Anderton: Light Rail A Fantasy


Christchurch mayoral hopeful, long-time MP Jim Anderton, today dismissed plans for light rail for Christchurch as just an expensive fantasy.

He says there isn’t the population to justify it and most people use cars in Christchurch.

The MP also rejected the council plans for the building of a new central city underground bus interchange.

Jim Anderton is challening sitting mayor Bob Parker on the platform that the present council is wasting money on expensive unwanted projects like light rail.

The Wigram MP and Progressive Party leader has been in parliament since 1984 and is said to be a close challenger for the sitting mayor.

Parker recently returned from a US trip buzzing about light rail as a viable option for the city.

But Anderton, if elected, won’t have a bar of it in the foreseeable future.

“A train from Rangiora, would get used in the morning and evening rush hours, but is likely to be empty for the rest of the day. Whilst Selwyn and Waimakariri residents might like a rail service, their Councils may be reluctant to pay the $100M or more required to implement the scheme in their districts. Christchurch City’s ratepayers should not be expected to pay for a service they are unlikely to use.

“Even cities around the world with a population base of millions, need to obtain significant funding from state and federal governments. But Christchurch is unlikely to be able to attract such subsidies for light rail in the immediate future. We can, however, move forward with a modern, accessible, reliable and comfortable bus system which will see our needs met for as far into the future as we can realistically forecast.

“We should not cut out options for a future light rail system but it should not be part of our immediate planning horizon.”

As for the plans for an underground bus interchange, he said the real issue facing public transport is how to get more people to use it. With less than 10 percent of all trips made by bus and a similar number by cycling, over 80 percent of all journeys in the city were made by car.

“Research has repeatedly shown that the real reason people are not using public transport is inconvenience and unreliability. Christchurch’s buses often run late. Bus lanes are the Council’s solution, but it has taken twelve years to get just three in place.

“The building of an expensive new central city underground interchange won’t get the buses running on time or grow passenger numbers, particularly when the underground exchange will not attract government funding and will be at the expense of suburban interchanges which are crucial if we are to make bus transport a more attractive proposition.”

Jim Anderton said his “affordable solution” is to install bus lanes between the major suburban shopping malls and the central city, combined with feeder services every 5 minutes between the city and the malls to reduce waiting times and make it easier and more attractive for people to travel by public transport.




  1. Richard says:

    Public transport needs to be built ahead of need otherwise residents make other arrangements they are reluctant to change. Also, Reserves have to be set aside in advance otherwise you end up like the mess in Auckland and the only space left is alongside the motorway like the Northern Busway. Public transport needs to go through population and commerce centres. It costs mega-bucks to buy up land once it is built on and Christchurch will not get smaller.

    I am surprised at Jim Anderton’s attitude and lack of long term planning which seems endemic in NZ. Other centres like Christchurch and Tauranga seem to be following the urban sprawl process with reliance on cars even though they have an example of how it doesn’t work almost next door in Auckland

  2. Nick R says:

    The don’t walk at all in Christchurch? Only bus, cycling or cars apparently.

  3. Kalelovil says:

    Although it’s far from inspiring, Anderton has some valid points. With the current National government it is unlikely Christchurch will receive any central government funds for a light rail project. With the limited funds they will have increasing bus frequencies and the number of buslanes will likely result in the greatest mode share gain in proportion to its cost.

    However, as Richard has said, it is important that potential public transport corridors are protected before the cost and difficulty of doing so goes up considerably once they are developed.

  4. jon r says:

    Another backwards thinker it would appear. NZ must harbour them all with “island think”.

  5. Matt L says:

    Anderton is another one who has been in politics far to long and has lost any vision or sensibility. Most politicians only focus on the now as the future is a problem for someone else so just kick the can further down the road. Hopefully the people of Christchurch will have some sense and keep Anderton away from the council.

  6. Anthony M says:

    Arsehole has no future planning at all, the light rail system should be easier to do here than other cities in nz, flat with a grid pattern of streets and a couple of lines already!!

  7. Marty McFly says:

    Thank God that he is standing for Mayor in Christchurch, wouldn’t want him screwing up Auckland anymore than we already have :-)

  8. jarbury says:

    Does Christchurch have many bus lanes?

  9. Kalelovil says:

    Three of them currently, as Anderton mentions in the Article: Papanui / Main North Road, Colombo Street South and Queenspark – Gloucester St and a few bus traffic lights at intersections along them. They do look to be in bits and pieces rather than full length bus lanes, although I’m not sure how much of an effect this has on buses compared to consistent lanes (for example

  10. dan says:

    Anderton sounds like someone who really wants to get everyone on PT and understands the reason people don’t.

    He sees the need for rail in the long term future, but wants to make a difference here and now, which is frequent buses, with reliable trip times due to widespread bus lanes.

    Why spend a fortune on rail which wont be delivered for a long time, when you can make a huge difference now for little cost? Once you’ve got everyone on the buses, then you can look at rail as you reach capacity.

    I don’t understand why everyone here is bashing him?

  11. Steve W says:

    In the short term I suspect Anderton is correct - but he shouldn’t be outrightly dismissive of the idea.

    Unfortunately most of the suburban passenger rail infrastructure in the Christchurch area has been removed and the station isn’t close to the CBD. Now’s the time for a little forward planning to take place perhaps? I understand that the appropriate corridors were being held once and then were released.

  12. Matt L says:

    Dan - The problem is that unless work is done now to design the system and future proof the routes then it won’t happen and Christchurch will head down the same road that Auckland took. You will probably be able to almost guarantee that in 20 years time cars and buses will be stuck in traffic and people will say “I wish we had of planned the system when we had the chance” as the cost of doing it then will probably stop it from happening. It doesn’t have to be built overnight but if the whole system is planned now then as the opportunity comes up you can build individual parts of the network.

  13. karl says:

    Indeed - it’s more the way he phrases it which gets my hackles up. The “most people use cars” crap is right out of the anti-PT lobby’s songbook. Of course the light rail mode share is 0% when there is no light rail. Of course the bus mode share is low when there’s low frequencies and few services.

    It’s like someone arguing that we don’t need schools, because people are born without education anyway.

  14. Kalelovil says:

    “Most people use cars” is a fact. It is what public transport proponents are fighting to correct. If most people already used public transport we wouldn’t have to be so outspoken.
    It is what you use these facts to argue that matters.
    Anderton is arguing for bus services which are more frequent and reliable as the most achievable way in the short to medium term of increasing the percentage of people in Christchurch who use public transport. He is acknowledging that “Of course the bus mode share is low when there’s low frequencies and few services.”

  15. karl says:

    But does he have to use the same language as the anti-PT folks to bin light rail? I am angry that apparently politicians always have to rail against something to get elected. Shooting down stuff has always been easier than actually doing something.

    Also, I don’t agree that light rail is so unachievable as he makes it out to be (as I said, I believe he does this to set himself off from his contender, rather than because it is really so unachievable). Christchurch already has a base nucleus of trams - he should be looking at ways to make it more useful for transport, rather than just a tourism thing.

  16. Andrew Miller says:

    I live in Christchurch and have used the current bus system. It’s fast, cheap and the majority of routes go crosstown. The Orbiter orbits as the name suggests and is the most successful route in the city.(This route model has been duplicated with success in Hamilton). Chch has only in the lat 6 months embarked on buslanes and when put in place cover the entire route (eg Papanui Road/Main North Road). there’s an integrated ticketing system that can be used on all 3 bus operators (RedBus, Leopard & Christchurch Bus Services) along with the ferry (yes there’s even a ferry here!). Mr Anderton appears to be part of the flat earth society in rejecting light rail outright and is billing himself as the People’s Mayor, when in fact he will continue to hold his Central Government MP seat at the same time. While Chch may not have sufficient population for a full light rail system currently the metro area is expanding rapidly. Why do people use cars for most trips? Conveinience and lack of education. When car running costs spiral as they will an efficient reliable PT system which includes any variants will be essential. Mr Anerton, who is an Aucklander and former City councillor should be very aware of Sir Dove Myer Robinson’s foresight for rapid rail and the catchup now being undertaken in the City of Sails.While Bob Parker may not be everyone’s cup of tea at least there’re alternatives being suggested…

  17. joust says:

    deja vu.
    Sounds like he could be talking about Auckland only 5 years ago. Of course there is a population to sustain it. If the changes in Auckland during the last few years have shown us anything, its that if you build a good alternative to cars for people they’ll move to it in droves.

    Christchurch’s CBD had undergone a renaissance when I was last there. Huge growth in inner city residences. I’m sure plenty of people would love to get out of their cars.

  18. joust says:

    Wellington and Christchurch’s urban populations are pretty close to each other, if anything the capital might be a bit smaller. I’m sure the majority of Train users in the north island are using them to come and go from suburbs.

    I really don’t see whats so different about Christchurch.

  19. Liam says:

    ‘And most people use cars in christchurch’ Wonder why? Without light rail people don’t have much option (apart from buses).

  20. [...] what do you know? Bob Parker went on a trip to the US and came back buzzing about light rail as a viable option for [...]


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