Wellington Scoop

After the trolley buses: only ten electric buses next year (then ten more in 2020)

As the Regional Council pushes ahead with its plan to get rid of Wellington’s 60 trolley buses before Christmas, Tranzit has announced that there will be 10 electric double-decker buses in its 234-strong fleet next year.

The rest of Tranzit’s new fleet will be Euro 6 diesels, which the company says will meet the highest global emissions standards for non-electric buses.

Tranzit will begin operating 60 per cent of the Wellington region’s commuter bus routes next July.

The DomPost reported that the company’s first ten electric buses will run between the suburbs of Island Bay and Churton Park, and will be joined by another 12 in 2021. Ten more will be added to Brooklyn routes in 2020.

The 82-seat double-deckers will be fully charged overnight, topping up their batteries during the day at charging stations across the network.

Tranzit managing director Paul Snelgrove told the DomPost he was “absolutely adamant” there would be no problems with the new electric buses.

“We’ve just come back from Europe and Asia to finalise our sourcing of the buses, and the technology we’ll be using in these fully-electric buses – rather than hybrids – is proven to be effective and efficient.”

The buses will be built in Tauranga by Kiwi Bus Builders, with a Chinese railway company providing the motors and Dutch company Heliox supplying the rapid charging technology. Global company Microvast will provide the batteries.


  1. Traveller, 6. August 2017, 9:55

    Doesn’t sound like a very good swap. Getting rid of sixty electric trolley buses and replacing them with ten electric buses… and more diesel buses than we have now.

  2. Neil Douglas, 6. August 2017, 11:20

    I’m intrigued by the mention of ‘charging stations around the network’.

    Who is installing and paying for the charging stations and have resource consents been obtained? I’ve not seen in the Dom Post or anywhere else a public notice about battery charging stations for double-decker buses.

    I wonder what the weight of the battery might be? Could be over a ton? If the batteries are lithium, then they could be unstable so the public will want to know whether they are going to have a recharge station close to their house and what the emergency procedure will be in the event of an exploding battery.

  3. Chris Laidlaw, 6. August 2017, 13:41

    The answer to Traveller’s comment is (1) there is a steadily declining number of trolleybuses operating (2) they will either be converted to hybrid electric or scrapped because they are insufficiently reliable (3) the projected number of full electric buses is at least 30, and (4) the older diesels will be replaced by new Euro 6 very low emission buses resulting in a 38 percent reduction in Wellington emissions.

  4. Neil Douglas, 6. August 2017, 15:16

    Chairman Chris, Your own GWRC ‘reliability’ statistics (see link) give bus services delivered at 99.1% and on time performance at 99.8%. Hardly indicative of “insufficiently reliable” trolley buses to me. Maybe its your own statistics and expert advice (38%) that is unreliable!

    Just think what the emission reduction could have been had you been environmentally ambitious and invested in our 100% electric trolleys with central government assistance. Indeed, if NZ First gets sufficient backing in the forthcoming election, Central Government might be demanding this of you.

  5. Paul Bruce, 6. August 2017, 17:14

    Chair Chris Laidlaw uses the phrase very low emission buses to describe the new Euro 6 diesel buses that will be used by Tranzit. There is a deliberate confusion between air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Euro6 standards do not apply to greenhouse emissions but to air quality. Recent revelations relating to filters installed on diesel-vehicles indicate that in the real world performance was quite different to “in factory”. Euro 6 filters are the highest standard. However, they are expensive to maintain, and the temptation will be to not renew when needed. How will we know whether the air quality standards are being met? Well, we won’t as GWRC rejected the need for annual spot air quality tests.

    Euro 6 standards are also unable to remove all the very small 2.5 micron particles which lodge in respiratory tracts causing cancers and asthma. This lead to the WMO classification of diesel as a class one toxic carcinogenic equal to asbestos.  

    The removal of the trolley buses will lead to a jump in both greenhouse emissions and air quality particulates and gases.

  6. Mike Mellor, 6. August 2017, 17:56

    Chris Laidlaw, re your points as numbered:
    1. of course there is a steady decline in the number of trolleybuses operating – who would spend money on maintaining them when GWRC is requiring their withdrawal in a couple of months?
    2. re their reliability, see point 1 – and it’s GWRC’s decision to close the trolleybus network that is forcing them off the road. That’s the reason they’re being scrapped or converted, not because they’re “insufficiently reliable”.
    3. so initially there will be 60 fewer all-electric buses in the fleet than now (100% reduction), in 2020 30 fewer than now (50% reduction), with the other 30 being replaced by fossil-fuelled vehicles (just as the rest of the world is doing precisely the opposite).
    4. it’s not just the older diesels that are being replaced but also the trolleys, increasing emissions and reducing air quality beyond what they could (and should) have been.

    0/4 is not a very good mark!

  7. Piglet, 6. August 2017, 18:29

    Chris please think again. Leave the wires up until the battery buses are proven. Where are the examples of double decker battery buses working in the same windy, winding and up and down situation as Wellington?

  8. Darren smith, 6. August 2017, 19:58

    I understand that over half of the buses that have been purchased by Tranzit and Uzabus are going to be even smaller than the buses that Nz Bus purchased a few years ago. This is ridiculous. How is that improving public transport with 32 seats and 23 standing crammed into a 10 meter bus like sardines. Definitely not passenger friendly. I thought the brief was to get people out of cars and on to public transport but this isn’t the way to do it. We are not even getting USB phone chargers like Auckland.

  9. Mike Mellor, 6. August 2017, 21:53

    From the General Manager’s Report to this Tuesday’s GWRC Sustainable Transport Committee meeting:

    “In accordance with agreed transitional arrangements with NZ Bus, trolley buses will stop operating on 31 October. The transitional arrangements provide for continuity of service so customers will not be affected. The trolley buses will be replaced with any Wrightspeed converted buses that are available for service at that time with the balance to consist of diesel buses to make up the necessary capacity. The transitional arrangements will be in place until the new contracts commence in July 2018, when over 300 new buses, primarily latest technology Euro VI diesels, and the first ten full battery electric buses will commence service.

    “Wellington Cable Car Limited has let a contract for the removal of the trolley bus overhead wires and associated infrastructure. Detailed planning has commenced with removal due to start in November and continue for the following 12 months. Removal of an unused section of wire between Lambton Quay and Wakefield Street will take place over the coming months to test and refine the removal process.”

  10. Daryl Cockburn, 7. August 2017, 9:22

    Our community is blessed with a very high level of transport skill, clearly

  11. luke, 7. August 2017, 10:32

    What a great deal. Replace our electric trolley buses with ratty old Auckland reject ones still painted in their old waka pacific and howick&eastern colours. All it takes is a Metlink sticker.

  12. Karlos, 7. August 2017, 17:12

    Great… stinky health hazard diesels for years. 🙁

    The GWRC knows_quality of air will suffer, as will Wellingtonians’ health. They are blindly following their craptastic transport plan (at the very least cynical incompetence from regional bureaucrats). And all this as world cities rapidly backpedal from using ‘deadly diesel’ vehicles. From a senior civil servant in the article – “We did not sleepwalk into this. To be totally reductionist, you are talking about killing people today rather than saving lives tomorrow.” Yet Chris Laidlaw and his mates seem to be sleepwalking us into the same hazards using the same political excuses… they’ll be paid-out and long-gone when the chickens come home to roost.

  13. Traveller, 7. August 2017, 17:19

    I drove down from Kelburn today behind one of those plain old unpainted (except for the Metlink sticker) buses from Auckland – which blasted out diesel fumes appallingly. The Regional Council needs to think again about these rejects from Auckland.

  14. David Bond, 7. August 2017, 17:27

    Why are the existing trolleybuses “insufficiently reliable”?

    The answer might have something to do with the fact that the previous trolleybus-owners (Stagecoach) decided to purchase the on-board electronic control systems from a Brazilian supplier to a 1980’s design, rather than from a local Wellington supplier which was all geared up to produce a superior, 21st-century design. This local company had, at Stagecoach’s request, already tested their design-concept on one of the former Volvo trolleybuses with very promising results.

    Had the decision been made to proceed with this option instead of the Brazilian product, we may well not be in the sorry position we are today.

  15. Neil Douglas, 7. August 2017, 20:57

    David, Where’s the statistics to prove they are unreliable? I haven’t seen any. The trolleys are out in force at 4pm each day along the golden mile and I can’t recall seeing a trolley pole coming off like they used to before Graham Butler solved the problem.

    I note that Tranzit’s double deckers have 82 seats. On page 29 of GWRC’s Regional 2014 PT Plan it states 100 person BRT vehicles. Does this mean 18 people standing? I can’t see how getting on and off is going to be speedy given such over-loaded double deckers. That’s if the bus weight is legal, taking account the battery weight that will be required.

  16. Daryl Cockburn, 8. August 2017, 9:46

    V G to hear GWRC is pressing the crown to do something about climate change, but why not press themselves? Trolleys are all electric and GWRC’s guesstimates to upgrade the substations, reputed to be as high as $52M or even $80M, should be $15M according to the skilled people I know. So GWRC: prove your estimates or keep the trolleys. You also have the incentive of ill-health from the particles that kill many. But now that we know the quantity of brake lining & tyre particles equals the diesel particles, and can be removed by steel wheels & electric braking, we should commit to LR or HR

  17. Bogbrush Pete, 8. August 2017, 12:04

    There’s one good thing to be said for the second-hand buses from Auckland, and that is the view from inside is not shaded, blocked, or otherwise interrupted by horse-shit advertising for things I’ve never wanted and will never need.

  18. Elaine Hampton, 8. August 2017, 12:05

    Such muddled thinking, or circuitous attempts to prove the un-provable; That this is the worst of all worlds for Wellington. How are they – the Regional Council et al – going to get away with this snake oil? Follow the money I guess. And the citizens get stiffed.

  19. David Bond, 8. August 2017, 19:25

    @ Neil Douglas: In answer to your question (“Where’s the statistics to prove the trolleybuses are unreliable?), I have only two sources: 1) Chris Laidlaw himself. 2) Anecdotal evidence of problems including electronic component failure and other issues, and that a growing number of trolleybuses are now out of action. However as Mike Mellor points out above, the latter may well be a consequence of the announcement that the system is to be scrapped. If my two sources are incorrect then it could be that the trolleybuses are not as unreliable as we are being told. However for various reasons I still maintain they would have been much better off had the Wellington-designed control system (and back-up support) been chosen over the Brazilian.

  20. Conn Sheehan, 8. August 2017, 20:21

    Why is this GWRC so hell bent on deceiving the people of Wellington in being so cheap just to scrap the trolleybuses prematurely?

  21. Michael, 9. August 2017, 16:10

    Why does Wellington have to accept Auckland’s cast off buses while, along with all NZ taxpayers, we have to help foot the bill for new options to fix Auckland’s transport woes.

  22. Tony Jansen, 23. August 2017, 13:50

    GWRC is doing NZTA’s work for them, and lying about the trolley buses’ alleged unreliability. Now we see that bus drivers’ terms and conditions will have to be reduced in order for the operators to remain profitable. That’s why the GWRC spent millions employing employment contract lawyers during the tender process. If anyone thinks only the left are ideologically blinkered, here is your proof that old neo liberals are even worse. I’d call for Laidlaw and his cronies to immediately resign but what would be the point? Vote them out in two years time!