COMMENT:

The Transport Minister and Wellington's mayor aren't on the same page when it comes to the question of trackless trams or light rail for the capital's new mass rapid transit spine.

The $6.4 billion Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) project puts mass rapid transit front and centre but no decision has been made on what technology will be used, nor where the exact route will go.

The debate over trackless trams and light rail was heating up well before the LGWM plan was announced.

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It has primarily been fuelled by lobby groups and transport fanatics who have wasted no time putting a stake in the ground.

Now Phil Twyford and Justin Lester have put theirs in too.

At a Wellington Chamber of Commerce business breakfast this week Twyford delivered a speech about LGWM.

It was similar to a speech Lester gave to the same group just two months earlier.

But there was one key difference.

When Twyford brought up mass rapid transit he talked light rail, Lester on the other hand talked trackless trams.

Both were clear that each technology was only their personal preference and the decision would be made appropriately and transparently through a detailed business case.

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford and Transport Minister Phil Twyford at a business breakfast this week. Photo / Supplied
Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford and Transport Minister Phil Twyford at a business breakfast this week. Photo / Supplied

It would be difficult for Twyford to say his preference was anything other than light rail considering his backing for the technology in the City of Sails.

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Meanwhile Lester will want to squeeze as much as he can out of the LGWM plan.

Trackless trams, if proven to be viable, would be significantly cheaper than light rail.

Lester has previously said if there was money left over for the public transport mass transit component of LGWM, he'd look to extend it to other parts of the city, with Karori being the first priority followed by Island Bay.

But the politics behind the scenes stretches beyond a Labour mayor and a Labour minister.

The Greens have been campaigning for light rail for decades and it'll take some convincing for them to change their tune.

Lester is sure to be disappointed his planned trip to China this month to investigate trackless trams was postponed.

The controversial trip was put on hold with necessary approvals unable to be obtained in the time available.

This was after regional councillors voiced concern about the plan's lack of detail and the trip being so close to the election in October.

The route for mass rapid transit in Wellington and what technology will go on it are yet to be decided. Photo / Supplied
The route for mass rapid transit in Wellington and what technology will go on it are yet to be decided. Photo / Supplied

But the trip isn't really about regional councillors as much as it is about Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

It's clear the Greens have flexed considerable muscle over LGWM and the trip presents an opportunity to show Genter trackless trams in action.

Politics aside, it's frustrating for Wellingtonians that decisions around mass rapid transit are unlikely to be made any time soon.

They rightfully want to know when there's going to be a spade in the ground or even just where the mass transit route will actually go.

LGWM has been years in the making and when the indicative package was finally announced in May this year following a significant delay, many were left scratching their heads wondering what the experts and politicians had been doing all that time.

Now it's almost August and it's unlikely business cases on key decisions will be presented to councillors until next year, with local body elections landing smack bang in the middle of it all.