7 Aug 2018

Wellington's trolley buses get new lease of life

8:04 pm on 7 August 2018

Wellington's old trolley buses are making a comeback, but it will be years before the city has a fully electric bus fleet.

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Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

They were taken off the roads late last year but 50 of them will now be converted into battery powered vehicles and will be ready as soon as January.

It's all because of a $700,000 government grant announced today and comes just three weeks after the controversial roll-out of the new diesel bus fleet.

The grant means NZ Bus can install charging stations at the Karori and Kilbirnie depots for 50 electric vehicles.

Patrick Morgan from advocacy group Congestion Free Wellington said getting rid of the trolley buses in the first place never made sense.

"Wellington retired 60 clean trolley buses late last year and they were due to be replaced by a Wrightspeed bus, but they never really worked.

"So Wellingtonians have been breathing toxic diesel emissions since late last year and that could have been avoided if the government acted a bit more quickly," he said.

Herwin Bongers from another public transport group, Re Volt, was pleased with the announcement saying the new diesel buses were a mistake.

"We've got a dysfunctional networking system at the moment and there seems to be the wrong types of influence around cost and not the health of the public," he said.

Regional councillor Sue Kedgely agreed the diesel buses needed to go and the announcement was at least a step in the right direction.

"It made no sense to scrap them [the trolley buses] at all, but at least we are converting them into battery buses and we need to be moving towards an all electric fleet.

"Not only are diesel buses polluting and noisy, but they emit emissions that are carcinogenic," she said.

Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw said replacing the entire diesel fleet would take time.

"What we are going to see is that full battery electric buses are going to be filtering into the system, the first 10 are here already, there will be another 10 next year and 10 the year after that," he said.

Mr Laidlaw said the fate of the trolley buses was sealed years ago so it was good they were going to be put to use.