We’ve recently been given a copy of the SuperLink proposal by Transport 2000, which was a well thought-out proposal for Light Rail transport in Wellington. All rights are reserved to the original authors : Daryl Cockburn, Brent Efford, & Kerry Wood for Transport 2000, and the Inter-Professional Group. We are very grateful for the chance to publish this scheme again, and get some more publicity for the Light Rail concept.
As can be guessed from the title, the SuperLink proposal was proposed well before the year 2000, and interestingly, was sponsored by some big and influential backers:
Dominion Breweries (makers of just DB back then, now also Tui, Monteiths, Heineken etc), Big Red (the Wellington Bus company at the time), Cityrail (the forerunner to TranzMetro), James Smiths (a former department store in Wellington, of which just their name remains on a corner), the Todd Corporation (who used to have one of New Zealand’s biggest car assembly plants), Inprint NZ, and Shortland Properties. Of those backers, only DB remains essentially intact – but their sponsorship lives on.
But let’s discuss the Superlinkplan. The concept was for LRV (Light Rail Vehicles) to run through the Wellington CBD, not just from the Wellington Railway Station through to the Airport, but also on the Johnsonville line up through Khandallah, and with a cunningly designed side branch up Aro Valley and linking through to Karori. The network is simple, logical, and quite achievable. Brent Efford and Daryl Cockburn in particular have been pushing it for years. The conversion of the Johnsonville Line to Light Rail is the easiest part – the tracks are already there, and the route already well utilised. The other two routes – both the Aro-Valley route and the Airport Route used to exist up until about 50 years ago, in the form of Wellington’s well-used and extensive passenger tram service, and so would be, in effect, quite simple to reinstate. It is all a question of political will.
The brochure discussed poses questions and answers such as:
Why is Superlink preferable to buses in the CBD?
Buses are unpopular, slow, and inefficient on main hauls. They also create traffic congestion at peak times. Superlink replaces over 100 rush hour buses with 16 electric “stretched streetcars”, each one capable of carrying nine times the passengers of a single bus, with a rush hour frequency every 3.75 minutes, which will halve travel time through the Central Business District.
What effect will Superlink have on existing streets and other traffic?
Superlink tracks are set into the road surface so other vehicles will be unaffected. A simple adjustment of traffic signals to give Superlink streetcars priority at intersections, coupled with the absence of lumbering buses, will mean that Superlink will actually enhance peak hour traffic flows for all road users.
What will Superlink cost?
Because Superlink uses existing streets to carry its tracks, it is significantly cheaper and quicker to build than motorways and heavy rail options. The modification of the Johnsonville Line and its extension into Courtenay Place will cost about $100m. Later extensions to the Airport and Karori will cost $150m.
How established and proven is the technology behind Superlink?
There are already more than 350 LRV systems worldwide, including more than 25 built in the last 10 years.
There are many more questions, and answers, but the main thing to take from this discussion is: surely the time to start planning this is now?