Trams back on track by Christmas?

MARC GREENHILL AND ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2012
IAIN MCGREGOR

Trams travelling through Christchurch's CBD were a favourite with tourists before the quake.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Christchurch's trams could be running by the end of the year if major building demolitions go to plan.

The reopening of the tourist favourite would be another boost to the city, but the demolition of two condemned earthquake-damaged office blocks – the Clarendon Tower on the Oxford Tce-Worcester St corner and the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) building in Armagh St - stands in the way.

Wood Scenic Line managing director Michael Esposito said that if work stayed on schedule, the trams could be back by the end of the year.

The 59-week demolition of the Clarendon Tower has begun, but is not scheduled to finish until January next year.

The building must be completely brought down before the tram line is passable.

The PWC demolition started in March and is due to finish in mid-December.

Esposito said Clarendon's completion date was likely to include rubble removal, which may not affect the track.

"We're of the opinion that it could be made safe before [January]," he said.

"There's a hell of a lot of other stuff that has to be done beforehand. Whether that's going to be a December or January opening, I think that's further down the track."

Esposito dismissed suggestions that repairs to Rydges hotel, across from the Clarendon Tower in Oxford Tce, might cause road closures.

He said he had heard the work was "nothing too major".

The Armagh St bridge and the Victoria Square apartments were the only other hurdles, he said.

"There's still not a formal decision that the trams are going to reopen,'' he said.

''That's got to be part of the central-city plan and until it's approved, it's not official. In the meantime, a lot of work has been done in anticipation of its approval."

Assessment of damage to the tramline infrastructure had been completed by the Christchurch City Council.

The lines and the overhead wires required work because buildings that held the wires had been damaged, Esposito said.

Three trams had been based at the Ferrymead Heritage Park and the company would begin two to three months of repair work on them within the next month.

Two city-based trams might have to be taken to Ferrymead for repairs.

An extension that included Oxford Tce and Cashel, High and Lichfield streets had been about 100 metres from completion before the February 2011 quake.

Continuing the extension had not been ruled out and there was "still a bit to see" on the existing loop, Esposito said.

"The Square's going to be a bit empty, and Worcester St, but the Art Gallery still looks pretty cool, the Arts Centre is still something to look at even though you can't go in,'' he said.

''You've still got Christ's College, New Regent St and Cathedral Junction."

New features, including a "couple of things out of the box", would be announced closer to the reopening.

"We can't wait. It's been a long, long haul but it's so close now we can almost touch it," Esposito said.

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- The Press

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