Greens campaign to give trolley buses a new lease of life

Plan to convert to rechargeable batteries

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 04/04/2014
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Green MP Gareth Hughes and Regional councillors Sue Kedgley and Paul Bruce are petitioning for a halt on scraping the Wellington trolley buses.

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The Green Party is hoping to derail plans to scrap Wellington's trolley buses.

It has launched a campaign to give the buses a new lease of life by converting them to run off rechargeable batteries.

"I'm sure most Wellingtonians wish their forebears hadn't ripped up the tram lines, and this is the same sort of issue. We're at the turning point, and this is an irreversible decision," Greater Wellington regional councillor Sue Kedgley said.

The council's draft regional public transport plan includes plans to scrap Wellington's 60 trolley buses in 2017 and progressively replace older diesel buses with either electric, hybrid or more modern diesels.

However, Kedgley said she did not believe the council would seriously consider electric or hybrid options.

"We will end up with more diesels, because they are cheaper."

Green MP Gareth Hughes said it wanted a pilot study into modern electric trolley buses that could recharge off existing overhead wires.

"We want to see a clean modern cost-effective solution, before we take the fateful decision to scrap the trolley buses."

A pilot study would cost less than $1 million, he said.

Councillor Paul Bruce said electric battery technology was evolving rapidly.

"Modern batteries and charging systems could transform our trolley bus fleet, and enable it to travel substantial distances without overhead wires."

Bruce and Kedgley both have ties to the Green Party.

The public can provide feedback on the draft plan from today until May 9. The final version is expected to take effect from July 24.

Paul Swain, the council's transport portfolio leader, said he expected feedback both for and against keeping the trolley buses.

"The real problem is that they are costly to run, not as reliable, and most importantly not as flexible. They can only run where the wires are."

It cost between $6m and $8m a year to maintain 160 kilometres of wires and substations.

Keeping the trolley buses would also mean spending up to $60m upgrading 15 substations that power the network.

The council would not overlook its environmental responsibilities for a cheap option in the buses, he said.

The first trolley bus was introduced to Wellington in 1924, with a single line to and from Kaiwharawhara.

Other proposals in the draft regional public transport plan include a new $268m bus rapid transit network.

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- The Dominion Post

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