Mayoral candidate Jo Coughlan has ruled out any chance of a light rail comeback if she becomes mayor, labelling the idea “wasteful expenditure” that would become a “white elephant” for Wellington.
She and fellow candidates Nicola Young and Nick Leggett have said they will not advocate for light rail in Wellington if elected, but the remaining candidates are still open to the idea.
Their comments come as the debate over whether Wellington should invest in a light rail network has reignited ahead of October’s election.
This makes it easier. Vote for Jo, Nicola or Nick if you don’t want to waste hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Wellington Public Transport Spine Study evaluated the following benefits and costs for three public transport options for Wellington:
- Bus priority – $35 million of benefits for $59 million of one off costs and $88 million operating costs annually
- Bus rapid transit – $95 million of benefits for $207 million of one off costs $83 million operating costs
- Light rail – $56 million of benefits for $940 million of one off costs and $89 million of operating costs
The BCRs for each are:
- Bus priority 0.57 to 0.67
- Bus rapid transit 0.87 to 1.55
- Light rail 0.05 to 0.10
So anyone who says light rail should be planned for is saying we should plan to waste $900 million of your money. The gap between Bus rapid transit and light rail is not a close one. It is like the gap between Usain Bolt and Jon Minnoch.
Coughlan said light rail would cost a huge amount of money, and would end up being a white elephant within a few years.
Wellington needed a more practical transport solution, and she would be focusing on improving the road network, by fixing choke-points at the Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels, as well as backing electric buses.
“The future is electric,” she said. “Light rail is electric, but it is confined to expensive rails on a set route. Electric cars, buses and bikes are also electric, however they have far more flexibility on where they can travel. People want that flexibility.”
Coughlan said she would also help facilitate infrastructure that supported the move to electric vehicles.
“This is clearly accelerating and I want to ensure this trend continues,” she said. “It is certainly not clear there is a place for light rail in this future and I will not be irresponsible as mayor in supporting what is obviously wasteful expenditure.”
Justin Lester said light rail was a realistic option for the city in 10 to 12 years’ time. His short-term priority would be on protecting a route for light rail and pushing to make buses fully electric.
“[Light rail] should be considered if it’s in the best interests of the city, and it’s affordable.”
It is not a realistic option and you know it isn’t affordable. How can you advocate we should plan for something that returns a benefit of $50 for ever $1,000 of spending?
Young said she would not advocate for light rail if elected mayor, preferring instead to focus on improving the quality, frequency and reliability of the city’s buses, while also reducing fares.
With so many technological advances on the horizon involving autonomous vehicles and fully electric buses, it would be more prudent to see what that technology could do for the city’s transport before fully committing to light rail, she said.
Yes. There is a dim future for transport modes that can only travel on a pre-defined route.
Leggett said his priority as mayor would be on better roads, cycleways, pedestrian links and a bus rapid transit network rather than pushing for light rail. But he was happy to protect a future route for such a network.
“We would all like light rail, but it comes down to whether or not it’s feasible, and at the moment, it isn’t.”
Andy Foster said he would advocate for light rail planning to begin under his mayoralty, although he figured it would take about a decade to get a network up and running.
“We should be investigating it. We shouldn’t be ruling it out.”
It has been investigated!! Thoroughly.