The idea of a light-rail extension of the Wynyard Quarter tramway along the waterfront to Britomart is being floated by transport authorities.
The future of the tramway, which consists of two vintage trams covering a 1.5km circuit, came under scrutiny earlier this month when Waterfront Auckland announced its plans to halt funding.
The waterfront agency is now talking to tram operator Auckland Tramway about how the decision to cut funding will impact the loss-making tram service.
Mike Lee, Auckland Council transport committee chairman, says Waterfront Auckland’s decision was “certainly pre-emptive” and “violated the no surprises policy the council has with them”.
The Auckland tramway suffered an operating loss of $139,000 in its first eight months to April 2012.
Plans to extend the tramline to the Maritime Museum, and along Quay St to Britomart, have been postponed until 2015.
“There’s still very much a plan to get the service to Britomart but it may mean evolving into a lighter kind of rail,” says Luke Henshall, Waterfront Auckland’s communications and media advisor.
According to Mr Lee, extending the tramline to Britomart is vital.
“The tramway’s real value is not intrinsic – it’s about the potential to give Aucklanders a transport option. So I am concerned about the delay,” says Mr Lee.
Tram operator for Auckland Tramway James Duncan says extending the tramline is crucial to its ongoing operation and delays have been due, in part, to ongoing construction in the Wynyard Quarter.
Mr Duncan says the tramlines may be out of operation for up to 12 months in the next year and a half due to developments in the area.
Disruptions are scheduled in the October-January period, a busy time of year for the tramway.
Hawkins Construction is undertaking construction projects in Halsey St and Daldy St Linear Park, which runs alongside the tram shed.
“Treating the extension of the line across to the Maritime Museum as ‘stage 1’ of the extension would result in an immediate turn-around in the tramway’s prospects,” Mr Duncan says.
Mr Henshall of Waterfront Auckland says it is working with Auckland Tramway in a bid to transform the tramline into “a more viable form of public transport”.
“In terms of extension to Britomart this may mean taking on something more akin to modern trams rather than heritage transport,” says Mr Henshall.
Though ongoing construction in Wynyard Quarter did contribute to the decision to stop funding, Mr Henshall counts “ongoing operational losses” as the main factor.