Chris Laidlaw response to our letter re: the trolley buses

On 13 February we wrote to the Sustainable Transport Committee restating our concern regarding the GWRC decision to replace trolley buses with diesel-hybrid buses.  Our letter can be found here. Below is Chris Laidlaw’s response …

20 February 2017
Dear Christine

Thank you for your letter of 13 February 2017. I appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to write to us about the trolleybuses.  We note that the points you raise are similar to earlier submissions made by the Architectural Centre that were considered at the time of the decision making process by the Council on the future of the trolley buses and related public transport plans.

As you will know, the decision to remove the trolley buses from service was not a decision taken lightly by the Council, but was taken within the context of our future vision for public transport in the Wellington region. The reasons for it have been explained at length since then – a rapidly deteriorating power infrastructure, especially the underground cables which has been the product of little or no investment for decades; steadily declining reliability of the buses themselves  – not so much the bodywork but the mechanical components which for the most part are forty odd years old and now failing. If the council owned the trolleys the picture might have been different; but we don’t and therefore have to deal with the world as it is rather than what we might have preferred it to be. Our incumbent operator NZ Bus decided that it did not want to continue with the trolleys – thus the very considerable investment in the Wrightspeed technology which we applaud. We are working with NZ Bus to introduce a plug-in range extended electric bus fleet that will provide an important stepping stone to battery only  electric buses in the future. In the first instance these will re-use and refurbish the old trolley buses.

Retaining the trolley buses is not an option any more. We are in the midst of a bus tender round which is predicated on their removal and no operator is interested in taking them on. Over the last year or so the regional Council has charted out a  transition to a newer, more flexible, more modern and comfortable bus fleet and new bus services in Wellington city that make it easier and more reliable for people to get to where they want to go by public transport. Increasing public transport use and getting people out of cars will lower transport emissions overall, and therefore the Council’s decision is consistent with the Regional Policy Statement, the Regional Land Transport Plan and the Regional  Public Transport Plan. Even without the trolleys we are very confident that the overall bus fleet emissions will reduce as a result of the tender round and will continue to reduce as the operators replace diesels with hybrid-electric and full electric buses in the very near future. To have retained the trolleys in these circumstances would have unnecessarily complicated the transformation of the fleet to full electric.

The Regional Council has a stated ambition to be the first region in New Zealand with an all electric bus fleet. To this end, GWRC has provided an incentive mechanism in its current tender for bus operators to specifically encourage low emission bus fleets, with additional weighting provided for battery only electric buses.

Further information on the factual basis for Council’s plans for the new network and bus fleet is available on the councils website (

I hope this helps to flesh out the actual picture.


Chris L


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