Scenario A+ Light Rail Route Map


The suggested route aims to maximise ridership by offering predictable, frequent, well-connected service, and travel times competitive with travel by private car. People choosing light rail enjoy a congestion-free journey. The route can be extended in future, such as to Karori and Johnsonville.

The route FIT proposes differs from the LGWM “mass transit” route in the following ways. 

String of pearls, rather than branching

A string of pearls route offers the maximum number of one-seat light rail trips and many origin – destination choices. A branching route, on the other hand, means service operates at half the frequency on each branch, and people wishing to travel between branches have to change at Courtenay Place. A string of pearls route costs less to build and operate, while delivering a higher level of service. 

The suggested route replaces a Mt Victoria road tunnel with a shorter Mt Albert rail tunnel. It passes through areas with high population density and creates opportunities for transit-oriented development around stops.


Waterfront, rather than Golden Mile

A waterfront route offers a faster service for longer trips, with buses on the Golden Mile offering a complementary slower service for shorter trips. A Golden Mile route offers much better service to the CBD, but would operate at a slower speed through this pedestrian area (maximum 25 km/hr). Buses would need to be relocated to other central city streets, to avoid holding up the light rail service in narrow sections. 

A waterfront route involves far less disruption to central city retailers than a Golden Mile route.

Taranaki Street, rather than the Terraces

A hub at the north end of Taranaki Street in Te Aro supports easy connections to bus services on Manners Street and is close to Te Papa and the site of the future convention centre. A short rail tunnel under Mt Cook from Taranaki Street to Adelaide Road avoids light rail potentially conflicting with traffic at the Basin Reserve.

A Golden Mile route continues on Courtenay Place to Kent and Cambridge Terraces, to the Basin Reserve. One possible option for separating light rail from east – west traffic is a short rail plus road flyover on Sussex Street.

Runway tunnel, rather than Cobham Drive

The route shows a rail tunnel under the airport runway from Kilbirnie, with a stop at the airport, continuing to Miramar town centre. An alternative option would be via the ASB Sports Centre to Miramar town centre, with a terminus at the airport. This would be slightly longer, but cheaper and less disruptive. 

Tunnelling under the airport runway may be impractical, so it may be necessary to use an alternative route.

What Makes Light Rail Succeed


Wellington is an ideally-sized city for light rail. It will reduce congestion and support higher-density housing.

Road space is valuable

BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) is impractical in Wellington’s narrow CBD and is less space-efficient. Private cars need up to 20 times as much space as light rail to carry the same numbers.

Buses are cheap to buy but expensive to operate; light rail is the opposite. A light rail vehicle lasts twice as long as a bus, runs at twice the average speed, and one driver can move 7 times as many people.

Buses are better for some trips, such as links to light rail from the suburbs. At the railway station, light rail connects to heavy rail.

Density rules

Light rail has the best chance of success when one goal sits above all others — maximize ridership. Light rail needs to go where lots of people are, and busy all day — shopping areas, the regional hospital, and airport; not people deserts like the town belt.

Time is money

Successful light rail needs to be there when people need it: high frequency all day, every day — at least every 6 minutes during peak periods, every 12 minutes off-peak. Plan for at least 5000 passengers per hour in peak periods, 2500 passengers per hour off-peak.

People don’t mind transferring when the service is reliable and often.

Inflexibility works

Light rail must be long enough to be fast and predictable — at least 5km with widely-spaced stops. Wellington railway station to the airport is about 9km, travel time less than 20 minutes.

Light rail needs an exclusive right-of-way, with priority over regular traffic at intersections. Cars and buses will sometimes have to wait, but less than waiting at the lights for the hundreds of extra cars and buses that light rail replaces.

Success for all of us

Overseas light rail appeals to everyone — rich and poor, young and old, of all shapes, sizes and abilities find it inviting and welcoming.

Build the right project; build the project right.