The Trams Are Back!


Another legacy the ARC and especially chair Mike Lee leaves for Auckland.

The electric trams are back after 50 years -on the Auckland waterfront.

The project’s first phase will see heritage trams circuiting the 30 hectare redeveloped Wynyard Quarter linking it with Britomart.

Mike Lee calls it “a modest beginning, but the longest journey starts with one small step. Auckland’s popular electric trams were removed from the city streets in 1956 which was a terrible mistake in my opinion.”

The great thing is he has managed to get it through before Auckland Transport takes over in November. Brilliant work, once again Mike Lee!

The ARC has signalled it would like to see MOTAT’s heritage trams used but has also been in discussions with officials of the Victorian government seeking some Melbourne trams on long term loans from there.

Melbourne sources in fact tell AKT that the Victorian government has indicated it would donate two of its heritage trams for the Auckland project but this would require some touch up work at the Auckland end. Spare parts would also be thrown in.

Motat trains will run along the waterfront

The proposal was first brought to the ARC’s Transport and Urban Development Committee last year by the Campaign for Better Transport and MOTAT.

Feasibility studies have been carried out by the ARC and Sea+City who developed a two phased proposal for the tramway.

Phase one will focus on Wynyard Quarter with a single track loop circuiting Gateway Plaza, Jellicoe Street, Halsey Street, Gaunt Street and Beaumont Street. This is planned to be ready in time for the Rugby World Cup.

Sidings at the western end of Jellicoe Street would house the trams in buildings beside the proposed Silo Park which is being designed to attract people to the western end of Jellicoe Street.

Phase two will see the trams linking to the CBD and connecting with existing public transport at Britomart and on Queen Street.

In approving the project the ARC has recommended Sea+City to work with MOTAT on the technical aspects of tramway construction and management.

John Dalzell, Chief Executive and Project Director for Sea+City, says the concept of running trams around Wynyard Quarter will further activate the area for public use and enjoyment.

Trams as they were in downtown Auckland until 50 years ago

No decisions have been made on who will operate the tramway which is being billed as an attraction for the public and visitors to Auckland while providing convenient access around the whole Wynyard Quarter.

The tramway will eventually link the future Wynyard Headland Park, North Wharf and the Viaduct Events Centre with Britomart and Queens Wharf.

One problem issue that is unresolved is how to connect the Wynyard Quarter to Britomart and while the Te Wero bridge seems the best solution, that is about five years away.

This leaves options such as trying to connect Halsey Street via Viaduct Harbour Avenue - a problem because of tight turns and a very narrow carriage way or to connect up through Fanshawe Street but I would expect this would face opposition because of the high car volumes there.

So it’s’ been decided to embark on the project but worry about connecting the Wynyard Quarter with the CBD later.

A tramway running along Jellicoe, along Halsey, back along Gaunt and northward along Beaumont would be only 1.5 km long, affordable and can be started now, especially in MOTAT trams are used at least initially.

No one has yet revealed the cost - during earlier ARC discussions, a $30m figure was bandied about by “experts” but Christchurch sources tell AKT such a tramway, including tracks, overhead and other infrastructure would cost $4,500 per metre. Those sources suggest that the proposed 1.5 km Wynyard Quarter tramway would cost around $6.7m.

CBT’s Jon Reeves says it’s fantastic to see CBT’s proposal actioned and to have a Regional Council with decisive vision for public transport that enhances quality of life for the city and adds to tourism potential.

“It’s a small start with trams in the Waterfront area to commence with(hopefully by winter 2011). However, after 50 years of private motoring dominance, another good example of the change in attitude towards public transport enhancements.”




  1. Brad H says:

    What a terrible idea to use ancient old trains.

    Surely this should be the start of a modern light rail network. So why not use modern trams or light rail.

    Using old trains just makes it appear to be a tourist trap that will provide no benefit to the wider community or make us look at all future or forward thinking.

  2. Anthony says:

    it is always best to used old trams for the waterfront first so the council can trial them without spending too much of thier money (not that im againest the idea like some other car lovers) , if it works well then there will be a good chance of expanding the network by using modern trams and the occasional 20th century one.

  3. Matt L says:

    I’m all for putting in tram lines with modern trams, running on routes that are beneficial (like down Dominion Rd) but I’m with Brad in thinking that this is just going to end up a tourist trap. We are just trying to make up heritage where there is none by using old trams. If we want heritage then perhaps the tram sheds could be one of the sheds off Queens wharf.

  4. DanC says:

    Anything will be great. Using the old trams will be cheaper and cheaper gets the city big cats vote so I’m all for it.

  5. Jon C says:

    It won’t happen if we wait for money for new trams or light rail.Fact. Fullstop.
    This is a start.
    If something doesnt happen before November it will never happen. It wont be Auckland Transport’s priority.This is the only way it can happen in the next few months.
    This means a service is established. It can only improve..

  6. Simon says:

    Yeah Mike Lee has done this so it get`s started otherwise we`d be waiting 20 years. I think it`s important it does become a commuter service and the ARC in its media release was quick to focus on the increased number of residents in the area it will run in the future so they are looking into the future. To those who often go on about the lack of foresight and planning for PT in Auckland but have criticised this I have a question.How often can we say that a local/regional body has looked into and taken into account the future when it comes to PT planning?

    And I have been to a number of Japanese cities such as Hakodate, Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Matsuyama who all use modern light rail but with some heritage trams as well. So there is no reason why this can`t be done here too. But the service needed to be established otherwise it would have gone in the archives to gather dust. It is a pity that the Te Wero bridge was put off then they could have linked it up to Britomart straight away which would have enhanced the project. And the ARC as we know doesn`t have pocketfuls of money so I guess it`s spending as least amount of money as they can. Not ideal but a start nonetheless.

  7. Carl says:

    I really don’t get all the hate, its a start, just like the RWC Aucks to Hams Trains.

    we got start somewhere, getting online as such before the RWC is bloody great… but they must keep it going, and i have always thought a tram system all the way to mission bay, that would be awesome.

    now is the time of PT commuting and leaving the pollution car at home. it needs to be started! and it also needs to be supported.

  8. Geoff says:

    Has this actually been approved for construction, or just adopted as part of a proposed plan?

  9. AdG says:

    Agree with heritage trams to start with just to get the ball rolling as it were. Key though is the Te Wero bridge crossing - hopefully the new waterfront agency will expedite its construction timeframe from the current 2016 to bring this forward otherwise growing the patronage and introduction of modern trams is always going to be difficult. BTW I notice in today’s paper that Iwi are keen to look at old strand rail yards for convention/exhibition centre - this could justifiably lead to a tram line from Wynyard to here along the waterfront

  10. Anon says:

    Hey at least it will get more Aucklanders out of their cars.
    So this is a brilliant start to not only Auckland but NZ

  11. max says:

    “It won’t happen if we wait for money for new trams or light rail.Fact. Fullstop.”

    I agree that in the next 1-2 years it wouldn’t, and that it would be unlikely to happen in the next 5 too.

    “This means a service is established. It can only improve…”

    And that is where I disagree with you, Jon. What does it serve at the moment? I went to the Tank Farm yesterday - 50% of the loop is effectively empty, and will be for years to come. The rest is a mix of some potential destinations (restaurants and so on, by the time of the RWC at least) but the trams will serve little useful function to get to these.

    I am afraid that this will HURT light rail (or historic tram use) because people just won’t use it much at all. Then the anti-light rail brigade can point to them and say “See - wasted money.”

    Just because it was now or never (for the next 5 years) doesn’t mean that it is a good thing. Without that Britomart link to it, it serves little purpose. The best I can hope for is that once the trams run in useless little circles on the Tank Farm, people will say “in for a penny, in for a pound”, and build the link to Britomart.

  12. Ze-Luís Dourado says:

    Thought I’d put a European point of view to all this. It would be a huge mistake to use a different gauge LRV (Light Rail Vehicle) / Tram, from the gauge used on your railway system. At some point in the future if LRR’s (Light Regional Railcar), which are growing in popularity in Europe, are ever brought into service in New Zealand then they could share track. Low floor LRR’s operate like a regional train service but can come onto the streets and then operate like a tram - if the systems have the same track gauge. So your 3pm LRR to Hamilton could be pulling in right behind the LRV to Queens Wharf.

  13. Zé-Luís Dourado says:

    Sorry forgot to put an example; The 140Km Harz narrow gauge line with its Nordhausen hybrid diesel-electric Tram-Train system is the kind vehicle and system which would work well in New Zealand with its ability to serve suburban, regional and intercity.

  14. Nutso says:

    This is a great idea, but it could be even better. Why not a tramway running from MOTAT along Great North, K Rd, Queen St, through the Viaduct area where it is now proposed, College Hill Ponsonby Rd to link with K and Great North.

    I have no problems with heritage trams being used initially. It could / should be expaned along Dominion, Mt Eden and Sandringham Roads

  15. Colin Evans says:

    Hold on a minute. Great that the councill has seen the error of it’s ways after 50 years but, hoew much room is there down Queen Street. The councill has spent $x amount of dollars planting trees etc and making the sidewalks a disgusting mess with the new flagstones, made the street narrower so the idiots don’t drive up and down the street so quickly, and left the vans etc to park in the street because no one has a thought of not parking in a loading zone. Aside from this, the structure of the city will not handle the influx of the Trams as we have been car dependent for so long.

    If the councill decides to go ahead with this plan, and I hope that they do, I take it the trams will use the centre of the street as they did before?

    So how narrow are our cars going to have to be to traverse the length of Queen Street? Oh and don’t forget the surrounding chaos on the other streets.

    A good idea ruined by the beaurocracy of the idiots that decide to call themselves planners. All they can see is $$$.

  16. Anthony M says:

    it is called shared roads, if there is chaos on the roads then perhaps it might discourge cars from using the CBD. and using the trams instead.

  17. Matt L says:

    Colin - Personally I think Queen St looks good, Its just a shame they didn’t take the opportunity to close it to cars completely. There are still four full lanes of traffic up it so plenty of space for trams and cars. Speaking of cars along here, I walk up the street most weekdays and the number of cars using it has dropped dramatically, I think this is mainly to do with the phasing of the lights that now favors pedestrians more.

  18. Nick R says:

    The 1990s plan for trams on Queen St (this is about the fifth time re-introducing them has been proposed since they were removed) had the trams on the outer lanes, general traffic in the inner lanes and parking and loading zones where they are now. While I imagine they were trying to put the tram stops adjacent to the kerb I think its silly to have cars crossing the tracks to turn left and right and access parks.

    Personally I say get rid of the general traffic lanes and parking completely and have just the two tram lanes in the centre of the street. They can focus on traffic on the cross streets and look into more loading zones there.

  19. [...] for the trams came from the Auckland Regional Council, which allocated $7.4million a few months before it was [...]


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