Councillor Paul Bruce of Wellington Regional Council (Greater Wellington) puts the case for making crucial decisions about the shape of Wellington’s transport network before a decision is made on the Ganz Mavag train refurbishment.
A major decision on new spending is about to be made on the Ganz Mavag refurbishment.
However, the Ganz refurbishment cannot be considered in isolation.
It is one piece of a larger picture, which, if played wrong, could stymie consideration of the full range of options available to us in a truly integrated transport network.
Officers have provided a range of options in a refurbishment program. However, these
do not include tram-train.
The Ngauranga to Airport (N2A) transport study specifically excluded light rail with an unsubstantiated claim that Wellington did not have the density to support it.
In contrast the 1995 (Wellington) Light Rail Transit Feasibility Study gave a Cost-Benefit Ration (CBR) of 2.2 for several light rail options. And US cities with lower densities are moving back to tram, modern tram and tram-train in the light of rising fuel prices,the realization of the economic benefits of transit orientated development and good urban form.
Bearing that in mind, any refurbishment of the Ganzes should be limited to what is required to keep them running until an informed decision can be made about the shape of the rail system including an extension south of Wellington railway station, and through the region’s other city centres (eg Lower Hutt and Porirua).
I want to emphasis to Council, that the section most needing attention now is Wellington City, as anybody who uses public transport daily will tell you. Our surveys show that the public want above all, reliability and good connections. Indeed, they elected a new Mayor standing on a platform of good choices.
10,000 people arrive at Wellington railway station during peak hours…. yet most have another destination. And another 20 to 30,000 choose the private car instead, because they found the broken link too inconvenient. Well over 100 buses are timed to pass north through the Golden Mile during the peak pm hour, often 8 in a row, a recipe for delay.
The network does not function south of the Station and rail passengers are faced with the prospect of walking or using slow and overloaded bus services.
Thus there are strong arguments to say that we should sort out that question before spending a lot of money on either upgrading or replacing the Ganz units.
Given that it would take at least 4 years to upgrade the old units or purchase new trains, the argument for buying light rail vehicles looks even stronger than in 1995. We could buy light rail vehicles now and use them on the Melling or Johnsonville line in the short term until the city route is ready. That would free up Matangi to be used on the other lines, with the Ganz only needed in the peak.
There is some urgency to this, as we need to put indicative information in front of the public in the Proposed Annual Plan.
It is about time that we broke the mould, and began to fix the network.
It is about time that we looked to reduce long term costs of travel.
Council must give priority to consideration of the scope and context of the high quality public transport feasibility study, ahead of making a decision on a full refurbishment program.
Council must recognize that the refurbishment program of the Ganz units cannot be made in isolation to other transport programs.
Cr Paul Bruce
Comparison to Roads of National Significance (RoNs)
The cost of the tram train extension through the city could produce greater time savings than any RoNs upgrades, yet cost less than 20% of the planned total roading expenditure.
In the time of cuts to household budgets, we can produce huge regional savings, which should impress Rodney Hide and Bill English.
In his keynote presentation at the Environment Institute conference in October, Prof Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, Perth reminded us of the futility of further highway expansion as a ‘solution’ for urban transport, and asserted that Wellington has more motorway per resident than any city in the world.
Tram train benefits
American cities confirm Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) running costs are 60 per cent per passenger-kilometre that of bus transport and that means there is a financial break even point by year 10. Thereafter, LRVs financial advantage accumulates for the rest of their total 35-year life.
A rail vehicle has a life span two to three times, and a capacity of three times that of a bus. A light rail vehicle can be repaired normally within hours with modular parts (replacement bogies and cabs) and generally needs less repairs and maintenance than a bus and consequently less time out of service.
Their congestion-free corridors make them independent of gridlock. They will complete a journey in 30 per cent less time than a bus.
20 years ago, Karlsruhe in Germany produced a new vehicle, part tram and part train now called the tram-train that has now dominated the area there the size of Hamilton to Whangarei. Twenty odd cities are in the process of embracing this technology with many more planning similar systems.
Their wide and more numerous doors allow entrance and exit of passengers that cuts dwell time at stops to less than half that of a bus. Their smooth and quiet running and spacious interiors attract a clientele that would never use a bus. The lack of exhaust fumes is a tremendous health advantage.
Motion to Greater Wellington Regional Council 14th December 2010
“That a full refurbishment program of the Ganz Mavag should not proceed until a decision has been made by the full Council on the N2A high quality public transport feasibility study project scope and context and route choices and those parts of the Corridor Plan/RON network that will be included, including conditions of wider PT network for future years (ie extent of train upgrade, form of bus network)”.