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City-News Archive

Wellington [NZ] - Why trolley buses are more cost effective than battery buses

J. Lehmann - 09.05.16

Even though the catenary is still being renewed and new support masts have recently been installed, the Greater Wellington Regional Council has decided to replace the local trolleybus operation as of October 2017. Based on political decisions already made, double-deck diesel buses with merely stage 5 compliant motors are to replace the electric trolleys. Already for some time, the operation of the existing fleet of trolleybuses has been limited from Monday to Friday and curtailed at 18:30 in the evening. At night and on weekends, only diesel units are deployed.

These questionable decisions have not been accepted by all, with the Regional Councillor Paul Bruce and the Wellington Green Party leading efforts to preserve the urban trolleybus system. Based on their invitation, the Austrian public transport expert Gunter Mackinger gave a public lecture in Wellington on 10 March 2016. Mackinger provided background information on international "best practice" results with regards to trolleybus operations and highlighted how the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai have extended their trolleybus networks, preferring traditional trolleys to the less reliable battery buses.

In Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand and after Auckland the second largest conurbation in the country, the local operator NZBus has tasked the company Wrightspeed with the conversion of diesel buses to hybrid units. The actual combustion engines are to be removed and replaced with two high performance electric motors. These are to be fed by battery packs, which get their energy from gas turbine motors. The 60 Designline trolleys are to be converted first. These modern buses are only 7-9 years old and therefore too young for complete withdrawal.

Presently the elegant Designline trolleybuses are still in use on the well maintained electric network in Wellington. On this picture, trolleys 335, 387 and 343 are seen under the wires at the main interchange station. Photo: Gunter Mackinger

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