hopefully at least some of can be reused with the actual LRT plans. I’m glad we have moved on with our thinking about light-rail to something much more serious that will play a big role in meeting Auckland’s future transport needs, rather than a dinky nostalgic tourist attraction.

Share this

55 comments

  1. That’s what happens when you have no strategy tied to reality and too much public money to spend without much accountability.

    [s]Clear undeniable proof that trams are a huge waste of money.[/s]

    1. Timely lesson about how light rail works best when (1) lots of people use it (2) for several decades.

      Otherwise you’re much better off running a decent bus service.

  2. My view is a “Heritage tram” for tourists and locals using old school trams would work brilliantly if the route taken was useful. I know that older model “Routemaster” buses (the ones with with the open back staircase) were kept on certain London bus routes as a bit of tourist thing for many years until the cost of running the old girls got a bit much. An old fashioned tram that ran (just for an out of thin air example) from Britomart to Jellicoe street, Beaumont street, up College Hill to three lamps, along Ponsonby road to Franklin and down Franklin to reconnect to the Britomart line via Victoria street West and Halsey street would be used heaps by rail commuters who currently have to trek to the Viaduct office complex on foot, and everyone loves a tram from work on Friday night to the watering holes of Ponsonby and back to town.

    1. Considering how such a route would also serve to amplify the popularity of those areas, perhaps this “thin air” example isn’t that bad an idea for the basis of a proper LR route (circling from Britomart to 3 Lamps, Ponsonby, K’Rd and back).

    2. Whilst this may eventually become a good idea the currently planned LR network is already very ambitious and to give it the best chance of success must be implemented with minimal distraction.

    3. Actually, there are still a handful of Routemasters in service in London.

      The thing is, they’re icons associated with that city. If you want transport technology that represents the image of Auckland, it’s a long line of stationary cars.

  3. I’m no expert, but I don’t think the tracks are of modern standard (encased in vibration-dampening rubber) so probably shouldn’t be used on a modern network anyway.

  4. Every time I see that old map of the tram routes I wonder if some of the rails are still there in the ground, and have just been paved over. Imagine if they started work on Dominion road and found there was already tracks there.

    1. in any usual scenario that would probably be the case, but in Auckland, they went so far as to spend a lot of money on ripping up the tracks to ensure they could never ever be used again. A form of ritual sacrifice to welcome our new SOV overlords. Erasing the past so completely to ensure the future freedom of the freeway age could be ushered in as quickly as possible with no possibility of reconsideration or delay

      1. History repeats. This is exactly what they did to Wellington’s trolleybus infrastructure a few months ago. Ripped it all out to make sure the decision to discontinue them could never be reversed.

        We can be very poorly-served by our so-called leaders.

  5. From what I remember the Wynyard Tram only took you around the block and was less than a 2 minute journey.

    Useful indeed…….

    1. Mostly because the block was and still is to a large extent empty(other than carparks), and road works meant it had to operate against traffic in parts.

      I wonder whether the service needs to be looked at more from an urban design/placemaking perspective.

      Once more of the developments are completed, and with the fabled park on the point, I think there would be scope to reinstate as a more leisurely paced, local loop. Perhaps the loop could even be extended around Victoria park, and would provide a local transport connection which connects to major bus routes and amenities, and due to the short distances moves at a pace that is more compatible with pedestrians than rapid transit.

    1. Yes he rather lost his way, didn’t he? He used to be quite a sensible man. He also single handedly torpedoed the waterfront stadium when everyone else had given it the green light.
      These days he spends his time carping on about how light rail to the airport won’t be as fast as a HR train. If he caught the train I caught last night he would not be thinking our trains are fast at all.

    2. That’s a bit harsh, he played a significant role in the rail network we have now.

      Unfortunately he appears to have become bitter about the younger generation coming along and picking up his good work and enhancing it, even if the direction is not what he might have imagined.

  6. Is there not a plan to run LR over a new bridge from Customs St W to Madden St? Would be a slightly higher bridge to allow low/smaller boats underneath but not yachts which would remain in the main part of the viaduct harbour.

    1. I fear that the currently planned route via Fanshaw St, is going to be too slow to use with North Shore light rail. Not only is the Fanshaw St route significantly longer that your proposed route, but implementing signal preemption at the Nelson St intersection will probably be impossible if there is more than 12tph operating in each direction on this section. While this will be alright when the only a small percentage of the systems users are traveling on the section from Britomart to Wynyard Quarter, once the line is extended over the harbor, the long arduous route from Wynyard to Britomart is not going to be acceptable.

      We should build this section right the first time, which probably means either a high bridge from Customs St W to Madden St or a tunnel underneath.

        1. CRL won’t have capacity for a north shore line, it will be practically full runnning the existing network. If you did HR you would need a new city link tunnel, that seems a little redundant when we they are building the LRT city link anyway.

          1. And if you were going to build a new city tunnel, why saddle the new line with all the constraints of the legacy network. Make it a proper metro.

            Agree LRT is a good place to start, particularly if the NW Line and Northern Busway conversion are done with a view to possible view to future conversion to light metro (by adding a city tunnel). Surface route can then have another isthmus route added.

  7. Ironically, the historic tramline at Motat is on a useful route, and much could be made or this. It runs essentially between the frequent bus route on Great North Rd and the frequent bus route on Meola Rd. Along its length, are a number of amenities that function at night:

    Tapac, Western Springs College (music performances, tutorials in the evening, design classes working late with pizza evening, etc), Leisuretime Learning (community education at the college which will recommence, I understand, once the rebuild is finished), The Rumaki (Kapahaka practices to 10 pm Sat and Sun for all of term one plus many other events), the Auckland Music Theatre, the largest football club in NZ with its floodlit fields, occasional evening functions at Motat and the Zoo, and nearby there are the Scout Hall, the two community halls on GNR used for many activities, and the stadium.

    There’s no passive surveillance in the area, which needs fixing, given the huge amount of evening activity. What would be fantastic is having the trams run into the evening, to connect people to the buses with some “eyes on the street” benefit too. As it is, it’s an utterly car dependent area, and those of us who do let our teenagers walk home in the dark, or cycle through after Scouts, etc, are soundly told off by others.

    What do GA readers think of the potential of using the historic trams in this way? Too much wear and tear for a 10 to 15 minute frequency up to, say, 10:30 pm?

    1. Lots of interested parties. The tram infrastructure is owned by MOTAT, and it is a tenant on some of the land concerned.

      1. Thanks, Errol. It would be a can of worms unless the will was there. Which may be possible, given that it would assist visitors to all the amenities. Do you think there could be issues between different CCO’s being in control of different parts of the Council land, or would a more likely sticking point be between them and the MoE? (They’re the only other ones I can think of who might own some of the land.)

        But from a practical point of view, could a shuttle for 5.5 hours longer each day realistically be provided from historic infrastructure, or would it need to be something modern?

        1. Can you get modern units that run on that infrastructure? The overheads are the obvious difference from current practice, but there could be more (I have no particular knowledge, I just pondered the ownership on Twitter and got a response!)
          Getting a lot more running out of the historical trams (and crewing them) would become an issue surely.

  8. “Because light-rail will be part of the rapid transit network, running services in the same lane as cars along Halsey Street and Jellicoe Street would create all sorts of problems.”

    I don’t understand. I thought that the Wynyard Qtr was to be only 30% car mode share by 2030 and so this would seem entirely possible?

    Well actually I do understand and if you believe that you are also most likely to believe in the tooth fairy.

  9. Melbourne seems to have found a use for the rickety old trams – again, they actually provide a useful service. It would be great if Auckland could found a way to integrate them into its PT system.

  10. I always thought the Wynyard quarter was a very odd place for a historic tram. It looked like a complete anachronism in an area with so few historic buildings. Maybe relocating the heritage tram to a Britomart to Newmarket route via Parnell could be a better idea (which can eventually serve as part of a useful modern light rail network) in fact I don’t know why they didn’t pick an area with lots of historic buildings instead of Wynyard for the heritage tram back in 2011.

    One idea to include the Wynyard tram route as part of a modern light rail network (since we already built the tracks and infrastructure its not a bad idea, or atleast future proof it) is to cut out the Gaunt Street bit of the route and use Fanshawe Street and Customs Street instead of Te Wero Bridge to connect to Britomart. Alternatively maybe a tunnel along the Te Wero bridge route to Britomart for light rail vehicles can be built?

      1. Is a normal 90 degree street angle too tight? In that case lots of corners, like Queen Street/Victoria Street e.t.c. would be impossible

    1. its location was determined purely by its politics,

      The Trams were Mike Lee’s final statement as chair of the old Auckland Regional Council, signed off in June 2010 five months before the supercity would sweep all before it,

      At the time the Wynyard land came under the auspices of the ARC through “Sea+City Projects Limited” which was overseeing the redevelopment of the harbour land that Wynyard originally was…

      To put the trams anywhere else would have required agreements from the then Auckland City or others, having it at Wynyard meant it was all “in house” within the ARC and could be pushed through quickly before they all went “poof”

  11. Is Wynyard Quarter supposed to be a hip pedestrian-friendly area? Why do pedestrians have to take 2 minutes 15 seconds to cross at the lights on Fanshawe St from Victoria Park?

    1. Good question. In the weekend there are usually no cars driving over that pedestrian crossing because they’re stopped at the nearby traffic lights. So you end up waiting for 2 minutes at that red man, and not a single car drives by during that time. It’s really bizarre.

      1. Yes, you have to wait for cars, then no cars, then cars, then no cars, then you can go. Or something like that. And again for the other half.

        1. And when the peds are crossing, the 921, 922, 952, and many other buses heading to the North Shore cannot make the left turn from Halsey Street. It’s the only opportunity they get. Result, a window of only a few seconds and only 3 or 4 vehicles able to turn, so it takes 2 or 3 light phases to get through.

          Was great when Halsey St north was blocked off for road works, but now cars turning right out of there have far longer light phases than the aforementioned traffic. How can it be that the NS PT route Wellesley-Halsey-Fanshawe is held up by low-count private vehicles like this? Something’s seriously wrong there folks.

          1. Yes, and within the Wynyard Quarter itself, I noticed at peak hour last night the advanced stop boxes were always full of cars; possibly drivers who wouldn’t normally do so but the particularly short phases took them by surprise? Again, why are private cars there in numbers high enough for this to be an issue?

          2. Look at it on aerial images. Something like half of the area is parking.

            And access to it without a car is surprisingly annoying.

            Walking is possible, but really cumbersome and really unpleasant. See Fanshawe Street. Also, see Hobson Street and Nelson Street. And Cook Street. Well, the entire area around it, really. You just don’t walk in that kind of environment.

            Public transport is kind of there, at least now you can also catch a bus on Wellesley Street. Or was it Victoria Street? D’oh.

            The cycleway on Hobson Street has now reached Fanshawe Street. But how do you go from Hobson Street to that cycleway? It’s so close, yet so isolated from all the apartments nearby. And anyway, in these apartments you’ve got nowhere to store that bicycle. It’s actually much easier to find a place to store a car.

            So how did I go to the fish market when I lived on Hobson Street? Walk to my car and drive. It’s stupid, but it’s the only supported mode.

  12. WE seemed to be able to do things a lot cheaper 10 to 20 years ago. Eight million seems cheap and I seem to remember the whole of the evacuation cut and cover into Britomart station was only 17 million. If you remember this was done as a separate contract well before the station was built. I thought the Wynard tram was stunning but it didn’t go anywhere so it wasn’t much use. But the concept of having a historic tram somewhere where it could provide some useful function would be good sort of electric punk or something like that.
    On another note Intercity and Rithchie branded coaches are now using the Manukau bus station so its becoming a buzzy sort of place. Maybe it should have a tram.I wonder what will happen to the tracks and the trams.Could they be reused.

  13. The Dockline tram actually added a great deal of value to the emerging Wynyard Quarter. People loved it, even if they didnt actually ride on it.

    I’d like to see it retained – how about running a line along Quay Street and Tamaki Drive to Mission Bay/Kohi?

    You can’t measure the tram in how many tickets were sold or how much congestion it relieved. It’s an attraction, not a commuter service. I’m certain it added value to the land value and local economy of Wynyard Quarter just by being around. It also showed off some of our transport heritage.

    Easiest thing is probably to leave it where it is and turn it into a diner or icecream bar.

    1. Tamaki Drive: more than half the potential catchment is sea – not a high priority.

      Spend the money on serious public transport with good catchment potential and send the heritage stuff to MOTAT (where it belongs).

    2. I thought the tram was fun the few times I rode it, and admit to childish delight seeing it tootle around the corner when down at Wynyard.

      By all means consider new or extended routes for it, but as a tourist folly. As long as we are under no pretensions that it is transportation or replaces the need for real public transport, and assess and fund it accordingly.

      1. I think it has tourist potential. Look how it has been an attraction in CHCH. Kelly Tartons and Mission bay are great tourist destinations which could be served by it. If there was a few $100 millions spare in the Tourist budget or the government was feeling particularly generous ( it could even be extended to western springs). BUT it is not a great transport project.

        1. Tamaki Drive and the East needs proper transport solutions. I am 100% in favour of a Tamaki Drive LRT line.

      2. It would be good if real public transport could be fun though. We dont want to end up like the zombies on the tube were nobody talks to each other. We must keep thanking the driver on the bus thats a great Auckland thing.I remember visiting Auckland in the late 1960’s and the bus we were travelling on had a drag race with another everyone was cracking up. Our trains are getting too serious back in the 1990’s I boarded one that was running late the passengers were giving the guard heaps and everyone was laughing. The guards had a sense of humour then. Some heritage trams running around wouldnt be a bad thing.

    3. “It also showed off some of our transport heritage”

      Except for a brief period when it first started, it has been showing off Melbourne’s transport heritage …

Leave a Reply