The Government is getting light rail back on track by involving Wellingtonians in a six-month process to come up with a city-shaping project.

Transport Minister Michael Wood today acknowledged Wellingtonians had been shut out of the multibillion-dollar project between the CBD and Wellington Airport, which went on hold in the middle of last year after being blocked by NZ First.

He said an establishment unit has started today between central and local government to get buy-in from Wellingtonians and come up with the mode, route, costings and financing options for Cabinet to consider later this year.

“Involving Wellington Council is critical, so the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Wellington will work with me and the Minister of Finance to oversee this work,” he said.

Light rail, or modern day trams, will either run at street level or underground between the CBD and Miramar via the Hospital and the Airport.

Likely routes for light rail at street level are Customhouse Quay and Taranaki Street, close to extensive urban development at Te Aro with the bustling high-rise Paddington development.

It is understood there are two options at the CBD end; starting at the Wellington Railway Station or the new Beehive station being built as part of the $2.4 billion Transmission Gully project.

The Government is not commenting on the likely cost, but last year NZ First leader Winston Peters said it would cost between $10 billion to $15 billion and lead to a “decade of chaos”.

Wood acknowledged that Wellingtonians had been shut out of the previous process that saw rival bids from the NZ Transport Agency and a consortium of the NZ Super Fund and a Canadian pension fund being considered.

The Cabinet opted for the Super Fund proposal in the middle of last year, but it was scuppered by NZ First.

Wood said light rail is the most significant city-shaping piece of infrastructure since the Wellington Harbour wharves, which opened in 1839.

“Light rail is a critical investment to develop a modern, connected mass-transit system in New Zealand’s best city, supporting jobs, growth, and housing.

“Without decisive investment in mass transit Wellington will choke on its own growth.

“Light rail will support growth in Te Aro, Newtown, Kilbirnie and Miramar in particular, connecting these communities and giving people the option to leave the car at home, which will help reduce congestion and emissions.

“Our vision for Wellington is to create a vibrant, connected city that’s easier, cleaner and safer to get around – light rail will help make that happen. The city centre to Miramar line will be a backbone that eventually will link with the north and south-east, forming a rapid transit network that fully integrates with other forms of transport across the city,” he said.

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