The Hub of the Smart Motorway

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Wellington's Transport Operations Centre (WTOC) is where operators monitor the motorway network, helping road users have a safe and enjoyable journey while at the same time helping them make smarter travel choices before or during their journeys.


WTOC operators monitor and manage a considerable proportion of the country’s state highway and regional roading network providing accurate, real time travel information and advice. They work with NZTA partners like emergency services to manage incidents. WTOC has a special focus on Wellington’s smart motorway – the region’s busiest section of road.

WTOC’s role on the smart motorway 

The smart motorway system includes a range of operating procedures that ensure events are managed correctly and consistently. The procedures set out the steps operators must take to manage a range of situations, for example when someone stops in an emergency stopping area or when roadworks are happening on the motorway. 

While setting the speed limit on the smart motorway is automated, WTOC operators monitor the motorway through the network of cameras and detectors to ensure incidents are cleared as quickly as possible to keep people safe and traffic flowing. They set the messages that appear on the electronic variable message signs, and use the lane control signs (the Red X or arrow) to direct traffic on which lane to use. 

WTOC’s other roles 

As well as managing the smart motorway, WTOC also monitors and manages: 

  • 8000km of state highway from the Desert Road to Bluff (excluding Christchurch City) 
  • nearly 200 cameras across the region 
  • more than 50 electronic variable message signs 
  • 46 sets of traffic lights in Wellington City, plus five in Whanganui and New Plymouth, and three in Nelson
  • more than 130 sets of traffic lights in partnership with Wellington City Council 
  • air quality in Wellington’s Arras, Terrace and Mount Victoria tunnels. 

WTOC also serves another valuable purpose; it is a major civil defence and emergency management hub for Wellington, the lower and central North Island. From a breakdown to an earthquake, the WTOC is at the centre of keeping the public informed and safe.

Audio Māori keywords: 

Watch this video from the Memorial Park field trip for more of an idea of how WTOC works.

Benefits of a Smart Motorway

Key Technology Questions


WTOC monitors and manages a large part of the country’s state highways and regional roads. Image: LEARNZ.

WTOC operators monitor the motorway through a network of cameras and detectors. Image: LEARNZ.

WTOC has a special focus on Wellington’s smart motorway – the region’s busiest section of road. Image: LEARNZ.


I wonder how well protected

I wonder how well protected the WTOC building is from a big earthquake, or from other natural disasters like flooding and strong winds?

I think it is fascinating

I think it is fascinating that traffic lights in other cities can be controlled from Wellington.