Trams may be running by mid-2013

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 30/10/2012

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Christchurch's trams could be running again by the middle of next year.

Up to $1.6 million is set to be spent on repairs in a bid to help the city's hard-hit tourism sector.

Initially, only the original 2.6-kilometre loop will be repaired as the city council is still locked in discussions with the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) on the future of the tramway extension, which was nearing completion when the earthquakes hit.

The repair costs, of between $1.3m and $1.6m, are expected to be covered by insurance, although a settlement has yet to be reached.

Council urban design and regeneration manager Dave Hinman, in a report prepared for tomorrow's planning committee meeting, said the visitor industry wanted the trams running again as they were a Christchurch "icon".

Before the quakes, an estimated 280,000 people rode the trams each year.

The report says the council hopes to have the trams operating by the end of June at the earliest.

Most of the track damage from the quakes occurred in Armagh St. There was lesser damage in New Regent St and Rolleston Ave, and almost none in Worcester Blvd and Cathedral Square.

It was estimated all the track could be repaired for $630,000. Another $400,000 to $700,000 would need to be spent on reinstating the overhead electrical system, and about $330,000 would be required to fix the quake-damaged tram shed.

"Discussions with CCDU and Environment Canterbury have confirmed that, subject to timing being co-ordinated with demolition and construction works around the route, there is no issue with having the repairs undertaken to the existing loop and tram service resuming as soon as practicable," Hinman said.

The route passed some seriously damaged heritage buildings but it was considered unlikely that vibrations from the passing trams would have any detrimental impact on them.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism has been among those pushing to have the trams back on city streets as soon as possible. Chief executive Tim Hunter said progress needed to be hastened on restoring visitor activities.

Restoration of the tramway service would be seen as an indication that Christchurch was back to business as usual, Hunter said.

The return of the tramway would also provide confidence to other tourism sector investors that the central city was returning to normal and worth investing in, he said.

Michael Esposito, managing director of The Wood Scenic Line, which operates the tramway and the gondola, said the reinstatement of the tramway would create 40 jobs.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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