Waterfront Trams FAQ
Here is everything you need to know about the Auckland Waterfront Tramway starting August.
This site has been strongly in favour about the return of light rail to the CBD.
As seemingly the only media that seems to be bothering to cover the tramway extensively in words and pictures over the months, there’s been a large number of reader questions come in to AKT recently asking about it.
Here is a sample of the questions they have sent in and I’ll try to answer them.
Q: “What is it going to look like?”
This is how it is portrayed for Daldy St.
Q: “How much is it costing?”
Q:”Where is it going?”
The heritage tram will simply travel clockwise on a 1.5km circuit of Wynyard Quarter between Jellicoe, Halsey, Gaunt and Daldy Sts .
Q: “What’s the point then? It’s only around the block. What would bring people there?”
The trams will promote on board the Wynyard Quarter attractions. The waterfront trams will have 4 stops along the way: at North Halsey, East Gaunt St, South Daldy St and North Daldy St.
Q: “What can people do if they alight at the stops? Even with the Wynyard development starting to appear, it presently feels a wasteland.”
My walk around the tram circuit route was not one of Auckland’s tourist highlights: a street level open Tournament parking lot, an empty lot, the NZ Bus depot (whose time is running out), the back of a service station and a number of uninteresting semi-industrial looking premises, dwarfed by high rise corporate in the distance.
But this is future-proofing as Wynyard Quarter will be a growing attraction from around the RWC starts and develop further over the years – so this is coming at the start of an exciting transformation to the area.
And it’s starting to look exciting!
The official project plan explains:
Q: “How many people will make the effort to use them or will they be a quaint tourist attraction for people who get dropped off in tourist buses to have a ride around the block before getting back on the buses?”
Q: “Why can’t it at least go to the CBD?”
The original thought was linking it to Britomart via the planned Te Wero bridge but the bridge suffered a delay under the Banks council but is now on its way. Other options looked at to connect it to the CBD and rejected were:
- Connect Halsey Street via Viaduct Harbour Avenue – appealing but difficult because of tight turns and very narrow carriage way and therefore too problematic
- Simply connect up through Fanshawe Street – too congested already with cars and buses
- Take the option of not trying to connect the Wynyard Quarter with the CBD.
Are there moves to get it to Britomart?
The Mike Lee-led Auckland Council transport committee passed a resolution that Auckland Council officers work with Waterfront Development Agency and Auckland Transport to extend the tramway to the Britomart Transport Centre as soon as possible. Let’s hope those bodies can make it happen.
Q: “Besides the Britomart issue, could we not get trams back in the suburbs?”
Art doyen Hamish Keith has argued for trams to run on a loop from K Rd with overhead wires along Ponsonby and Jervois Rds where a larger and more sustainable population could use them. Others are pushing for them to run as far as Dominion Rd and a plan was drawn up to take it via Ponsonby Rd to tourist attractions MOTAT and the Zoo and so linking up with MOTAT’s line.
Q:”The tram lines are in reasonably narrow but busy streets. Will Halsey St become one way?”
Halsey remains two-way. But the intersection near Vodafone will be fun to watch. It is already a busy tricky turning point, especially with the number of buses heading to the nearby NZ Bus depot.
It will intriguing how motorists will cope with trams making the turn, in addition to the heavy traffic – especially as Auckland motorists have not had trams since the 1950s and may never have learnt the intricacies of manoeuvring around them as practised by experienced locals in Melbourne!
Q: “What’s happening to the popular street parking there, especially handy for visitors to the corporates and businesses around even Beaumont? My business around there needs it.”
There will be the loss of numerous back street short-term public car parking spaces as the tracks are laid too near the kerb to allow the parking that was there.
Q:”How does the MOTAT tramway do?:
MOTAT has a heritage tram service. In the last 12 months, the trams have carried 176,111 passengers, 9956 or 6% more than the previous year.
But the trams are at a destination – a museum- and so riding them is part of the experience of exploring old transport exhibits there. The tram ride is also free with every museum entry or only $2 return for an adult, $1 for a child or a family of 2 adults and 4 kids can ride return for $5. We have yet to see what the charges will be for the waterfront trams.
The increase is riding the trams was also accompanied by an increase in visitors to MOTAT itself in the last 12 months - a total of 266,273 admissions which represents an 8.5% increase in numbers on the previous year.
Q: “This feels rushed”
The tram option happened because the money required was available and it was considered by advocates a start to get light rail back in Auckland on the much-used pretext of getting it done for the RWC2011. It was pushed by the ARC and there was a rush to get it across the line before Auckland Transport arrived. If it hadn’t, the whole idea may have been buried as so often happens in Auckland. Mike Lee was the advocate that got it moving and we have him to thank.
Once it starts and as Wynyard develops, there could be other options including using modern light rail which extends to other places.
Q: “Are we not getting modern light rail as I have seen overseas?”
For now, we have to lease an old W2 and X1 from Bendigo’s tram museum in Victoria. There has been talk of having a loan of light rail from Japan but this may have been halted because of the quake. Light rail will cost more than leasing a couple of old trams.
So what are the trams we have got?
Waterfront Auckland has leased two 1920’s trams – a W2 Class Tram and X-1 Class Tram – to run on the tracks.
The 17 tonne, 48 feet long W2 tram has a seating capacity of 52 and a 2-person tram (driver and conductor). The 9 tonne, 31 feet long X-1 tram has a seating capacity of 32 and requires one person – the driver.
What colour are they?
They have both been painted in the original 1950’s ‘carnation red’, and emblazoned with “Waterfront Auckland Trams ”livery.”
Who is running it?
The same people who run the Christchurch tramway but under a separate company. The tramway will be very similar in appearance to MOTAT’s in Western Springs and the heritage circuit in Christchurch. The Christchurch tramway has yet to resume but it’s thought to have suffered “minor damage” overall according to its website.
Can I become a driver?
They were advertising. Nine have been chosen.
I work in the area. Won’t they be noisy?
Waterfront Auckland says a unique installation technique is being used in in the track installation. It involves a specific type of polyurethane which gets poured into the trench which the tracks sit in. This grout acts as a shock absorber and provides significant reduction in the sound and vibration that occurs.
This is the first time the installation method has been used in the southern hemisphere and whilst it is great for the ambience of the surrounding area, it has proven to provide real headaches for the installers! The reason being the polyurethane grout has a consistency of water when it’s poured into the track trenches it goes solid in less than 10 minutes. Not exactly easy considering the tracks need to be set to exact specifications down to the millimetre.
How much will the fares be?
The Wynyard Quarter trams will cost $10 for an all day pass.
It will be free for children 16 years and under accompanied by an adult (to a max. of 3 children per adult). Otherwise it’s $5 for a child ticket.
The service is being run by the same people who run the Christchurch heritage tram service. The Christchurch fares are $17 for an adult and $5 for a child.
Can they go across the new bridge providing pedestrian and cycle access from the Auckland Viaduct to Wynyard Quarter which provides a direct link from the end of Te Wero Island in the east, to Gateway Plaza in the west?
No. The bridge is too small. The bridge plan had a bit of a chequered past under the old Council and its grandiose plans got knocked back and delayed.
What has the construction involved?
The project includes the laying of tracks and road renewal, as well as installing the over-head wires at approximately 6m in height. The project involves:
- Construction of the tramway infrastructure
- Supporting overhead infrastructure including poles and overhead wires at approximately 6m in height
- Tram stops
- Removal / pruning of existing Pohutukawa trees on Halsey Street and Gaunt Street
There are two stages.
- Stage 1 provides a permanent track within Jelllicoe, Halsey and Gaunt streets and a temporary route running parallel to Daldy Street.
- The second will further integrate the tram route and associated infrastructure (such as light columns, tram stops and street furniture) into the built form.
Latest pictures of the construction are here