Trams Versus Cars


It was inevitable that somewhere sometime in Wnyard Quarter trams and cars would come to an unhappy end.

I’ve been saying so for months. Aucklanders are not used to trams unless they have very long memories and tram drivers are new to manoeuvring their journey around car-obsessed Aucklanders.
I’m also worried about Auckland’s more impatient pedestrians, used to taking risks in dashing across roads in between cars, not taking into account trams are not something to play chicken with - like trains at level crossings.

I was caught the other day wandering around fiddling with the camera while crossing the street towards the quarter when the tram shot out of the area where it is housed.

Trams stopped running in Auckland from the 50s and since the 80s, a law change meant trams no longer have automatic right-of-way over other traffic but must obey the same road rules.

Vehicles can be fined for parking close to the tram tracks.

You would not come off well from any encounter with the new waterfront trams.  They’re old but heavy. Waterfront Auckland leased two 1920’s trams – a W2 Class Tram and X-1 Class Tram – to run on the 1.5km loop within the Wynyard Quarter.

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.

Just before they began running, Waterfront Auckland put out a warning for motorists.

“These trams are very quiet and while they move relatively slowly they are obviously extremely heavy and can’t stop quickly to avoid a potential collision.  Plus if the rails are wet they require a greater distance to slow down and stop.”

Here is Stephen Hampson-Tindale’s record of the accident at Wynyard at the weekend when a tram backed into a parked car.

In that case a tram backed into the car.

So is this a one off, just one of those inevitable mistakes let’s face it - we all make one day as a driver? I have been guilty of backing into another vehicle.
We were not there at this incident so can not second guess the full circumstances.
Or is there a general problem with trams and cars around the Quarter? If so we need to get it sorted before the vision of trams all the way to Britomart by the end of next year starts becoming a reality!

Here is the sequence of events:

And then there is the problem of cars not realising (or ignoring the fact) the car park they have grabbed is a tram teack.




  1. Andu says:

    Hmm. Seems weird that a driver would be sitting waiting so close behind the tram, right on top of the tracks. Unfortunate collision I guess.

    And that last photo, are those cars PARKED on the tracks? Or is there something I’m missing?
    Please tell me they’re not parked on the tracks, surely Auckland drivers are not THAT stupid……..

  2. Jeremy says:

    The damage doesn’t look too bad, just the hood bent.

  3. Johans says:

    Congrats you are the first to be involved in a tram accident since 1956.

  4. Anthony says:

    God as im a person with anger problems (thanks dad -.-’)

    I would just ram into the cars so that some people actually realise that there a TRAMS ON THE ROADS.

  5. Ian M says:

    Just add a cowcatcher to push them aside..

  6. Malcolm says:

    I hope those cars got towed

  7. geoff_184 says:

    The car didn’t crash into the tram - the tram reversed into the car. So not the car drivers fault.

  8. BD says:

    The car smashed into the tram end of!!!!!!! Anti PT brigade is not welcome on here.

    People have to realise that the Trams exist and give them right of way, so when it comes to Tram Vs Car the tram will win all the time as it is a lot bigger, stronger and heavier than the car.

    Good on Auckland Council for actually doing some serious action, its nice to see that trams will be extended to Britomart in the near future with work starting at Christmas. Thats one good thing about the Auckland Council projects like this are happening even without government support. At least Len Brown is sticking to his guns and acting differently to previous mayors, nice one Len keep it up!!!!!!!!

  9. DanC says:

    If people are dumb enough to park on tram tracks then they shouldn’t be driving! Bummer re the car vs tram. Always leave a decent gap!

  10. geoff_184 says:

    @BD - The tram crashed into the car. The car driver was not at fault.

  11. pooks_274 says:

    Light rail is essential for Auckland. The sooner they get rid of that National tosser ‘expert transport minister Stephen Joyce’, maybe a real transport solution can be had. Can the idiot really front the nation with the promise that mankind will continue to extract crude indefinitely to run their vehicles. Prepare for the inevitable, last time i checked, the black stuff will run out. Listen to what the people want and stop kissing road transports’ ass. I hope SJ joins the dole queue in November and do Auckland and NZ a favor.

  12. geoff_184 says:

    I don’t see what Stephen Joyce has to do with Auckland having light rail. It would be an Auckland Transport project surely? The tramway was 100% a local project, and there’s nothing stopping the council from extending it to other parts of Auckland. Permission from the minister isn’t required.

  13. Andu says:

    Geoff is right. Tram reversed into car

  14. George D says:

    How is the car driver “not at fault”?

    You don’t park on train tracks.

  15. Kegan says:

    @ George D

    Would you be at fault if you were in a queue of traffic and the vehicle in front reversed into you?

  16. Max says:

    @BD and @George D - we all should calm down, INCLUDING us from the “pro PT brigade”. The Herald article (which has the usual sensationalist headline!) is otherwise quite clear on this - tram driver needed to back his tram, didn’t pay attention to the other staffer who had actually gotten out to “spot” for him, and rammed the car waiting behind him, at low speeds.

    Storm in a teacup, but tram driver was at fault. So really, not so much an “Aucklanders need to know their way around trams” issue, but a “tram drivers need some extra training” issue.

    As I’ve said before, trams are not really much more dangerous (if at all) than a heavy truck. We seem to live with them, so why should trams get this huge focus as if they are a “menace” (the Granny’s article again)?

  17. pooks_274 says:

    geoff_184 Where have u been??? We’re looking at the bigger picture here. Light Rail is used to connect the remaining dots in a transport system and can access the main grid. (Have you been to Melbourne Geoff) You need money and approval to do it. SJ and National just approved the huge dollars needed for the Waterview tunnel!!! We have enough roads. That money could have been used elsewhere.

  18. Max says:

    “Permission from the minister isn’t required.”

    Wellington controls 75% of New Zealand’s transport capital expenditure.

    Saying “permission is not required” is about the same as saying that someone on minimum wage doesn’t NEED his employer’s permission to live in a house in Remuera.

  19. Riccardo says:

    Can someone please explain because the blog post nor none of the commenters do…

    were people PARKING on the tram tracks ie turning the car off, locking and walking away?

    or were they idling (ie waiting with the engine on)

    As a Melburnian, the idea of people parking on tram tracks is bizarre. There would be very few places here apart from the odd depot siding where people park on tracks - they know they will get hit.

    The tone of this blog post suggests blaming the tram driver for people PARKING on the tram track.

  20. AKT says:

    @Riccardo Calm down! In the picture at the bottom, cars were parked in the way of the tram and the owners came and moved them.
    It was early days and some people may not have realised.

  21. Carl says:

    clearly this person that had there car crushed (whatever and tbh who cares who’s fault it was) needs to learn to keep a good distance from trains/trams.

    Even the electric trains in perth slight roll back before they take off.

    honestly HOW dumb are drivers in Auckland? you didn’t sit right up the arse of truck or the next car do you?

    FAIL on the car drivers behalf.

  22. geoff_184 says:

    @ pooks_274 and Max - AFAIK the tramway extentions being proposed are AT projects, and won’t require or seek central government funding. If the council wants to upgrade local roads and add trams, it is a local project. Of course there is an NZTA contribution to local road projects.

  23. Finn says:

    @Anthony - Yes, that sounds like something I would do too, those idiots need to drive their cars! Infact come to think of it, no one is ever considerate to people these days, people who aren’t considerate to other people are just, well, tossers!

  24. Kegan says:

    @ Carl

    The FAIL is on your part …

    The tram was being reversed under power and went too far due to a breakdown in communication between the tram driver and conductor.

  25. Andu says:

    Can we all agree that it was probably more the tram drivers fault than the car drivers (in this case). It was just an accident and tram reversed too far, these things happen. Probably 100 times a day in Auckland alone with cars.

    I’m more concerned with that last photo of cars parked on the tracks! Still can’t quite comprehend the stupidity :)

  26. geoff_184 says:

    That last photo was taken before the opening of the Wynyard Quarter, before public tram rides began, so I’m guessing the people who parked on the tracks thought it was still under construction. People were actually allowed to park on the tracks on various parts of the loop during the months it was under construction.

  27. Carl says:

    @ Kegan - like I said, what is the car doing so close to the tram?

    following distances - something people in Auckland fail to do every day.

  28. Martin says:

    Reading all of the above it seems 50/50 too me. Car driver far too close and Tram driver not paying proper attention to his banksman.

    More importantly what are cars doing on tram lines anyway? Have the lines not been built down the centre of the roads as happens here in Europe?

  29. geoff_184 says:

    @Carl - the car was close to the tram because the tram reversed into it!

    @Martin - Not 50/50. The car driver was in no way at fault. If you are parked at traffic lights, and the vehicle in front suddenly reverses into you, does that make you 50% responsible?

  30. Max says:

    @Geoff, NZTA doesn’t give subsidies to local road projects by default, just because Council decides to go ahead. They still rank them, and essentially decide which local gov projects they will support out of their oversubscribed funding classes (and local roads and PT are nothing if not oversubscribed).

    So NZTA do very much have the “final” say on whether these projects go ahead. Sure, Council, if told by NZTA “no money for you, because…”, they CAN go ahead on their own by funding 100%. But have you ever tried to find funding in a budget after your cost suddenly doubled?

  31. Carl says:

    @ Geoff - I don’t care if he drove it sideways, use common sense and stay a good 5m-10m away from them.

    no one in melbs drives right up behind them, so why do it in Auckland? it doesn’t need a sign, its common sense and tbh, if a sign needs to be placed on the back of a tram, then get out of your car or leave it at home because you shouldn’t be driving.

    Sorry but its not rocket science that such a rather object may need clearing space all around it.

  32. Kegan says:

    @ Carl

    As you are obviously having difficulty understanding, let me spell it out:

    The driver of the car concerned had STOPPED AS DIRECTED.

  33. Max says:

    There’s nothing either stupid or illegal to stop 1-2 m behind a stopped tram. People do it the world over where trams do street running, and if you left 10-15m gap behind a tram at an intersection, you’d be liable to have the next guy behind you think you’re trying to stop and let someone off, or go into a driveway, and bypass you to get into the gap.

    Also, if you reverse ANY vehicle, you are the person responsible in the first instance. Especially if you then back into a non-moving obstruction. Funny how this topic creates such passion.

  34. geoff_184 says:

    “@ Geoff – I don’t care if he drove it sideways, use common sense and stay a good 5m-10m away from them.”

    There is no rule in New Zealand that says drivers must stop 5-10m behind the vehicle in front.

    The fault was 100% that of the tram driver, and 0% that of the car driver.

    You don’t reverse into oncoming or parked traffic without looking, regardless of what you’re driving.

  35. Owen Thompson says:

    Why was the tram driver reversing? I can only think that an idiot motorist had parked in the wrong place.

  36. AKT says:

    @Owen It’s said the tram inched back to let a stationary taxi clear the tracks in front so the tram could swing around the corner of Jellicoe and Halsey streets.

  37. Geoff Houtman says:

    Thankyou AKT. You must have read the full article. The tram backed up (stupid tram driver- trams should never have to back up) to let a taxi out (stupid taxi driver being there in the first place). As a huge tram fan, I am loathe to say this- but the car driver was not at fault at all. We have a petition going around that the Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye will present to parliament asking that the tram legislation (as mentioned- until the ’80′s be reinstated so that Trams will have right of way etc. You can sign it on the net at
    You can also check out “Auckland deserves a Tram System” on facebook.
    I just love how many tram fans are out there!


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