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Tram operators beseech city council to stay on track

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2014
Christchurch tram
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ
BUSTLE: The trams will bring additional foot traffic and street activity, says Tim Hunter.

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The operators of Christchurch's heritage tramway say it is vital the city council finds money to complete the High St tram loop.

Christchurch Tramway Ltd expects the original tram loop down Rolleston Ave and Armagh St will be open to the public this spring but it is worried a second loop that will allow its trams to travel through to High St will not be completed despite over 95 per cent of the track is already laid.

Costs for completing the loop are not yet calculated but expected to be less than $1.5 million.

Christchurch Tramway wants the council to put that money in its 2014/15 Annual Plan so the loop can be completed ahead of the opening of the ICC Cricket World Cup in February.

Tramway managing director Michael Esposito told councillors yesterday that completing the second loop would help revitalise the central city by linking the High St shops with other shopping precincts and anchor projects.

"Christchurch Tramway understands the difficulties the city has faced in putting together an Annual Plan which meets the most urgent needs of the city.

"We also understand, however, more now than any other time in our history, the need to showcase our city, the need to tell both New Zealand and the rest of the world that the Christchurch recovery is well under way and that our city is once again a great place to visit, relax and spend time [in]," Esposito said.

Some 60,000 passengers had travelled on the tram since it reopened last November and there was widespread support from within the business and hospitality sectors for the completion of the loop.

New Regent St business owner Rowena Watson pleaded with the council to put money aside for completing the second tramway loop, saying it was the only way in the short-term to link areas of the city centre.

"For the growth of the inner city it is vital," Watson said.

"Businesses are in an unprecedented crisis in the inner city and we found that when the trams were reinstated in November 2013 that numbers to our business precinct increased dramatically," Watson said.

"The tram adds colour and drama to a dire landscape and Cantabrians really need this."

The New Regent St owners' group chairman David Manning said the extension of the tramway was critical and the funding required "relatively small".

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