Two gleaming carnation-red electric trams have arrived for passenger duties on the Auckland waterfront, and dozens of people are vying to drive them.

The vintage pair, which have been refurbished at an Australian transport museum and repainted in the colours of Auckland's former tram fleet, were unloaded from a ship yesterday to be pressed back into service in August.

Built in the 1920s as Melbourne trams, they will run on a 1.5km circuit being formed for council-controlled Waterfront Auckland's ambitious Wynyard Quarter redevelopment.

Track-laying is well advanced and more than 80 people have applied for part-time jobs as drivers or conductors on a clockwise circuit between Jellicoe, Halsey, Gaunt and Daldy Sts.

The larger one, a 14.6m vehicle weighing 17 tonnes, has 52 seats and will be crewed by a driver and a conductor. The other, which is 9.4m long and weighs 9.4 tonnes, will carry up to 32 seated passengers and a sole-charge driver with an automatic stopping device as an extra safety feature.

They will be operated by the company that ran the successful Christchurch tramway.

Waterfront Auckland has an $8 million council budget to establish its tram circuit both as a visitor attraction and as a pilot for a possible light-rail extension across the Viaduct Harbour to the Downtown ferry terminal, Queens Wharf or beyond.

Auckland Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee hopes the trams will encourage the development of a modern light rail system beyond Britomart to suburbs such as Ponsonby, Mt Eden and St Heliers.

He said the project, which was first authorised by the former Auckland Regional Council under his leadership without any Government subsidy, was taking shape faster than any transport project he could think of.

"I suspect this has happened so quickly because the [Government] transport bureaucracy has been kept right out of it ...
So even though the CBD rail [tunnel] loop is looking very gloomy now, there's always another card to play."

The waterfront agency wants to have the trams running for a grand opening on August 6 of Wynyard's first redevelopment stage.