Yesterday Judith Collins announced National’s Wellington transport policy. Amongst all the talk of tunnels and other road upgrades, one small thing that stood out to me was the mention of trackless

We think bus priority and bus rapid transit offers much more flexibility for Wellington, and value for money. In time, that may mean trackless trams“.

It stood out to me for two reasons:

  1. It’s such a weirdly specific term, one that most people will never have heard of, that it seems odd to even include it, especially as it doesn’t really add anything to what they’re promising.
  2. It wasn’t the first time she had used it, saying something almost identical in her Auckland announcement.

I am also announcing today that Phil Twyford’s Ghost Train will be replaced by rapid buses or trackless trams to Onehunga.

As I wrote last week, it’s been frustrating to see different public transport modes becoming increasingly politicised. These different technologies are simply different tools each with their own strengths and weaknesses and shouldn’t be an ideological expression. Transport Spokesman Chris Bishop was quick to reply to me saying they’re not promising trackless trams but that just makes me wonder which segment of the community are they trying to signal by including it.

Putting aside the politics of it all, most people won’t have heard the term trackless trams before. So what are and how are they different from other transport modes?

The term “trackless trams” emerged about 2-3 years ago from China with the promise of delivering a light rail like experience without the need to build tracks. In reality it’s just the latest in a long line of ideas to repackage a combination existing bus technologies under the umbrella of a fancy/catchy name – in other words largely a marketing gimmick. This isn’t to say that they’re bad, but more that they’re not anything new or revolutionary. In essence trackless trams are electric, articulated (or double articulated), guided buses with a modern tram like appearance.

The original trackless tram proposal

Let’s take a look at some of those features:

Electric Buses

These are obviously fairly straightforward as we already have electric buses in New Zealand and we could certainly do with a lot more.

Articulated Buses

Articulated/bendy buses are something we’ve moved away from in recent years in favour double deckers. There are still some around, such as this operated by Bayes Coachlines.

Overseas double articulated buses exist such as this nearly 25m long trolleybus in Lausanne, Switzerland has just gone into operation just over a month ago to replace a system where a normal sized trolleybus towed around a second bus as a trailer. These buses also contain batteries to allow them to run some distance off wires.

Articulated buses have both advantages and disadvantages over double deckers, here are a few of them:

  • Advantages
    • By being a single level they can have more doors than a regular bus, thus allowing for faster boarding and alighting of passengers – if you’ve ever seen how long it takes for a loaded double decker arriving in the city centre to unload you’ll understand why this is useful.
    • They can be configured for more metro style seating thus having significant capacity for standing passengers. The bus above is said to be able to hold about 225 passengers, more than twice that of a double decker.
    • They don’t have issues with low ceiling heights like there are on double deckers.
  • Disadvantages
    • They take up more space, this is particularly an issue at bus stops, such as those in the city centre where there is limited space.
    • As I understand it, the hinge that articulates the bus is more expensive to maintain.
    • You don’t get as great of a view as you do from the top deck of a double decker.

Guided buses

Guided buses are something that have been around for some time and come in a variety of different forms.

Adelaide’s O-Bahn and the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway in the UK use concrete narrow concrete tracks with a side wall, and buses with a sideways facing guide wheel that is connected to the steering system to keep buses controlled.

Both Caen and Nancy in France had a system that used a small single track embedded in the road to guide it – though they can be driven off the track too. Like with the trackless tram, these proposals these were sold on the promise of being cheaper to install and operate however that hasn’t panned out and Caen are now replacing their system with full light rail.

Like the trackless tram, Rouen in France uses optical guidance, with cameras on the bus following lines painted on the road.

There are a few major concerns with many of these systems, such as:

  • These systems can be unreliable and some have already been replaced, such as a magnetically guided busway in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
  • There are not many of these systems and they tend to use proprietary technology. This creates technology lock in to a single supplier and there’s no guarantee that supplier or technology will still exist when it comes time to replace the fleet. Compare that to normal buses or even light rail where there are multiple suppliers to choose from.
  • Depending on the design of the road, when buses drive over exactly the same spot every time it can create rutting resulting in poorer ride quality and more expensive repairs.
  • They still have a lower capacity per vehicle than with light rail meaning more of these buses need to be run to meet the same level of demand. More frequent buses are good but only to a point as after that benefits from things technologies like signal priority disappear.

All of this means that it might not end up all that much cheaper over the long run.

Given they need a road to run on, one thing these buses can’t do is run on green tracks, though the Cambridgeshire example comes the closest.

Light Rail – Green Tracks

Modern tram-like styling

This may seem like a minor point to some but buses that look more modern, and not a box on wheels, are likely to attract more passengers – there was a bit of this when double deckers first launched. One of the companies best known for this is Vanhool and like a tram or the trackless tram suggestion, even have a driving cab at each end.

A herd of Vanhool tram-like buses charging for the night.

Many of these features are what is proposed for the eventual Airport to Botany route.


So many of the ideas that fall into the “trackless tram” term are things that already exist and are in use around the world where they’re just called what they are, buses. Though there perhaps is some benefit in a name to describe higher-quality buses, much like how light rail is used to refer to higher quality trams – but in my view trackless trams isn’t it.

Perhaps what National need to be talking about is not the name but what their proposal enables. Talk about if they’re promising to build a dedicated route with modern vehicles, about what that will do for travel times, frequencies and reliability etc.

The first ‘commercial’ trackless tram installation in Yibin, China
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102 comments

  1. If we want to get serious about water pollution and microplastics, we will build green light rail corridors. Estimated that 30% of all primary microplastics in the oceans are derived from tyre wear. Contaminants such as zinc and other heavy metals also released in the same process

  2. Yes instead of specifying a particular mode, politicians should be talking about a desired level of service:
    – Frequency
    – Passenger capacity
    – Reliability
    – Speed
    And the development that enables for the corridor.

    1. But National don’t want that. There is no way they want to actually build busways, spend money and take space away from traffic.
      Buses or trackless teams is their way of doing nothing, because “buses need roads too”. Their plan amounts to running buses on street. And Bishop was very quick to point out they aren’t even planning fancy buses, just regular buses.

      1. Their policy includes a busway for Northwest Auckland. Labour has not proposed anything in the post-Light Rail era. I’ll take a half-step over fantastical bullshit that will never happen any day.

        1. Correct. If the point of trackless trams is to avoid the cost and limitations of tracks, then any sort of guidance system suffers from the same disadvantages, and we are back to buses. In the longer term an updated “Boris Bus” may do the trick, but in the meantime, I’d go with our current Alexander Dennis version.

        2. I like the approach of setting up a corridor flexible enough to run whatever the best solution is at any given time.

        3. There is no cheap public transit solution, regardless of whatever has been whispered in the Nat party’s ear.

          Supporting a heavy vehicle requires building a more expensive surface whether it’s for super-buses or trams.

          Steel wheels on steel will always beat rubber ones in energy efficiency.

        4. Current govt have just funded $100m for the start of the NW busway. National did not when they funded additional lanes there, so the facts are not with you on that one Buttwizz.

        5. urbanista: Bus lanes are not a rapid transit corridor. The busway National have included in their policy is. I do not think the North West having to wait two years before even announcing a start on a project that doesn’t deliver the rapid transit Labour committed to in ATAP is in defensible in any way, shape or form.

        6. Buttwizz you are much more trusting of nat promisses than the evidence supports. Their policy is to spend so much imaginary money on roads we don’t need while talking vaguely about possible future bus thingies.

          Also perhaps you dont remember how the Shore Busway began: stations plus shoulders, then more stations and dedicated route, now bigger stations longer busway, after a few more tweaks will have to take the big jump to a train, cos of success. Because the ridership growth this phasing delivers is undeniable, even to the road-heads running the show.

          Why do you think Brownlee nixxed stations off the NW upgrade last time? To prevent this relentless process from even starting… he looked across the harbour and shuddered.

        7. Buttwizard – the main difference is that Labour have been given the opportunity to prove that their promises can’t be relied on, National don’t have that opportunity at the moment.

        8. “Their policy is to spend so much imaginary money on roads we don’t need while talking vaguely about possible future bus thingies.”

          Light. Rail.

        9. Urbanista: More revisionism. Labour managed to turn Light Rail into a monster before coalition politics got anywhere near it. If anything, coalition politics put it out of its misery. I know it’s hard, but sometimes our favourite team make mistakes and we have to accept that. Being a Blues supporter has made me appreciate this as a valuable life lesson.

        10. Buttwizard – agree, Labour were making a hash of this without needing NZ First to help.

          I’ve had the same life lesson as a Warriors fan.

        11. Agree on this. In general I vote right, but the change in attitude towards decent public transport made me vote Labour at last election. Getting decent, modern public transport is the most important question for Auckland and one of the most important for me.
          I loved Labours proposals and thought finally.
          Then they decided to look at vested interests and get a Canadian pension fund (with heavy involvement of former Labour people) involved. Then it all turned to custard.

          The NW Busway is something that Labour immediately should sign up to and agree with National on. No ifs buts or maybes. Future proof it for rail and do whats been done on the shore. Its a given. The busway on the shore is enormously successful and the NW busway would be as well. Why cant agreement be found?

          Also, Ensure to reserve land for a future H shaped system.
          AKA Northshore busway, NW Busway and reserve land for a busway connection between Westgate and Constellation or if I were to dream better Westgate and Albany through Albany highway, an area screaming out for more decent and frequent public transport.
          (But yes the latter is wishful thinking and far into the future).

        12. Hey Butz, I don’t disagree about how Light Rail was handled by Labour this term, it got a bad case of the scope-creeps; ambition overshoot. However, my two points still hold: 1. You are misreading what a Nat govt would do, being distracted by the glitter on the turd, and 2. NZF did kill anything happening on that route this term.

          Hopefully, there will now be a sober re-assessment by the incoming Lab-Grn govt and either LR or LM will begin on this route. I am still a fan of AT’s original surface LR on that route, it has the necessary capacity (unlike bendy-buses) and the place quality uplift required for upzoning and city centre. At a lower capital cost.

          Especially as now with NW, EB and upgraded NB, we still got a bus numbers crisis looming in the city centre.

        13. @urbanista does any political party actually do what they promised, if you recall before the last election Labour promised so much, they haven’t even come close to delivering on any of the big ticket items, no kiwibuild, no trees, no Auckland trams, all they did was make it a little big harder for Chinese people to buy homes in NZ.

        14. @urbanista

          Yes I like the original AT plan also. Sorting out through Mangere & the airport can come later. Perhaps let the dust settle on the CRL & waterfront upgrades before spades in the ground. Of course either way we will have more city centre disruption for some time while we play catch-up on “not everything by car” mode.

        15. Urbanista: I think the real risk with the National plan will be similar to the problems encountered with the AMETI corridor in that we could see some bits need to be heavily re-engineered to support Light Rail – making sure whatever does happen in the NW has an upgrade path is almost as important as whether you bother with an interim solution or not.

          Frankly I’d rather get a solid commitment to this level of future-proofing, given that we have a tendency to build things once and extensively trim them back at the evaluation stage to the point where they no longer meet the needs of the population once they are finally completed. I’d be much much happier if Labour committed to this given they are infinitely more likely to be in power but mindful that they may avoid doing so they don’t have to acknowledge the cock-up that was light rail. Some ownership from Ardern here would be good, an interim solution would be better.

          The only thing I know for sure is that West Auckland can’t wait in a holding pattern for another three years while Labour stuffs up something in the Central/Southern Isthmus and then tries to back out of it by blaming it on Winston.

        16. The NW corridor needs road reallocation anyway. NZTA and AT aren’t mature enough to realise this, but they’ll wake up to their obligations to reduce vkt sooner or later. I think the interim solution could be preferable if it paves the way to road reallocation. It also therefore becomes a template for other motorway reallocation jobs.

      2. Who was it that said “The cost of doing nothing is too high for Aucklanders and for business. It’s time to accelerate investment in Auckland transport. Labour will: Build light rail from downtown Auckland to the airport within a decade if it wins the September general election”.

        How’s that coming along?

        Btw. What happened to that other promise? To build a third main trunk line urgently between Wiri and Papakura.

        Urgently?!

        Three years later…… zip, nada, nothing.

        What happened to the ‘Year of delivery’?

        1. It’s looking increasingly like NZ First happened to a lot of the policies and projects that Labour promised. Which is probably why they’re polling around 1-2% while Labour are polling over 50%. Though I still think Twyford should not be let anywhere near any important portfolios after the election.

        2. The have got everything wrong except COVID-19 and closing the borders. I will vote for them just for that. I might even get a photo of Jacinda Ardern to go on the wall like those old Labour supporters used to have of Michael Joseph Savage. Special thanks to Winston for teaming up with Labour.

  3. I absolutely agree that mode is much less important than the other factors mentioned by LogarithmicBear above – with the significant addition of “network” as a factor for politicians to get their heads around.

    But I don’t get the significant distrust and antipathy toward so-called “trackless trams” that emerges every time that the mode is suggested. Yes, there are downsides to this relatively new mode that have so far not been addressed. But for GA to describe it as a “gimmicky marketing term to describe some existing and failed technologies” is really going out of its way to dismiss it as a possible future mode for Auckland or Wellington.

    Technologies such as battery electric buses are widely accepted. Battery electric trams are also seen as having potential. Articulated buses somehow still seem to thrive in many locations despite apparent maintenance issues. Guidance systems do appear more problematic, but are not essential for a system to operate (we still have drivers for our vehicles who are a manual guidance system). And I’d suggest that laying a proper bed to ensure rutting was not an issue would be just as effective (and more flexible) than laying rails.

    So why does a combination of battery-electric power, an articulated body with the profile of a tram and rubber tyres always seem to generate such suspicion and even derision? Think of it as a tram with rubber tyres or an articulated bus with a tram body, which is basically what it is. And of course it’s not the solution to every urban transport problem, but surely it has its place and deserves a more open-minded analysis.

    I can’t remember the last time I agreed with something the National Party proposed (not sure I’ve EVER agreed with them before!), but to propose “trackless trams” as a potential technology is surely not outrageous. I’m not saying they ARE the solution for Wellington or Auckland, but let’s be open-minded and not dismiss them out of hand.

    1. The antipathy is because they use the promise of future and quite possibly dead-end technology to avoid actually doing anything with proven and working systems. ‘Advanced bus’ concepts like this have come and gone since the 70s. I’m old enough to remember when the same types were saying Auckland shouldn’t spend money on its rail system because the O Bahn guided busway was the future and anything else was a waste. Before that it was monorails. After that it was PRT, etc.

      This is classic concern trolling.

      1. But the only “new” tech is the guidance system, which I agree is potentially problematic. But what is wrong with a rubber-tyred tram or a tram-bodied electric bus, in principle at least? Because that’s basically what we’re talking about here. If it is a good solution for a particular corridor, why would we object?

        1. The reason why I (an no doubt others, too) object is that while Trackless Trams does potentially solve a problem.

          It is unclear exactly what and where the problems it does solve actually are to be found.

          And furthermore, if it merely solves a problem for one corridor only, then its not really a proper solution. As we would end with unique “one off” solutions for each corridor and no way to use it eleswhere or provide a consistent service between corridors.

          So you would end up as if each corridor simply implemented a light rail system that was using its own track gauge and signalling system and power delivery system (overhead wires or in-ground wires etc] so the vehicle can only ever run down that one corridor.

          That would hardly be any panacea to fixing the congestion all over Auckland.

          Secondly, and this is the real subtext that National are actually using when they promote a “trackless” anything.

          Is that because it uses roads and those buses can therefore be run anywhere the road currently is [Ignoring the need for proper “stations” that are not just a bus stop beside the road due to the length and other matters]. So we don’t need to plan these roads, just let them loose on what we have.

          Which means [they think] it does not need a protected right of way to run in.

          And when we do put in a protected right of way it is right next to existing motorways and roads.

          The obvious thinking behind this that the National party hacks have, is it is a away to allow non-Trams to use the “precious” trackless tram right of way [ala Bus lanes in Auckland].

          Turning what could be a faster mode of transport, into what amounts to very expensive, but little more than glorified buses, fighting with other vehicles for the same lane of the road.

        2. David, if they were sincere they’d just say electric buses, or high capacity buses. Things we have and can easily do more of.

          They’re hand waving away with a thing the can’t be expected to actually implement in the near future.

        3. As I said, we seem to have politicized the technology because of our suspicions about the motives of the proponents – which is exactly what has happened over every other mass transit technology that has been proposed for Auckland. Of course we’re 100% right to question National’s intentions, but let’s not blame the technology for that.

      2. One more disadvantage of a trackless tram is significantly increased energy consumption compared to steel wheels on steel rails.

    2. “to propose “trackless trams” as a potential technology is surely not outrageous”

      No, correct. But National didn’t propose “trackless trams”.

      Bishop said, “We have not promised trackless trams. Here is the quote from speech. ”Unlike Labour and the Greens, we are not wedded to light rail. We think bus priority and bus rapid transit offers much more flexibility for Wellington, and value for money. In time, that may mean trackless trams..” ”

      Dismissing trackless trams out of hand isn’t what Matt has done here – he’s looked at the individual characteristics of them and discussed their merits.

      Instead, he’s highlighted that the term was used tactically – as a “Clayton’s Public Transport” – the public transport you mention (without promising it, mind) – when what you are actually saying is that you don’t support light rail.

    3. I’m sure if Jacinda announced tomorrow that trackless-trams were going to be used somewhere then GA would find a “fact based” way to sing their praises.
      Politics is politics.

      1. In my post yesterday I said that Labour were exhibiting a: behaviour called “implicatory denial of climate change”.

        That might be praise from some people, but it ain’t no praise from me.

      2. My reading of this site is that they’ve led policy eventually taken up by political parties, rather than followed it. Including Jacinda’s very optimistic light rail plan announced before the last election, which was from GA’s rapid transit plan for Akl.

        Sure that’s usually picked up by the more progressive parties, but then they’re the ones that traditionally champion new thinking in NZ anyway.

        GA is more a policy source than any party’s mouth piece, it seems to me.

  4. If the people advocating for trackless trams are doing so in good faith then that’s fine. But why don’t they argue for enhanced PT in general and not just when it involves modes that require building more roads? (buses and trackless trams)

    I get the impression that National’s former-tobacco-lobbyist-turned-transport-spokesman is actually using ‘trackless trams’ as a dogwhistle for just building more roads. This would make sense because building more roads seems to be National’s solution to everything else.

    Trackless trams sound good to the layperson because they look like they can use existing roads with minimal modifications. That is not true, they’ll require building a proper pavement from scratch, as you’ve pointed out. So communities along the corridor might prefer trackless trams to trams on the basis that they wouldn’t have to deal with months of construction disruption. However in reality building a new pavement for trackless trams would be just as disruptive as laying tram tracks.

    Although trackless trams are just a combination of existing technologies, that doesn’t make it a mature platform. There’s only one system in operation in the world and it’s a test track. Why should NZ be the guinea pig?

    1. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating for trackless trams but suggesting that they may have a place in the panoply of PT options. Higher capacity than a bus, more manoeuvrable than a rail-based system, as sexy as a tram, cheaper to install. Yes, there are downsides, but there are also downsides to every other transport technology. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater just because it was National who mentioned it as a possible eventual solution, but try to be objective.

    2. There’s tram buses in a lot of cities, just look at the photos above.

      The Van Hool tram bus used in Trondheim would be a big improvement over the double deckers on the Northern Busway.

    3. It is quite possible their would be no infrastructure preparation for the introduction of the trackless tram, only ongoing maintenance, as happened when we moved from vehicle mass limits on classified roads to the steady increas of vehicle mass to where any vehicle carrying the right load bearing sticker could drive anywhere and latest increase of vehicle mass which supposedly is limited to certain routes but in reality seems to go anywhere. This has left the ratepayers meeting the cost of most infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. This seems to be where this is heading.

      1. The trackless trams actually have quite a lot of supporting infrastructure. You need power supply and electric charging for the batteries, a suitable heavy duty pavement to take repetitive 8 tonne+ axle loading, and the stops. To get LRT boarding capacity you need level boarding height, and that means platforms. In LRT systems the LRVs are only 20% to 30% of the cost. The bulk of the cost is in the right of way and track, and that will not be so different.

  5. I was thinking about the proposed busway from Puhinui railway station to the airport and all that lovely farmland on the way. Seems to be a good place for some houses given its going to have excellent transport links to one of the fastest growing city centers in Auckland. And a quick change at the station gives access to all rail served destinations. I know its on the flight path but you get used to that. With covid I expect low initial passenger numbers when the electric buses start next year. A new housing area would help and the high speed frequent public transport link will already be in place. If numbers improve there could even be a trackless tram. Just to stay on topic.

    1. That area is well within the airport’s noise contours. The airport will strongly oppose any development there and it doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway to build somewhere so noisy.

      1. It would therefore make sense as an employment hub. Instead of the East West Link they could encourage business in the Onehunga to Penrose axis to relocate to the area between Puhinui and the airport. It would allow a large amount of land in the desirable isthmus area to be redeveloped to residential and commercial use.

        1. The Onehunga to Penrose industrial area absolutely needs to remain an industrial area. The whole Central Auckland isthmus relies on that industrial area for all the vital city functions that people don’t think about but rely on every day.

          Businesses like:
          – Concrete suppliers (Auckland’s largest concrete batching plants)
          – Asphalt suppliers (Auckland’s largest hot-mix asphalt plants)
          – Construction contractors
          – Horizontal infrastructure (roads, rail, 3 waters, electricity, telecommunications) contractors
          – Reinforcing steel factories
          – Engineering fabricators
          – Timber and other construction material suppliers
          – Demolition contractors
          – Demolition waste recycling depots
          – Waste disposal and recycling depots
          – Paper and glass recycling factories

          If all that industry was forced to relocate to the city fringe then:
          – Increased financial costs would be passed on to customers, directly or indirectly all these costs would ultimately be born by city residents.
          – The large number of truck journeys associated with these industries would be a lot further, increasing congestion, increasing emissions and decreasing safety for all road users.

        2. Don’t know how desirable the isthmus It seems to me all the growth seems to be in the south at the moment. But anyway I take Jezzas point about the noise. So I suppose it would need to be industrial and if its Industrial then it might as well have a heavy rail line for freight to private sidings and passengers to the airport could be thrown in as well.

        3. @LogBear this is one part of the logistics of business and industry that most people don’t understand.

          Integrated planning is not great in Auckland

    2. Puhinui Gateway as it is zoned Industrial and Future Urban Zone (with intention to go Industrial). It is set as Industrial per the Auckland Plan and the Business Land Supply Strategy with industrial vacancies down 0.8% and 1.6% respectively (the BLSS needs enough land for 5% over 5 years at any one time).

      In any case the High Noise Contours of the Unitary Plan would forbid any residential going in that area as well.

      A2B was anticipated to run through an industrial complex and the stops have taken this into account (Industrial Transit Orientated Development anyone).

      With the South to continuing to grow as it is all the industrial land is going to be needed down here.

      Now for the Onehunga to Southdown Heavy Industrial Complex. It is moving or rather it will decamp to the South. Pressure from Residential will trigger that off especially as CC2M makes its eventual way to Onehunga. HOWEVER, the Metro Port Facility and some 1km around it will remain industrial for reasons Nicholas mentioned. But as Lunns Avenue lost its industry and as the Waterfront did before that, we will have to be prepared for Onehunga (but not Southdown) to lose its industry.

      Unfortunately it is the way a City will evolve.

      1. Industrial areas seem to go in and out of fashion. When an industry or distribution business shift it always seems to be to a bigger premise’s so it sure seems to gobble up the land making it harder for it to be serviced with public transport. Then they always seem to include plenty of parking for their staff and visitors. In some ways it would be better if houses were integrated into industrial areas. Much like Onehunga is really.

  6. Good point Ed. And if we want to get serious about reducing emissions; or when it comes to transport in Auckland just do something; then we will build light rail corridors

  7. It’s a signal that they aren’t going to spend any money on public transport, unless it’s to Auckland Airport.

  8. The transportation situation in NZ is indeed become too politicised. This is a bad thing because if we change the government, it will be either delayed or scrapped or replaced with something else. This is not helping the transport situation in NZ. This has been going on for far too long
    I wish they should stop talking about and it get the NZTA or similiar organistation to create a transport blueprint for the next 5-10 years. This way the transport situation will proceed smoothly without interference from the change of the government.

    1. You mean like ATAP? The plan that the previous National government created but didn’t fund, that the Labour government then funded but hasn’t executed?

      1. Similar but we need something which is not being affected by the change of the government. For example National want East-West link and Labour scrapped it is one of the many example. We need something to be set in concrete. Otherwise it will take too long to sort out the transport situation whether by modal type and local/national. It is getting frustrated to see thing being bounced around without making effort to improve the life of NZers. I could go on and on.

        1. I totally agree that it’s desirable but whoever controls the budget will have the last say on spending. There is no way of de-politicising transport spending that couldn’t be overridden by parliament. However we can make moves in the right direction by creating the right institutions and enhancing their capability until politicians are reluctant to interfere. The creation of the Infrastructure Commission is a step in the right direction but it has a long way to go yet.

        2. But we know now that having control of the Budget isn’t enough. If people are determined to look the other way while vital projects get deferred (possibly indefinitely) with no accountability – whether that be because there’s something sexier going down like a pandemic or because the media wants to protect its export-industry of good news stories about a PM, then we are saying there are no consequences for letting the country stagnate and living standards slip. I can’t accept that as a NZer and I can’t accept that for future NZers.

  9. “You don’t get as great of a view as you do from the top deck of a double decker.”
    Honestly: That is not even worth mentioning. It’s only the odd tourist who finds any novelty out of higher decks. I’ve used double-decker buses, trains an even trams in Hong Kong and I can assure you; any novelty wears off after the third time you use it. Besides: It’s not like there’s much in the way of beautiful architecture or urban landscapes in New Zealand that anyone would especially want to look at.

    As for the system in Caen and Nancy that’s been dumped: That was Bombadier’s GLT system, which was a flawed competitor to the better-designed Translohr system, later acquired by Alstom. You can get reasonable nun-down of the advantages & disadvantages of Translohr here: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTL_Translohr

    As for Trackless trams; IMHO they’re a stupid gimmick that we won’t hear about anymore in another decade. Just a bus with a heavier tram’s body & design but without the tighter turning circle. I’m sure they will rut the roads they run on and that the operators will be looking for a replacement just like they have with the aforementioned Bombadier GLT.

    1. Many kids love double deckers, Daniel. I’ve been in the situation where a grumpy child (with quite reasonable reason to be so, if I recall) had his mood entirely changed because the bus that turned up was a double decker.

      But Matt did leave out one disadvantage of double deckers, and that is the danger of falling down the stairs.

      1. Kids love them… …as a novelty. Ask a kid who uses them every day, like kids in London or Berlin, and I guarantee they’d just shrug their shoulders.

    2. I’m not sure that the Translohr system is any better. I understand that Mestre near Venice are going to dump it in favour of light rail. It certainly is a great ride on the rubber wheels

        1. Interesting, did it have big wheel hubs cutting into the space inside, or does it have bogies too?

    3. “Besides: It’s not like there’s much in the way of beautiful architecture or urban landscapes in New Zealand that anyone would especially want to look at.”

      I would suggest that when travelling from around Esmond Road to the Harbour Bridge the view across the harbour to the cityscape would be high on the list of the worlds great commuter views.

    1. bingo!

      Looks like that Yibin one actually has bogies, so these ‘innovative’ and ”new’ tech vehicles are gradually finding much of the proven old tech developed over decades is actually the best solution.

      Some disruptor is soon going to discover that using lower friction steel wheels on dedicated steel guideways is a really foolproof direction control feature. Should patent the idea, make a fortune.

  10. One thing missing from the conversation is the issue of buses (included trackless trams) running of the road or route and killing someone. One of the subliminal advantages of light rail in close proximity to cycle and foot paths is that the chance of them coming off the rails and hitting you is absolutely minimal. People are happy around light rail/conventional trams because they know if they keep just a little bit away from the rails they will need get run over – not so with a bus.

  11. Two questions regarding “trackless trams”. Do they use more energy to move rubber on road as opposed to steel on steel? The other is, do we need more and more rubber on the road when something like 20% of the micro-plastics in the sea are from tyres? Let’s keep with steel on steel.

  12. My comment on the discussion is that it seems to me that trackless trams have been equated with “not light rail” rather than being considered on their merits. We complain about PT choices becoming politicized – and then do exactly the same ourselves when the Nats propose (or suggest) it., and dismiss it out of hand as a ploy. Which of course it may be, but it’s hardly the technology’s fault.

    We dismiss it as a “gimmick” but that’s an easy cheap shot. I acknowledge the technology is not yet there and we don’t want to be a guinea pig, but it does have advantages. Like the cost of installation for example. That could be very low if we forget about guidance systems and just imagine it to be a high capacity articulated electric bus which is not going to rut the road. Given light rail and light metro are still years away from having a system operable in Auckland, I’d be open to any solution that is an advance on the status quo, especially to enhance the network on lines like New Lynn to the airport, Westgate to Constellation, Ellerslie-Botany-Manukau-Airport etc. When will we otherwise see rapid transit on these corridors? Just sayin’. . .

    1. “That could be very low if we forget about guidance systems and just imagine it to be a high capacity articulated electric bus which is not going to rut the road.”
      That would be a bendy bus in a bus lane or on a busway…

  13. National are proposing a solution that can run on roads. Roads that will be built for that for cars.

    They are proposing buses and, in time, buses with greater capacity.

    Bishop knows it and knows his party has been called out on it.

    1. National is hell bent on building a lot lot more roads. A good part of their donor income stream is at stake.
      Trackless trams are just another green washed justification that does not stand scrutiny.

      1. They said the Auckland motorway network was complete with the exception of the East West link. The two additional tunnels in Wellington have been needed for decades, so has a solution to the Basin Reserve.

        There are a lot of roads in NZ which need fixing, someone has to do it. Labour are also getting in on the road building act because they also realise we all use roads.

        1. Or at the moment a large number of us use roads. Sadly there will come a time, and the huge growth in emissions suggests it will be sooner rather than later, when we have to drastically scale back vehicle emissions among other things. Building roads for which we will have less need in the future is just economic madness. As Rutherford said, when money is tight we have to think.
          Europe is showing us how we can adapt.

        2. B*** all of the Wellington Eastern suburbs congestion is caused by traffic to and from the airport.
          By far the greatest bulk of it, is by Eastern suburb residents, just doing mundane things like getting to and from work, education and social and sporting events.
          Travelling by car then requires car storage space in the tightly constrained city centre area, diluting the space unavailable for commercial endeavour, for the duration of their visit.
          Increasing the capacity of part of the car conduit, only displaces the congestion a bit further along the conduit at both ends, and does nothing to address the car storage requirements at both ends of each journey.
          But it does help sell more cars, and direct work and supply provisions towards key donors.

    1. Have you been to Brisbane? They already have a rail line to the airport, this new line is about improving connections from the Coast, which mean they will have two rail based airport transport solutions to Auckland’s zero rail based transport solutions. They will probably have this new line up and running whilst we are still arguing over what form our rail based transport solution will be.

      1. The new light rail extension is about improving access to Gold Coast Airport, near the NSW border, not improving connections to Brisbane Airport.

        1. Yeah Brisbane and the Gold Coast are separate places, and yes i have been, and i have used that train, which is too infrequent to be considered a good role model.

  14. Great discussion about the technology & economics, shame about the politics.

    It’s nice to see this topic getting an airing. The big advantage for me with the trackless tram concept over rail is (of course) the huge cost saving in not having to lay steel track and the (relatively) straightforward opportunity to change/realign routes as the city evolves. Comments above about pollution from tyres & the need to strengthen roadways in particular are well noted and need to be quantified.

    My understanding is that the technology is used in multiple countries, so there should be supplier options. It’s also relatively easy to run trials. Guidance problematic? Provide drivers initially. Electric power supply not readily available? Use (dare I say it?) diesel or other, more acceptable propulsion until preferred routes are tested & electrical charging stations can be established.

    1. meh, the ‘flexibility’ idea. Flexibility is not what you want in your top strata of urban transit, but permanance. People need to be able to make decades long investment decisions based on the route and station locations of your RTN.

      This is car-plagued brain syndrome, making the mistake of thinking the more like a car tranist is the better. Transit is better when it consistently predictably and reliably does its thing, over and over and over. So the city is shaped by it.

      Inflexibility is its virtue.

      1. +1

        This is an underappreciated point. The permanence of rail based systems (or busways with dedicated right of way) means people can be assured they’ll still be there in a few decades.

        1. Permanent solutions for the “top strata of urban transit” is a way to acknowledge and respect the long-term effects transport has on land use.

          “Flexible” urban transit leaves residents, investors, and businesses unable to plan with certainty or – if they think they can and the route gets changed – it can have big effects on their lives or business success.

          “Flexibility” is mainly a car dependent buzzword used ignorantly by people who don’t understand transit and planning. But sometimes it’s used by people who understand its power as a buzzword and its uselessness as a concept. In this case, it’s really a decision to ensure political decision-making can wreak havoc and hold power at any stage.

          There is so much change coming. Both businesses and residents need to be able to depend upon some things to be able to make mature decisions. It’d be good if voters demanded that routes of major urban transit are one of those dependable things.

  15. A bus by any other name, is still a bus! They run on rubber tires and the residue of the tires gets into the air for one thing, and the tires need attention and replacement for another. Light rail beats every argument to have a bus system, it’s a fact!

  16. Proponents of rubber-tyred transport should read this: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment-and-conservation/2019/09/tyres-plastic-polluter-you-never-thought-about.

    Sample quotes:

    “A 2017 study by Pieter Jan Kole at The Open University of The Netherlands, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, estimated that tyres account for as much as 10 percent of overall microplastic waste in the world’s oceans. A 2017 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature put that number at 28 percent.”
    “tyres in the U.S. alone produce about 1.8 million tons of microplastics each year”
    “Modern car tyres require about 7 gallons of oil to make, while truck tyres take 22 gallons.”

  17. I’ve enjoyed this discussion.

    Removing my head from the weeds for a moment and thinking about my next trip to the airport (far in the future), I’m wondering why we seem transfixed by 19th century technology (apologies to all the railway tragics out there) for our short/medium range journeys around the city.

    Using “public” transport and after construction of the light rail/heavy rail/tram route to the airport, my choices for the trip with my luggage will range between walk/wait/bus/wait/bus/wait/train and, at the other extreme – shuttle. On a tight budget? The vast majority of Aucklanders have access to a vehicle (wash my mouth out) of some kind which will substitute for the shuttle.

    There is no doubt that our current love affair with the car is unsustainable, but let’s look to the future, not the past.

    Trackless trams or something similar could fill the gap economically (someone will fix the tyre pollution problem) until we come up with a 21st century solution.

    1. ‘Trackless trams or something similar could fill the gap economically (someone will fix the tyre pollution problem) until we come up with a 21st century solution.’

      This is the problem, National seem to think that Trackless Trams ARE the future 21st Century solution we haven’t reached yet and us peasants here in NZ can use Buses on roads shared with cars.

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