The question of what to do about the Auckland Dockline Tram appears to be rearing its head again, with the group behind it presenting their latest version of a proposal to the City Centre Residents Group  (CCRG) earlier this week.

As the tweet from the CCRG highlights, the proposal is for tracks to be extended along the waterfront as far as Quay St. This is a shorter version of what has been proposed in the past – and like then, the most challenging aspect is the need to build a new lifting bridge across the entrance to the Viaduct Harbour.

The proposal suggests that this could be as either a separate bridge beside the existing one, or that the existing bridge is replaced with a combined bridge.

It’s worth noting that Eke Panuku Development Auckland wanted to replace the existing bridge prior to the America’s Cup, saying it needed to be replaced as it “is reaching the end of its useful life“. They proposed a new bridge that twists and lifts –  and at 6m wide, was slightly wider than the existing one, which is just 4m wide and which can get very crowded at times. But even that proposed 6m bridge is way too narrow.

The tram was last discussed in 2018 when, after operation having been disrupted for years due to construction in the Quarter, councillors voted against the recommendation of officers and agreed to spend around $6.6 million to reinstate the service.

The problem with the tram has always been that it doesn’t have a transport purpose. It’s a tourist gimmick, a horizontal Ferris wheel if you will. As described by MOTAT: “The Auckland Dockline Tramway is a 1.5 km circular tour around Wynyard Quarter with a short commentary provided by the Tram Driver along the way.”

And while it’s cheap to ride ($2 adult, $1 child, seniors and under-5s free), it’s not cheap to run: back in 2018 Panuku estimated it cost about $190,000 per annum to operate, yet over its entire existence from 2011 to 2018 it had only collected about $330,000 in revenue  – and most of that was from its initial operating months during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

To make it at least somewhat useful, it would need to be extended as far the Ferry Terminal so it would at least connect people to ferries, along with trains at Britomart and the Downtown Bus Interchange.

It would also need modern low-floor light rail vehicles that allow those with mobility issues to access the service.

I suspect the proposal to get the tracks to Quay St is in part that it would then create pressure to extend it further.

Exetnding the tracks to the Ferry Terminal would make for a return loop of pretty much exactly 3km with a round trip possible in 10-12 minutes. With two vehicles and the right timing, a 7.5 minute frequency service could be run.

But there’s a major elephant in the room with this. What happens when a boat arrives or departs from Viaduct Harbour? Currently, due to a deal done back when the bridge was first built, boats have priority, and can enter or leave the harbour whenever they want. The management of the bridge/s would need to changem otherwise the trams would quickly become hopeless unreliable, especially on weekends.

It’s not like Wynyard isn’t already served well by public transport, either. Currently there are three frequent buses that enter the area: the City Link, the 20 and the 75. At the southern end there is also great access from all of the North Shore buses entering the city centre. There’s also been the suggestion of extending other buses there, such as the Tamaki Link and the 30 from Manukau Rd.

If the tram could be extended along Quay St, operated with modern vehicles and integrated into HOP, I’m sure it would be far more popular than it is now. The questions are:

  • would it be popular enough
  • how much does it cost
  • and who’s paying for it?

On cost, the proponents seem to think the bridge alone could be built for $8-15 million depending on which option was chosen. That doesn’t seem very realistic, given Eke Panuku’s replacement pedestrian/bike bridge was expected to cost close to $26 million – and that was before the current high inflation we’re experiencing.

The proposed replacement for the existing bridge

Whatever the cost is – who is meant to pay for it? If the expectations are that the council does, how does this stack up against all the other projects vying for funding, especially in an environment with what we’re told is a huge funding gap?

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  1. Why extend the Dockline Tram? Because Waiheke Sea Goblin and “Boomer for Putin” Mike Lee got re-elected and he loves useless dinky “heritage” garbage

    1. I don’t know much about Mike Lee, but your Sea Goblin and Boomer for Putin nicknames have me intrigued – there’s clearly a story here. Care to expand on it?

    2. Saw yesterday that Mike Lee lost Waitemata, but won Great Barrier and won Waiheke..surely its a) time to seperate the islands b) time to stop giving old dinosaur any say in anything.

      Auckland, I really do despair for you / me / us

    3. Someone mentions the dockline tram, and within minutes “Daphne” is attacking Mike Lee. How pathetic that after all these years you are still triggered so easily by the man who did more for PT in Auckland than anyone else in living memory. Mike Lee is back, and he’ll soon be a director of Auckland Transport as well. Finally, positive change is coming.

    4. Daphne that is a typical stupid Kiwi response. Kiwis in general lacking any form of taste and culture, on a world scale, are generally stupid because of their lack of concern for heritage.

    5. “heritage garbage” I’ll have you know it’s farm from garbage, it’s a mode of transport that has transported people from place to place for years. And it’s still useful to this day. Clearly you need to be re-educated on how to value our heritage.

  2. They need to scrap the Wynyard tram, because for the last few years the anti-LR crew have used it as an example of how Light Rail won’t work.

    Also I worked in Wynyard Quarter for 4 years, and I never once saw the tram running. Must be a weekend-only thing eh?

    1. I’ve only been in Wynyard Quarter about twice in the last 4 years, and I went on the heritage tram both times, and it worked fine. Shouldn’t go across the viaduct on a bridge though – that’s just asking for trouble.

      Interestingly, last time I was on the tram, I was talking to the driver about how it was mixing with cars, and as he was saying how safe and reliable it was, someone backed their car into the path of the tram, and Crunch. Small collision. No damage to the tram of course, as it is made of steel, but the plastic bumper of the car was a bit buggered. But that’s the main worry for extending a tram route, from somewhere which is largely car free, to somewhere where there is more traffic. Better that it does not go across the Viaduct – ain’t no harm in people walking that short distance.

      1. “largely car free” – not really. The huge amount of parking in the area has had the logical effect. If this is considered “largely car free” it’s only in comparison to full car saturation elsewhere.

        1. my apologies. There are cars, indeed, but it is less vehicled than Fanshawe St, for instance. As in, Fanshawe is a non-stop traffic sewer, but Wynyard is relatively light on moving traffic, by comparison.

          A more logical route for the tram, if we could put the horrors of the Fanshawe St sewer to one side for a while, would be for the tram to do a full loop around the outside of the Viaduct – Gaunt St, Pakenham St, Customs St etc. But, because of traffic, and/or rich people living nearby, that ain’t never gonna happen. Which is a pity because those areas would be quite nice with less cars…

    2. Totally agree. Trams are cute but serve little transport function and isn’t that what Auckland is aiming for – a good transport system. Trams won’t add to this and will only suck up money needed elsewhere.

  3. All good, I say go for it.
    As long is it doesn’t screw up any buses, doesn’t take funds away from proper transport projects, and people don’t claim it’s a reason to stop real public transport improvements. It’s fun, and it’s pretty cheap.

  4. There is already a good bus connection to the Western Rail line. I see heaps of workers (many with AT ID cards) get off the #20 bus at Kingsland and head down to the rail station.

    1. I agree but extend it all the way to the stand so people coming in to the city by rail don’t just end up dumped in the middle of nowhere with no transfer links like they do right now.

  5. The current, ‘temporary’ bridge being accessible only to pedestrians and cyclists was seen as a compromise at the time, but I think it has been unexpectedly beneficial. If a larger bridge is built it will inevitably end up carrying cars and buses at some stage.

    The requirement to open for boats gives an endearingly nautical feel to the whole area as well.

  6. $8-15m to extend a loss making, unpopular theme park ride? No thanks. Let’s get started on actual light rail. That much money could get us a big chunk of Queen Street built.

      1. The Wynyard tourist tram is not light rail, the proposed route will not be a part of a useful light rail line in the next 30 years. If it is this or nothing, I would far rather nothing.

        I actually think that light rail tracks on Queen Street would be very popular and an easy sell, but needs to be a trojan horse, i.e. built for LRT but sold as a dinky tram.

        1. Exactly. This is also how tram networks were originally built. Expanded in bits. This generally a much better way to build stuff as well, rather than mega projects. The motorway spruikers figured this out long ago.

          Do this extension, buy a couple modern trams from overseas. No need for anything special, we are running standard gauge trams. ie

          Do another extension up queen street. This is a (significantly) more viable pathway to filling bus shortcomings on the isthmus than the current LR proposal.

        2. I agree, but I think adding Wynyard Quarter in as a destination on a loop that already exists, where the road allocation bit has already happened, is probably going to be of benefit in the long run.

          Hell, if you connect Queen St, the University or the hospital then you’d probably have the makings of a decent cross-central service – with just one of those destinations.

          Then the key is to gimmick the shit out of it with things like dining trams with the support of local eateries, or party trams or whatever. Give me a stag do riding around in a tram all night. Something different, something for people to adopt as being so dumb it’s fun.

          And then once it’s part of the environment and people want to use it and enjoy it – bam – Tamaki Drive, North West Auckland, the Central City routes, etc. But if you get the early bits staged properly then people will do the lobbying for the extras for you.

        3. Yes, but this extension runs a long a nice walkable path at the waterfront with no car traffic. It would not replace a single car trip and would actually decrease the quality of the walking path if you have to watch out for trams. This all for a couple of million dollars? No, thanks.
          Wynyard as a destination is great, but even a small extension would need to at go to Aotea square at the very least, university, K-Road, hospital/domain would be far better destinations of a first extension.
          A while ago I jokingly suggested connecting MOTAT by tram. I would like to repeat that suggestion 😉

        4. Ummm, The tracks and overhead on the Dockline Tramway built and installed to light rail standards and for pantographs. The only difference between LR and a tram is the vehicle and both can operate on the same track. The only reason that the tramway wasn’t a commercial success is it was only half built. City and Sea designed it initially along Te Wero Crossing and Quay Street in 2010. It was the rush to put in a temporary bridge that stalled the whole thing. I don’t know about you, but as a local or a tourist, I would much prefer to go via the Waterfront than via sterile Fanshawe Street.

    1. Like many Kiwis Sailor Boy is a pathetic waste of space. So many Kiwis have no understanding of what exists outside of their pathetic little country. Heritage Trams, are all the rage overseas, with the San Francisco F line being a superb example of how to use heritage as a practical and attractive shuttle service. People Like Sailor Boy are visionless fools.

  7. How would costings look if instead of the bridge being changed, the tram/light rail ran either down Halsey to Fanshaw street through to Quay?

    Or even a dedicated bridge for LR cutting from Madden to Customs St West or further around the Viaduct Harbour Ave? I walked from Commercial Bay to Baduzzi recently with visitors to Auckland (down Viaduct Harbour Ave rather than the quicker route over the bridge), and it felt like a decent walk; would have taken the tram if there was one.

    The latter (new bridge) would just mean larger boats have to be moved to the seaward side of the new bridge or have restricted entry/exit times

    I think building some light rail is still an advantage; when you see them working, it becomes a selling point. They could do mostly modern trams like in Sydney, but like Melbourne, also throw on some vintage trams on the same route for tourists over the week and during events.

    1. Agreed. Running trams over a lifting bridge is dumb. Go from the South-East corner of the existing loop, then Viaduct Harbour Ave, Customs Street West and Lower Hobson St. to Quay St. Then along Quay to Tangihua St.
      Or alternatively continue down Customs St. West to Beach Road with future plans to go down The Strand.

      1. The more I look at it, the more I see Fanshawe St ‘traffic sewer’ being the cheapest option as a lane could be turned into a bus/tram lane and run through to Customs or Quay st.

        Or terminate in the new downtown carpark/transport hub and link to the Queen st line there

        1. I’d like to see Fanshawe St trenched as part of a rail link from Britomart to the shore a la CRL. The trams don’t offend me as a tourist thing.

  8. A bog standard hollow core super-tee bridge would cost in the region of $15-20m. There is no chance that a bespoke lifting bridge would cost the same, especially if it had to meet the tolerances of a tram line every time it went up and down. I can’t see a way for any of the tram costs to be justified or why they should be so heavily subsidised.

  9. For those that have never been on the Tram which is now run by Motat on Weekends and Public Holidays , this I filmed on a Sunday just after it restarted during the Americas cup . And extending that extra few hundred metres will help those that want to get to the Wynyard Quarter easier than waiting for a Red bus that may or may not turn up . And it also will connect to the Maritime Museum . ;-

    1. David L – I am going to buy you a Tripod for Christmas – either that or an editing suite. I get motion sickness every time I watch one of your videos. They are, sadly, unwatchable…

      1. average human;-I do have a tripod but when I film in places around Auckland I get growled by AT’s insecure guards as they think I am doing commercial filming , and also a number of years ago I had a mild stroke which also doesn’t help with the filming also and I have edit alot of the rubbish filming out of it . And when you try to film free hand in moving vehicle like that it’s hard to keep the camera static .

        1. If you get the chance, google “pvc gimbal” to see how to make a small rig to keep filming nice and stable, it’s a fun weekend project

        2. Logan – Thanks for , will do after I move in to my new place as right now most of my stuff is in boxes .

  10. Auckland is such a bland unimagitive place you can’t even decide about this tram then you start debating about bridges and cars and buses who’s going to pay and so it goes on . Christchurch has heritage trams they just got on and did it and it’s very popular. This single issue sums up in a nutshell why Auckland has the worst public transport system in NZ,you just can’t make a decision about anything and if you do it promptly gets scrapped and they start all over again with another idea.

    1. Bit stiff isn’t it, Pete? It’s not like the readers here are the decision makers.
      If it were up to me I’d roll out simple protected cycleways everywhere by reallocating roadspace. Light rail is great but cycleways are transformational.

    2. “Christchurch has heritage trams they just got on and did it and it’s very popular. ”

      So does Auckland. Heritage trams aren’t public transport in Auckland or Christchurch.

  11. The city link is a bit of a tease coming from Britomart or the ferry you need to cross over Custom street and walk up Queen street to catch it. The tram route would be easier and more direct. The bridge is a problem however I expect a lot of people walk rather than taking the city link so they probably already factor in that they may have to wait so is it any different if you’re on a tram. You would hope the tram speed would be faster than walking. But it’s a bit hard to see it operating on a fixed timetable. So maybe just have one tram in the circuit if you want to avoid bunching but then frequency go outs the window. It’s hard to believe the cost of the original tram way of $8 million even so it should have being extended over a bridge at the time. Would I be right in thinking that the original Wynard loop was built in the days before the Super city was invented maybe it was why the Super City was invented. However I was just thinking the other day of how disappointed I was when the Manukau branch line was built short of the Manukau Mall but that in hind sight it hasn’t worked out so bad. I was also advocating for the Onehunga branch to be rebuilt down to the old Port at the time and still feel vindicated that its termination at Onehunga was a tragic mistake. Because where a line starts and ends is important so why stop at the Ferry building our Mayor wants to shut a lot of the port so potentially it could run to at least the Parnell baths if not further or maybe even to the end of Bledisloe wharf if he gets his way over discontinuing car imports. A wharf tramway that would be a blast.
    It would be best to keep the Ministry of Transport and Waka Kotahi ,Auckland Transport and any Labour politician away from any prospective project or it might end up in a tunnel and it certainly won’t cost $8 million that wouldn’t cover the consultants fees.

    1. +1 ‘ might end up in a tunnel…’
      My Thomas the Tank engine brain jumped in with the Fat Controller bricking up Henry in the tunnel because he wouldn’t go out in the rain. Seems like some sort of metaphor.

  12. Way more money wasted on other things rather than this tram. No reason for it not to extend all the way to mission bay! It was never given any chance by anyone hence the loss making! it is very popular in ChCh cost a lot less the LR to the Wynyard Quarter too

  13. Waste of time. Either leave it as a tourist thing or should be a full tram/light rail/whatever running from Wynyard to St Heliers along the waterfront but that will never happen.

  14. If we go for a Surface Light Rail down Queen Street (see article last week) then extending this to Wynyard along the proposed route seems to be a natural idea.

    This would definitely require the bridge to work around the Light-Rail however. Probably something like a window every 30 minutes could be arranged.

    Longer term the viaduct route could be part of a loop route similar to to the Inner Link. If it gets a stop on the new North Shore rail link then there would not be any buses needing to go into the area.

  15. This has nothing to do with effective PT. Much more value to be gained by extending the Tamaki Link through to Wynyard, crossing a new bridge if there is a cost close to the benefit. Light Rail might go over or under the harbour to North Shore, touching at Wynyard on the way perhaps. Any Dockline Tram extension can only get in the way of other activities. you could think about it if there were a fixed timline programme in place and funded for moving port activities and adding access attractions, but that is still a distant dream.
    Fanshawe is not so much of a traffic sewer off-peak, just unsafe to cross freely, but will still need to carry a lot of buses as well as perhaps carrying bikes, and not much of a view for tourists.
    Once the Council budget gap is sorted and the serious projects are funded, if Mike Lee can whip up private sector investment to cover all the costs…..

    1. I think a new bridge just to avoid reallocating lanes on Fanshawe is the sort of waste that we cannot afford.

      Fanshawe will be very pleasant for residents – which is the important metric – as well as for tourists, once it’s put on a major diet. Micromobility lanes, wider footpaths, lines of trees, a tram or light rail line. Would be lovely.

  16. Council has a $270M fiscal hole + CRL cost overrun to try and pay for. I can’t see a substantial loss making idea getting much traction, especially as it doesn’t achieve much more than the existing bus services.
    If it was built, I’d hope it was extended up Anzac Ave past universities and on to Mt Eden station

  17. Please for the love of god, no more throwing good money after bad on this piece of junk. Not once have I ever even seen a tram running.

    Also I know this might not be popular around here, but the entire point of a wharf is for boats. They literally can’t go anywhere else other than the waters edge. The whole North Wharf/Wynyard development was sold as a “working wharf”. Compromising boat access for a dumb toy tram is ridiculous, although I’m fine with more managed access when large numbers are in the area for events. I’d suggest the fact the bridge lifts so boats can pass is indeed one of the attractions of the area.

  18. They could replace it with those twee fake open trolleys they have in Waikiki. Tourists seem to like them and because they are buses they can go anywhere.

  19. I think we should instead start extending the MOTAT tram up Great North Rd towards town. First Grey Lynn, then K Rd, then Queen St…

  20. It currently runs old heritage trams but I suppose the question is could there be a modern tram built to run on the same tracks and overhead lines? . If so then why not extend it? .
    It really doesn’t matter what runs on the line as long as the Tra KS and overhead lines are extending and can take a modern light rail car in the future.
    I would agree with other that the bridge is an unnecesary expense and there are plenty of other routes it could go. Maybe through Victoria oak and then the markets and up the hill to te Wai Horotiu station?

    Maybe Mike Lee is a bit older and wiser and likes to get things started in small easily palatable bites rather than massive mega projects which never get across the line.

  21. The author states “The problem with the tram has always been that it doesn’t have a transport purpose. It’s a tourist gimmick, a horizontal Ferris wheel if you will. As described by MOTAT: “The Auckland Dockline Tramway is a 1.5 km circular tour around Wynyard Quarter with a short commentary provided by the Tram Driver along the way.”

    And thats the whole purpose of a heritage tram. Its never pretended to be public transport. Its an attraction in its own right. Similar to Christchurch, make it a feature of the city. Or for those jealous of Christchurch, look at Memphis. They run a heritage tram network. I don’t know how the financials stack up, but when in Memphis its one of the things to do.

    And stop confusing the issue by bring modern low lying light rail into the conversation. This is a heritage tram, end of story.

    Could it be successful? Look at the MOTAT trams at Western Springs. Check out how many passengers that service carries between the 2 MOTAT sites, the Gt Nth Road main site and the Aviation Hall.

      1. I really can’t see a way around the bridge issue. And even if you could, I am not sure I would bother with the loop.

        I would run this in a straight line east to west. Its heritage fits in with Silo Park, North Wharf and the Ferry Building, along the red fence and Port (while its still there). And I would push it (in stages) as far west as I could. Could tie in with developments at Quay Park and the Port. Hobson Bay is about where it would end, looks problematic from there.

  22. Please give as many trams to Auckland as possible and please do not listen to people that are against them, for whatever petty reasons. All developped modern cities have extended tramways and there’s readons for that.

  23. Surely these trams should be only for the Special Character areas? /s

    Everywhere else will have to do with modern surface level light rail….

  24. The light rail line currently constructed in Wynyard Quarter is actually phase two of a public transport link designed in 2009 by the ARC and Sea +City to connect Wynyard Quarter with Britomart and the Ferry buildings. Phase one of the light rail line from the Ferry Buildings via Quay St to Jellicoe St was not constructed because of the bridge cost. So the purpose of the line was and should be public transport. It was not constructed with the intention of being a place-making activity or a tourist ride.

    In 2008 & 2009 multiple reports were commissioned by Auckland Council identifying the benefits of a direct public transport connection between Britomart and the Ferry buildings via Quay Street to Wynyard Quarter.

    1. The cost-benefit identified totaled $29.4 million (2009 dollars) more than the cost of the construction of a light rail capable walking and cycling bridge.

    2. Other benefits included the removal of 30 tonnes of co2 per annum from the atmosphere created by freeing up traffic movement on Fanshaw St by reducing the number of bus trips. Given that trams (aka Light Rail) run on electricity one might consider this a sustainability/climate emergency opportunity.

    A few other considerations.

    1. The cost of operating the trams on Sundays and Public holidays only is not $190,000 per annum as this doesn’t include any management overhead. The trams only run on these days because AT and Panuku constrained the operation so heavily to make it uneconomic and unjustifiable to expand. MOTAT must be underwriting the management expense as the amount stated is slightly lower than the Panuku Tram operating budget.

    2. Having LGOIMA requested the information on Te Wero bridge openings on the busiest week on record, vessel movements in and out of the area requiring the bridge to open would have little to no impact on a 7.5-minute tram departure schedule. They would wait longer at the lights to enter Quay St.

    3. Constructing the line to the edge of Quay St is a waste of time. At worst extend it to the bus interchange in the Bus lanes.

    4. There is more than sufficient space for walking cycling and light rail within the available corridor between Quay St and Jellicoe Street.

    5. The 2009 economic benefit of $29.4 million is now $39,766,204.52. The bottom line is if we had built the stupid thing as planned it would have already paid for itself.

    Congratulations Panuku and Auckland Transport on an excellent job achieved to your usual standards. Now go block some roads and not build stuff like usual.

    1. Tangential problem at the location where you’ve said the tram would wait a long time – the entrance to Quay St. Bad urban planning of Princes Wharf means the excessive parking there has induced a lot of traffic, and the wait times for pedestrians there is way too long. Adding an extra phase for a tram once every 7.5 minutes isn’t going to help that. Clearly the holistic solution is to reduce the parking on Princes Wharf. Should that be done at the same time as this project? How would it be achieved legally? Or do you have a different solution?

      1. You will be thrilled to know that Wilson Parking recently applied to INCREASE the parking ‘to operate a 780-bay parking facility on Princes Wharf at 137-147 Quay Street in Auckland Central, Auckland with approximately 27% of the bays available for short-term nonaccessory parking and the remainder 73% of the bays leased to local businesses or apartment owners / occupants.’

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