Tomorrow the Council’s Governing Body will – presumably – confirm the end of the Wynyard Quarter tramline. A combination of factors, including some changes to the location of key development sites, means that it will cost up to $6.6 million to reinstate the service, which ceased operation back in August. This from the Council’s report:
Since late 2015 the tram has run on a partial loop, operated on Sundays, Public Holidays and for special events, due to the extent of construction/development activity occurring in Wynyard Quarter.
In September 2017, as the result of an earlier executive decision, the West 1 and West 2 development site boundaries (in the block bounded by Beaumont, Madden, Daldy and Pakenham Streets), under the development agreement with Willis Bond, were changed. This was to enable better development outcomes by having two sites of similar proportions. It was always envisaged that these sites would be used for development, it was just a matter of when this development would occur.
In April 2018, it was brought to the attention of Panuku Development Auckland (Panuku) that the south-east corner of the West 1 (30 Madden Street) development site boundary clashed with the existing Auckland Dockline tramline. West 1 is the location of the next stage of Willis Bond’s residential development, which is currently gearing up to commence construction in November 2018.
This realisation compelled Panuku to consider the long-term future of the tram. The decision was made to suspend the service to allow the encroaching tram lines to be removed from West 1, and to allow Panuku more time to consider its options in a climate of uncertainty, and with the knowledge that this would also involve material unbudgeted expenditure…
…There is a material cost with reinstating the tram. It is likely to cost up to $6.6 million once relocation of the tram depot and further track work is undertaken. Approximately $5.6 million of this cost is unbudgeted. Panuku would therefore require a Council provided budget of $5.6 million to continue the operation of the tram on a permanent basis.
Panuku currently requires an OPEX budget of $190,000 per annum to keep the tram operational on the partial loop. When the tram initially started operation in 2011, 15,376 customers used it in its peak month (during the 2011 Rugby World Cup). In 2018, these numbers dropped to the mid-hundreds. Revenue has dropped from $52,653 in its peak month in 2011 to $463 in the month of May 2018. From August 2011 to August 2018, 126,946 passengers have ridden on the tram, with a net revenue return of $329,750. The tram has never been a viable commercial operation for Waterfront Auckland or Panuku.
After considering four options (continue with the suspension of services but potentially enable future reinstatement, full reinstatement in the future, full reinstatement in time for the America’s Cup and ceasing tram operations altogether), Panuku propose option 4 as the best way forwards:
Option 4: Cease tram operations, is considered the most appropriate option for Wynyard Quarter by the Panuku Board due to material cost and future uncertainties, and the fact that the tram is no longer considered a high priority place activation for Wynyard Quarter in the context of current and future Wynyard Quarter investment by the council.
Although the tram has served as a place-making feature in Wynyard Quarter it has now, arguably, fulfilled its purpose. Significant capital and operating expenditure would be required to keep the tram running for what could be considered insufficient ongoing benefit to Wynyard Quarter. The tram has limited heritage value (being from Melbourne), lacks strong support for its running during the 36th America’s Cup event, and has its depot located on a future development site. In terms of Wynyard Quarter expenditure it is seen as a relatively low priority.
Considerable work has been undertaken to get to this position and the decision by the Panuku Board has not been taken lightly. The Panuku Board and staff have engaged with the supporter groups and have considered, analysed and had peer reviewed the costs of all the options put on the table. Enabling more people to live and work in the Wynyard Quarter, along with the high quality of development, place-making programme, and new public
spaces will ensure that the area continues to grow and fulfil its potential.
I think the concept that the tram has fulfilled its purpose already is quite a good way of looking at the issue. As I noted back in August, the tram has never been a serious part of the public transport network, and its basic engineering and tight corners mean it can’t be used by much longer modern light rail. But it was really only ever meant to be something that helped to kick-start Wynyard Quarter’s regeneration while also being a “foot in the door” to a future, more serious, modern light-rail system. Wynyard is now growing rapidly, while a huge light-rail network is now being developed.
We have also matured in our understanding of what’s necessary to really make high quality places – and it’s not gimmicks light heritage trams from Melbourne, but rather high quality pedestrian environments and public spaces that draw people in to linger. Wynyard Quarter certainly no longer needs this tram loop.