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Supporters warn against mothballing buses

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 06:35 29/05/2014

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Backers of Wellington's endangered trolley buses have rushed to their defence.

Under the Greater Wellington Regional Council's draft regional public transport plan, the trolley buses would be ditched after 2017.

There are 60 trolley buses in the city's fleet, which was upgraded at a cost of $27 million seven years ago. They would go under the plan, as would the city's 218 other buses, to be replaced by more modern vehicles, which have not been chosen yet.

Several submitters to the draft plan yesterday questioned the wisdom of discarding the trolley-bus network.

"Once they're gone that's it. It's something you'll live to regret," Paul Kelliher said.

Tim Bollinger said the history of the trolley buses reflected that of Wellington.

"The city was created on these lines and this system."

Ken New described the plans as crazy. "You're going to replace zero emission buses with polluting diesels powered by imported oil."

But not all submitters were as taken with the trolley buses. The cost of maintaining the "ugly" wire network could not be justified, Frank Quirke said. "Imagine how different the city would look if they were removed."

NZ Bus general manager strategy Scott Thorne said consideration should be given to keeping some elements of the trolley service through to 2022.

"Keeping partial trolley services on key routes would preserve the environmental benefits and perceptions of our city, reduce the network costs and ensure greater value from the $36 million trolley fleet, which will otherwise be scrapped prematurely."

Bus and Coach Association chief executive Barry Kidd warned against adopting new technology too soon. "There's a real risk when opting to pick a winner, and we're not sure it's the right time."

Wellington Tramways Union secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said the trolley buses had a useful life until at least 2022. "The overhead wires are probably in the best condition they have been in for 50 years."

It wanted to see the electric bus network retained, as hybrids and other options were untested.

Submissions on the draft plan - the regional council's blueprint for public transport services - are being heard this week. The council has received 618 submissions.

The draft plan includes proposals for a new high-frequency bus network, integrated ticketing, and options for replacing Wellington's bus fleet with new generation diesel buses, hybrids or electric buses.

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- The Dominion Post

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