Wellington Scoop

British manufacturer building 114 diesel buses for Wellington

News from Optare
Optare, one of the UK’s leading bus manufacturers, has secured its biggest ever Australasian export order with a NZ$40m (£21m) deal to supply 114 buses to the Tranzit Group, one of New Zealand’s largest public transport operators.

The agreement will see Optare, subsidiary of India-based Ashok Leyland, provide 114 innovative and environmentally efficient Metrocity buses to the New Zealand capital Wellington and the surrounding region with the first of the Metrocity buses due to be delivered in March and the entire order set to be fulfilled by July.

The buses feature Euro 6 compliant engines, best in class unladen weight, innovative monocoque design and higher seating capacity altogether delivering significant annual savings in fuel consumption and operating costs.

Graham Belgum, President of Optare, said:

“This is a significant step for Optare as part of our international export strategy and signals the exciting growth opportunities available to us in Australasia. Further it recognises our continued innovation in lightweight products that use fuel efficient and environmentally friendly technologies.”

Paul Snelgrove, Managing Director of Tranzit Group, said:

“A team of us travelled the world to find the ideal lightweight solution (12-tonne GVM) for New Zealand roads. We were impressed with the lightweight design of the Metrocity combined with the excellent passenger capacities it offers. The design’s reputation for excellent performance with regards to fuel efficiency particularly appealed to us.”

“In addition, the Metrocity provided us both a small and medium sized vehicle option 10.1m and 10.8m respectively, with identical body and running gear. The 10.1m Metrocity, with a shorter wheelbase is ideal for travelling through some of Wellington’s narrow streets and hilly terrain.”

“Overall, we were impressed with Optare’s approach and willingness to work in partnership, it was a no-brainer decision for us.”

The Optare group PLC is subsidiary of Ashok Leyland, one of the leading global bus producers, and part of the Hinduja Group.
Optare is a leading British manufacturer of urban buses with a modern assembly facility near Leeds, Yorkshire, employing around 300 people. Its award-winning range of buses feature an integral design and efficient diesel engines, plus an industry-leading choice of electric units utilising the latest low carbon technology.
Optare are an industry leader in electric buses in the UK market with more than 100 units in service across the UK and Europe. Optare has supplied one of the largest electric bus fleets in operation in the UK, a 45-strong fleet providing public transport services in Nottingham.


  1. Guy M, 22. September 2017, 9:41

    Interesting. When Tranzit got the contract, i got the impression that they were going to build the buses themselves – perhaps in NZ, although I’m not sure how. Now we see that they are buying standard UK buses – and from the manufacturer’s website, we can find out that the Metrocity bus is available with diesel engines, but also with electric motors i.e. battery powered. Why didn’t GWRC insist on that from the start? Excerpt from the Optare website:

    “Zero emissions – Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions and help to reduce overall pollution levels, particularly in congested city centres where air pollution has been directly related to severe health problems.
    The Optare zero emissions, fully electric vehicles are currently available in Solo, Metrocity, Metrodecker or Versa models.”

    “No compromise on passenger capacity – The Optare electric vehicle range boasts the same lightweight design as our other vehicles, with passenger capacity equivalent to that of our diesel vehicles dependent on specification requirements. There is a choice of model and layout options to suit a variety of applications including urban, school bus, airport, shuttle and park and ride services.”

    “Lower running and maintenance costs – Fuel costs account for the majority of the cost of bus operation. With recharging costs approximately six times less than that of a diesel equivalent an Optare electric vehicle is more cost effective to operate than a diesel or hybrid equivalent. Maintenance free batteries also reduce the servicing time and costs associated with the vehicle over its lifetime.”

  2. Marion Leader, 22. September 2017, 13:02

    Will we be able to sit near the front and see out of all the windows?

  3. Lissa, 22. September 2017, 14:59

    Are the supposed savings going to be passed on to passengers via reduced fares/improving driver’s work conditions/increasing service frequency?

  4. Cackle McFee, 22. September 2017, 15:16

    “Climate changers” discarding the existing trolley buses and buying imported die$el buses …

  5. Pat, 22. September 2017, 15:39

    Someone should tell the managing director of Tranzit about the internet so they don’t have to “travel the world” looking for smelly expensive diesel buses. He could’ve been told about the trolley buses that NZ actually is capable of making.

  6. Patrick Morgan, 22. September 2017, 16:27

    “environmentally efficient Metrocity buses” – but they run on diesel. Shame on you, GWRC. [via twitter]

  7. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 10:26

    @ Guy M – Yes, there may have been a presumption all around that buses might be built in NZ. The reality though is that NZ bus builders are unlikely to have been able to deliver new buses in the time required (mid 2018) and bus operators will be conscious of cost based on the contracts they have won. Remember it is not just Wellington going through this process – an awful lot of buses need to be built of the Auckland market as well.

    The tender for the new bus routes included a weighting for environmental factors – essentially the GWRC was willing to pay a premium for environmentally friendly buses. That is to say, we were willing to put more of your taxpayer and ratepayer dollars into hybrid or electric buses….but only to a point – at some stage you have to face down the reality of cost. I appreciate that some people say, it doesn’t matter how much it costs, just do it! But that is unlikely to be the reaction of a commuter faced with a bus fare increase.

    Ultimately, none of the winning tenders – including Tranzit’s, included hybrid or electric bus fleets. But the GWRC entered a separate contract with Tranzit to deliver 32 double decker electric buses – i.e. we have paid extra for this. This occurred after Tranzit had won tenders.

    It is all very well to look down a spec sheet of buses and say “we should get that one”. The reality faced by operators and GWRC is that all these decisions have cost implications – and that cost is charged back to ratepayers, tax payers and commuters.

    The GWRC is committed to a 100% electric fleet…..and this will happen over time.

  8. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 10:29

    @ Marion – Yes, the new contracts remove the contravision advertising from the window line so that you will have a much more pleasant view in the future. GWRC fielded lots of complaints about contravision advertising over the years.- but advertising was in the hands of the operators. From 1 July advertising on buses becomes a GWRC responsibility and we have made the call for no advertising on the windows.

    @ Lissa. Contractual negotiations have not been concluded for all routes, so we don’t know what, if any savings there will be as a consequence of the recent tenders. This is a Government process that we were obligated to follow.

  9. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 10:39

    Hi Cackle Fee – That is one way of seeing things. The other is that we are getting 32 double deck electric buses to replace the currently 28 operational trolley buses. This new fleet will start on the Island Bay to Johnsonville route. Fast charge stations will be located at both ends of the route.

    There was a hope that the trolley fleet would be converted to Wrightspeed technology, but we have not heard anything from NZ Bus about this project and I suspect that it has died. No ratepayer funding has been put into the Wrightspeed trial. It was 100% an NZ Bus project.

    I and two other regional councillors have stood opposed to the removal of the trolleys. The decision to remove them goes back more than ten years when the trolley were refurbished and the contract extended for 10 years, but on the basis that there would be no further investment in the electricity infrastructure.

    Hi Pat, I am sure that Tranzit are more professional than to simply surf the net for buses. These are decisions are worth tend of millions of dollars, with technology that is evolving quickly. I for one am very pleased that they are being thorough.

  10. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 10:58

    Hi Patrick – The contracts required new buses to be Euro 5 or better. We also had a weighting in the tenders for hybrid and electric buses. In the end all of the new buses will be Euro 6.

    The contracts also stipulate that existing operators will not be able to operate anything less than Euro 4 standard buses in the future. This means that for route served by Go Wellington, their older and more polluting Euro 2 and 3 buses will not be able to operate routes from mid 2018.

    Yes, we all want electric buses – and like you I want them now – but the costs don’t stack up, which is quite simply the primary reason we aren’t all driving electric cars (though I appreciate you are a bike rider).

  11. Wellington Commuter, 23. September 2017, 11:03

    Thanks Daran for your ongoing contributions to the discussion. Communication and dialogue from councillors are always good even if we do not always like the contents.

  12. Glen Smith, 23. September 2017, 12:28

    Daran: What were the costings for Tranzit to build all of the buses as trolleys with smaller battery capacity (using current technology) to run on an ‘off wire’ trolley system? Or was (as is becoming increasingly obvious) this option never examined and never offered to Tranzit as a possible solution? Chris Laidlaw has replied but no information yet – (in the slim chance that any such analysis exists).
    Sydney has a fleet plan that counts on a bus life expectancy of 23 years (see https://www.thoughtco.com/buses-and-other-transit-lifetime-2798844) so once the diesels are built we will likely have to suffer them for a quarter of a century. What were the health costings for the morbidity and mortality of the citizens of Wellington over that time period? And how did that compare to the cost of building the buses from the outset as electric trolleys that could incorporate new battery technology in the next 5-10 years? (But of course the ill health and resulting costs are not a part of your budget so I guess you were unlikely to have looked at these to justify your claim that the ‘costs don’t stack up). Bring on the commissioner.

  13. Pat, 23. September 2017, 12:43

    As far as management not using the internet to find and source local solutions, I believe that was “unprofessional” behaviour. Travelling the world to find diesel buses to import to Wellington had a high cost.

  14. Marion Leader, 23. September 2017, 12:43

    Daran, your point about the operator being able to block out the views of Wellington in the last contract shows the need for councillors to keep a better eye on contracts. I hope you are keeping a sharp eye on the latest contract. What about the front three rows being occupied by luggage racks on so many of our buses at present?

  15. Brian knowles, 23. September 2017, 13:13

    10.1mtr 10.8mtr vehicles – they are very small buses; the ADLs that NZ Bus have are bad but these are even smaller. That doesn’t seem like a positive passenger experience to me, especially at peak times – sardines in a can comes to mind. I cannot find any positive comments about that model of bus in the UK. The UK stats say they have sold only 56 vehicles since the vehicle was launched 3 years ago. What are we getting? Its seems like lowest specification lowest price zero passenger engagement wins tenders. Auckland have got things right by using larger vehicles. Their buses even have USB chargers.

    I wonder who is supplying the other vehicles – probably Chinese, as they will be cheap also.

  16. Neil Douglas, 23. September 2017, 13:15

    Banning advertising on windows etc will reduce revenue to bus companies which will most likely result in higher fares or more rate-payer subsidy long term


  17. Marion Leader, 23. September 2017, 14:49

    Neil, Wellington has great views so it will be nice to see them. There is plenty of room for advertising on the outside beneath the windows. What I am pleased about is that councillors have listened to people’s complaints about the blocked windows and are doing something about it.
    Brian, all will be forgiven if they have more frequent buses so they are not all overflowing.

  18. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 15:56

    Hi Glen, when the tenders for new bus contracts were called the decision to axe the trolley buses had already been made. So none of the tenders tendered for trolley buses.

  19. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 16:09

    Hi Brian, bus operators are purchasing a mix of buses to match the routes they will be operating. The longest bus in the new fleet will be one metre shorter than our current buses. We get lots of complaints about long buses, damage to cars, negotiating tight turns etc. Don’t forget we will also have a fleet of double decker buses, some diesel, some battery electric.

    Hi Neil, Yes, we were very conscious that we would loose advertising revenue and made the decision with this knowledge. The bus backs are usually the most valuable advertising space.

  20. KB, 23. September 2017, 16:13

    EV bus companies are already offering vehicles that can go 1600km on a single charge – why not go all electric now? How long will we have these diesel buses if they are just now being built? I can’t see Transit stopping using them in 2-3 years if they’re buying them new now.


  21. Glen Smith, 23. September 2017, 17:28

    Daran: when Jacobs reported to the Regional Council (see http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Transport/Regional-transport/RPTP/WellingtonbusfleetoptionsquestionsandanswersJune2014.PDF) in 2014 and was asked “Could the buses be altered so that they are battery power when off the wires, and recharge the batteries whilst on the wire, making them more flexible?” (page 5 section 3 g.) the answer was “yes this could be done”. Since this was an option that provided an immediate fully electric bus transport system and since this is what the public of Wellington have repeatedly indicated that they want could you, or one of the other councillors, answer the following questions.
    1. Did the Council investigate this option further?
    2. If the Council didn’t investigate this option further, do you agree that the Council is incompetent in the execution of its duties?
    3. If you agree this amounts to incompetence, should the Council as a body undertake remedial action?

  22. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 17:29

    Hi KB, I imagine that the bus operators will be looking to maximise the return from their investment. They will be crunching the numbers. If full electric buses or hybrids are indeed cheaper to operate over the life of the contract then they would need to seriously consider electric / hybrid. But we don’t appear to have reached this tipping point just yet.

  23. Cr Daran Ponter, 23. September 2017, 17:35

    Hi Pat, if I was buying $10s of millions worth of buses I would want to see what I was getting. Tranzit have also been dealing with NZ bus builders. As far as I am concerned Tranzit have done the right thing, and been very prompt about it too.

  24. Brian Knowles, 24. September 2017, 17:40

    Very disappointed to find out out that, of the 248 vehicles being purchased, only 32 are being built in NZ. It was referred by GWRC and Tranzit that a large number was going to be built here. This is clearly not the case – only 14% are to br built at Kiwi Bus, the rest are from China and the UK. 32 Kiwi Bus, 95 Chinese vehicles from BCI and Yongman, 121 Uk/Ireland vehicles from Optare and Wrights. The four double-decker electric vehicles are I understand also from China (Southern China Rail) with a Kiwi bus body. Buying unproven cheap vehicles is what Christchurch did about 12 years ago and the network fell flat on its face…

    Let’s look at the whole thing. NZ Bus and Mana are not going to let their good drivers and staff leave. Who would leave for less money anyway? Tranzit will have no choice but to take on the problem drivers and staff because we have driver shortages in Wellington.

    So let’s do the simple math. Cheap unproven buses + underpaid unhappy drivers + 2 operators who have never operated more than 25 commuter buses at any one time = a very high risk of poor services. The cheapest price isn’t the lowest cost.