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.