Quelle surprise, it turns out Celia Wade-Brown’s flagship policy of light rail for Wellington is unaffordable with the price tag creeping towards the billion dollar mark. Wellington’s relatively small population and difficult terrain were always going to make light rail a challenging prospect, and the independent report has reinforced this. Sydney with its 4 million-plus population has struggled to make its light rail system viable, so the cards were always stacked against it here.
The concept of a rapid bus transport system with more bus lanes and buses seems to be the way forward. Hopefully electric buses are adopted instead of the hideous diesel options (which probably smell worse than a Peck sweat shop would! 🙂 ) although they may need to develop some sort of engine noise as a warning device given the odd fascination Wellingtonians seem to have with not paying attention before walking in front of buses.
Ultimately we need to cut our cloth to fit a city of this size, and that means backing the rapid public transport option that provides best bang for buck. At the very least, this report seems to have delivered some sort of consensus that the way forward is on the buses.
Wade-Brown will cop this on the chin and pictures like the one below, which was forwarded to us, have already begun doing the rounds mocking the Green policy. But while Wade-Brown’s vision was unaffordable, at least she did put an idea on the table that got people thinking about public transport. You could also argue that the emerging consensus around the rapid bus transport compromise may not have been possible had she not pushed light rail so hard. But unfortunately that doesn’t make for a great campaign slogan.
This was an issue that could have been a game-changer for Wade-Brown leading into the election. If the report was positive, the umpire would be calling it ‘advantage Wade-Brown’. But instead she is now left without her defining policy in her campaign arsenal, which means the election will be rather like facing the Wimbledon final without your racket.