Catch the gondola into town?

3 minutes read
Posted 4 December, 2023
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Doppelmayr gondolas are used around the world

Gondola manufacturer Doppelmayr is proposing a cable car system carrying up to 3000 passengers per hour to help solve Queenstown's transport problems.

The company, which has installed gondolas at Skyline and the region's skifields, last week put forward 10 places in New Zealand it believes would benefit from urban aerial cable cars.

For Queenstown, the gondola would run from Queenstown Airport to Frankton and into the CBD, departing every 48 seconds. Travel times would be 20 minutes, faster than taking the bus or car, with no chance of getting caught in rush hour congestion.

Doppelmayr's plan would see the gondola go through a tunnel to avoid the jets landing at Queenstown Airport but it still expects the cost to build and operate would be "substantially lower than alternative off road options".

This summer, it's replacing the Shadow Basin chairlift up The Remarkables skifield. The total cost of the project is $23 million. The company has installed cable car systems in mountain destinations around the world over the past 130 years, including urban solutions.

Otago Regional councillor Alex Forbes investigated the potential to use gondolas as mass transport systems, while on holiday in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2017.

"I think it's a cool solution for Queenstown and would love to see it happen," she says.

"Our road corridors are so narrow, and so difficult to make bigger, that we will eventually have to find what we call an 'off-line' solution [off the roads]."

Forbes says cable cars would fit well into our landscape and work for locals and tourists.

"But there's a huge caveat, which is when it comes to ditching the private car, I don't know how effective it will be.

"We now have a rudimentary bus system, which I'm proud of, despite it's problems, and even though we have a healthy population, who love their bikes, they don't want to use it for their commute."

Forbes says the next generation, the current teenagers, are much more open to alternative modes of transport, especially electric scooters and bikes, as well as buses.

"They can't drive, so it gives them freedom from their parents. That's who we need to focus on, and connect up our trail network so they can get around."

Resource consents could be another issue, if the proposed gondola travels over people's houses, past their windows, and funding is always an obstacle.

"Funding models are huge, they are difficult," Forbes says. "People talk about public-private partnerships, but I've yet to see one that's really successful.

"I suspect it would have to be publicly funded and still think Queenstown needs a visitor tax to fund infrastructure for the numbers we have.

"But if we put our minds to it, we can overcome problems, even funding, because the money is there, it's just a matter of how we access it."

Both Otago Regional Council and Queenstown Lakes District Council have the potential of off-line solutions in their long term plans.

Porter Group proposed a gondola from Frankton up to the Remarkables skifield a few years ago, with the potential to carry on into town, and is attempting to find a funding solution.

In the meantime, urban transport company Woosh is planning a pilot project of its pod system in Remarkables Park, which allows 4-8 person pods to connect to both tracks and an overhead system.

Doppelmayr New Zealand CEO Garreth Hayman, meanwhile, says the business is focusing on Auckland and Wellington initially.

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