Light rail still in the mix for capital transport

The merits of building a light rail network from Wellington's CBD to Kilbirnie and Newtown are to be investigated.

Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington regional council and the NZ Transport Agency announced yesterday they would consider the option as part of their Public Transport Spine Study.

The million-dollar study, launched in February, was originally confined to seeking the best transport option between the railway station and the hospital - a distance of between 3.7 kilometres and 5km, depending on the route.

But it will now investigate the benefits of a high-capacity public transport network from the railway station to Kilbirnie and Newtown.

Light rail, a bus-priority system (better bus lanes) or a bus rapid-transit system (better bus lanes and bigger buses) are the three options currently in the mix.

Spine study project manager Luke Troy said extending the route effectively kept light rail in the race, as it had become clear the option was not viable if it was going only as far as the hospital.

"We found there were some real benefits to extending a future public transport spine to the southeast beyond the regional hospital in Newtown," he said.

"With strong travel demand predicted in these areas, there's potential for significant increases in the use of public transport along these routes."

Extending the public transport spine north of the railway station towards Johnsonville was not considered because the area was already well-serviced by trains and buses.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who campaigned on bringing light rail to the capital by 2020, said she was excited about the possibility of better linking Kilbirnie to central Wellington. "I look forward to this being a significant step to improve connectivity from the airport to the city, which is clearly a desirable outcome for a world-class city."

Greater Wellington chairwoman Fran Wilde said investigating the route to the south and east of the regional hospital made good sense given the forecast population growth.

The outcome is expected to be reported back to councils in April.

The Dominion Post