Posted on March 23, 2012 by


When the share an idea concept was launched to help set a direction for the central city plan, there were a number of people who responded with a “build a monorail” plea. So much so that it even got some mileage in the media, although that is probably largely down to misunderstandings around the term, and details and differences of different rail modes. Every now and then you still see a “monorail is what we really need” comment somewhere, for some god-knows-what reason. It really must just be down to ignorance.

Applying the monorail concept to Christchurch makes very little sense as monorail has very rarely been used as a form of public transport, or the backbone of any public transport system, anywhere in the world (relative to other forms of rail and rapid transit). Predominantly, they are used for small links (i.e. between theme parks/airports/casinos and their car parks) and are aimed at tourists and one-off users. Costs are huge for very very little benefit. Now something very interesting has happened,  as news comes to light that Sydney’s controversial 3.6km monorail, opened in 1988 and serving the CBD and Darling Harbour, is to be closed and pulled down “as soon as feasible”. From Stuff:

The state government has announced it has bought the company that owns the light rail and monorail to clear the way for the monorail’s removal.

“The monorail is not integrated with Sydney’s wider public transport network and has never been truly embraced by the community,” O’Farrell said on Friday.

“The monorail is reaching the end of its economic life and the NSW government cannot justify costly upgrades like the purchase of new vehicles required to keep it running.”

The state government has bought Metro Transport Sydney (MTS) for A$19.8 million.

That begs the question of whether it would have been more successful had it been part of the public transport network. However, that could be explained by the incredible operating cost and relatively low ridership, and the fact that other modes would be cheaper to operate and thus use. From Wikipedia:

The decision to build the monorail over other forms of rail (e.g. light rail) was in the eyes of many a political decision. While a light rail would have been $20 million dollars cheaper to build, service more passengers per hour and cost 40% less for a ticket the monorail system prevailed.


A 2011 article by a Sydney newspaper shows that the Monorail is now one of the most expensive public transport systems in the world, with a $5 flat charge even when traveling a mere 150 metres between two stops in Pitt Street.

So ends the Sydney monorail saga, which arguably has turned out to be 24 years of failure. It never amounted to anything more than a very expensive tourist trap, and was completely useless as a form of public transport. Hopefully ideas of ‘monorail for Christchurch’ die with it!

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