Trams project back on agenda

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013
Trams
ALL ABOARD? Plans to connect a tram line from Britomart to Wynyard Quarter’s heritage tram loop are not any closer to fruition.

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Should Auckland Council spend more money on trams?

Plans to link Wynyard Quarter and Britomart by tram are still up in the air, yet the project is back on the list of council spending.

Waterfront Auckland spokesman Luke Henshall says while the funds have been set aside for the scheme in council's draft 2014/15 budget, they may not be required if no work on extending the tram service takes place.

"It's still very early days in the transport planning and there's no clear indication of timing yet," he says.

Building a light rail or tram service between Wynyard Quarter and the central city was first signalled by Waterfront Auckland in 2011 as a way of reducing the number of cars on the waterfront.

It could connect with the area's controversial heritage tram loop which does a circuit around Halsey, Gaunt, Daldy and Jellicoe streets.

The tram operates as a tourist attraction in the precinct but its lower than forecast patronage has come under fire.

The service has been suspended until the end of next year while Daldy and Halsey streets are upgraded.

The concept and funding of the new plans are separate to the existing heritage loop, Mr Henshall says.

"This will be primarily used as a form of public transport using light rail or modern trams to support the regional public transport network."

Councillor Cameron Brewer says he was surprised to see the tram extension project reappear on the list of council expenditure for 2014/15.

Funding does not need to happen for the next financial year, he says.

"I can see the merit in the heritage loop eventually connecting to Britomart but what I would like to see is until we get more people, businesses and apartments down there we need to hold the plan on the trams.

"If I had my way that funding would go towards completing the cycleway and walkway to link Tamaki Drive," Mr Brewer says.

But Western Bays advocate Geoff Houtman says there has been enough talk about the tram extension and people now want action.

He was among the voices calling for an extended line to be considered to connect the central city with Wynyard Quarter, Ponsonby Rd, Great North Rd and Motat three years ago (Auckland City Harbour News, July 14, 2010).

"If one of those connections is more important, say the Wynyard to Britomart, then get it happening because there's nothing happening at the moment," he says.

An extensive tram circuit could help spread spending by tourists and shoppers between downtown, Victoria Park Market, Three Lamps, Ponsonby Rd and Motat, he says.

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"It's really good public and tourist transport. We get all these tourists coming to Auckland and we need to give them something to do.

"If a tram's a waste of money then what's more motorway links? That's not the answer."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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