Is a gondola the future of Queenstown's airport-CBD commute?

by Kim Bowden - Dec 01, 2023

It is the company behind Skyline's big, new gondolas, and now it has its eyes set on connecting the Queenstown CBD to the airport using its technology.

Doppelmayr NZ says it's been working with local engineers and now has a shortlist of 10 sites in New Zealand where aerial cable cars could be used for public transport.

Making the cut, Queenstown.

The ambitious plans were outlined in the company's Urban Transport Solutions Report presented yesterday at a BusinessNZ event.

Doppelmayr, which is from Austria but has a base in Christchurch, says the report "makes the case for urban cable car solutions in Aotearoa".

The company has been making cable cars for more than 130 years, and has products operational in 30 countries around the world.

Its grand vision for Queenstown has a cable car departing every 48 seconds, carrying up to 1,500 passengers per hour in each direction.

The route would travel between the airport and the Queenstown CBD, and include a station in Frankton at the corner of State Highways 6 and 6A.

It's suggested it could go up and over Queenstown Hill.

In a statement, Doppelmayr New Zealand chief executive Garreth Hayman says the company is focusing on Auckland and Wellington to start with, but is looking to partner with the "appropriate planning and transport agencies to progress the investigation" of the other shortlisted sites.

"We know these solutions work because we have seen them in action in large international cities – where they complement existing transport networks and are incorporated into existing buildings, underground stations, airports and housing developments.” 

Mr Hayman says it's a good fit for urban environments under pressure from growth and increasing vehicle congestion, especially locations seeking to meet ambitious climate targets.

In Queenstown Lakes, local government and tourism bodies have committed to decarbonising the visitor economy, with a bold goal of carbon zero by 2030.

Queenstown Airport’s general manager property planning Rachel Tregidga says while the airport has not yet had a conversation with Doppelmayr about the proposal, it remains "open-minded".

"Increasing the percentage of people using public transport to and from the airport is one of our strategic goals and cable cars are one option to consider as part of long-term planning for the district.

"Given Queenstown’s Airport’s central location and proximity to the town centre, there is a great opportunity to introduce innovative and low-emissions public transport options to and from the airport."

Doppelmayr also identified viable routes linking Auckland Airport to Botany and Onehunga, Auckland's Te Atatū Road to the Northwestern busway, the Wellington CBD to the airport, Island Bay and Karori, and Christchurch Airport to the CBD, among others.

Doppelmayr says aerial cable cars are cheaper to build than most other public transport options, and they can be constructed in a shorter time frame because they are integrated into existing urban environments. Because they are autonomous, they are also cheaper to run.

The company says there are no significant planning or consent issues that would prevent an aerial cable car system being used as public transport in New Zealand.

Main image (Doppelmayr NZ): The Doppelmayr gondola in Bogota, Columbia, is 3.3 kilometres long and provides a link to a bus network.

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