Parker renews tram-train call

22:16, Oct 15 2010

Christchurch's re-elected mayor has put his vision of a tram-train or light-rail system back on the agenda.

Bob Parker, buoyed by the "absolute vindication" of the light-rail policies of the new Auckland and Wellington mayors, said yesterday he hoped the first street-based tram trains would be running within five years.

A new Christchurch-based industry that made and supplied tram trains could come from the idea, he said.

"Light rail or tram trains is an argument whose time has come."

Parker first raised the idea late last year after he visited several American cities with light-rail services.

It later became a local body election issue when mayoral candidate Jim Anderton warned that a light-rail system could bankrupt the city.

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Parker said light rail could be affordable and was already a proven "powerful tool" in rehabilitating urban areas and city centres around the world. Some preliminary work on the subject had been done, including potential costs, but there was a lot more to be done.

He said there were high "upfront" costs with any tram-train system, and the city council needed to ensure "appropriate funding mechanisms" were used.

"We don't want to blow out our rates just so we can have a tram-train system, but we want to be able to move to a place where it becomes a part of our public transport system."

He said the city had already laid seven kilometres of tram tracks throughout the city – enough, if in a straight line, to transport Canterbury University students to the heart of the city.

Christchurch enjoyed a strong level of growth that "fills me with enthusiasm we are on the right track".

Parker said street-based tram trains could be viable within five years, but light rail based on existing rail tracks had issues, including the location of signalling, stations and park-and-ride areas.

The Press