Wellington Scoop

Fears about increasing pollutants and noise as result of new bus plan


News from ReVolt Wellington
Wellington residents living on former trolley bus routes on the East-West corridor are facing a 200 percent increase in carcinogenic diesel pollutants for the next decade, under the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s new high-frequency bus network due to be phased in from July.

Research by ReVolt Wellington – a community organisation dedicated to bringing non-polluting electric bus-es back to the capital – also found residents along the routes will experience a 400 percent increase in noise compared to the trolley bus era. (Based on published timetable information)

Hundreds of millions of dollars are also expected to be shaved off property values on the routes. A GWRC-commissioned report by Price Waterhouse Cooper forecast a seven percent drop as a result of the new diesel-powered network. (http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Transport/Regional-transport/RPTP/GWRC-Bus-Fleet-Configurations-Final-version.pdf, p.62)

The council decommissioned the trolley bus network to meet operating requirements brought in by the pre-vious government. The Public Transport Operating Model forced New Zealand’s regional councils to intro-duce a competitive business model to public transport networks and reduce their reliance on subsidy. (https://www.transport.govt.nz/land/ptom/)

The council’s tender process failed to provide enough incentive for a change to electric buses and actively discouraged a fully electric fleet – in contradiction of its own long-term transport plan. It describes diesel buses as “the worst performing option on carbon emissions” which reduces harmful local emissions “by a smaller amount than either battery electric or diesel hybrid options.” (http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Transport/Regional-transport/RPTP/WGNDOCS-1386111-v1-FinalRPTPdocWEBversion.PDF, p.33)

The GWRC awarded 50 percent of its bus routes to NZ BUS – which owns the trolley bus stock and a fleet of ageing diesel buses – and to MANA. The remaining 50 percent were secured through tender by TRANZIT, which bought 238 new buses. 95 percent of those are diesel, with 10 electric double-decker buses on trial.

Residents are especially concerned that the west to east city corridor will be operated by NZ Bus using a fleet of ageing Euro 1, 2 and 3 diesel buses until the end of this year. Even the latest Euro 6 standard bus-es emit very small 2.5 micron particles which lodge in respiratory tracts and are known to cause cancers and asthma. In 2012 the World Health Organisation classified diesel as a group one carcinogenic equivalent to asbestos. (http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2012/pdfs/pr213_E.pdf, IARC Diesel engine exhaust carcinogenic,12 June 2012)

NZ Bus recently signalled that the 57 ex-trolley buses which are being tested with full electric conversions could possibly be sent to other cities where they have recently won new contracts. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/103869609/wellingtons-60-retired-trolley-buses-could-be-converted-into-fullyelectric-vehicles

ReVolt Wellington will hold a meeting at the Seatoun Village Community Hall, on Wednesday 13 June at 7:30pm with councillors in attendance. All concerned citizens are urged to attend.


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  1. Suzie, 6. June 2018, 23:01

    Eventually we will get battery-powered buses. Just a matter of time. Think ahead, folks. Those dinosaur trolleys had to go. Now let’s also get rid of all the cables, what an eye sore.

  2. Gillybee, 7. June 2018, 11:06

    “Eventually” is a decade away Suzy – maybe longer – based on the contracts the GWRC have already signed. If anything’s a fossil, it’s the backward thinking that got us here.

    Wellingtonians have been duped into believing that we’re getting a fleet of electric buses next month, if 10 electrics a year out of approximately 500 buses can be described as a “fleet”.

  3. Casey, 7. June 2018, 11:17

    @Suzie. You need to get out more and see that the majority of the trolley bus overhead wires have gone. The wires that remain on the poles where the trolley ones were removed from are NOT coming down. Personally I’d rather have a little bit of visual pollution in the shorter term than air pollution.

    Battery buses could have been in Wellington from next month had the GWRC acted in the interests of all Wellington City residents, instead of against them. Pollution kills and impairs the health of all exposed to it. For EVERY worker killed, or who becomes permanently health impaired, the cost to society is $4.2 million.

    I invite you, Suzie, to move to a house alongside a bus stop in say, Moxham Ave, Hataitai, where there will be about 900 bus movements per week, most of which are and will be Euro 3, which are noisy when pulling into a stop but much noisier when pulling out. You will “enjoy” the noise from 6 am until midnight 7 days a week.

    More recent Euro 5 and 6 buses as employed in other centres aren’t quiet either, although the NOx gas emissions are lower. Their greenhouse gas emissions are only fractionally less than Euro 3 engines, a statistic the GWRC has chosen to ignore.

  4. Dave B, 7. June 2018, 12:54

    Suzie you should look outside Jurassic little New Zealand to learn the truth about modern trolleybuses. Try Switzerland for instance – a country that leaves most others for dead in its ability to organise itself and make smart decisions. And guess what? They have. . .trolleybuses!

    Another lesson from Switzerland: If you really want to clean up Wellington’s cluttered-looking streetscape, get rid of cars – both parked and moving – from the key central areas. They degrade the ambience far more than trolley wires ever did.

  5. Citizen Joe, 7. June 2018, 13:06

    Suzie, I loved our unique ‘tuatara’ trolley buses and I liked the ‘ceiling’ to Wellington streets that the wires produced. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Noise is in the ears of the listener and cancer is in the lungs of the street walker courtesy of the diesel buses that decision makers with your views have hoist upon us. Some things are just worth maintaining and by the way, the battery reprocessing/recycling centre in Petone was closed for environmental/health reasons.

  6. Boaz, 7. June 2018, 14:57

    Battery buses are a fools errand for mass transportation. It’s typical of New Zealanders’ apathy that they try to appease rather then make a hard line stand and demand re installation of the trolleybus system. Of all electric transport systems, trolleybus is the cleanest most flexible model and is proven technology. It is effectively Light Rail with tires. But it comes at a considerably reduced cost, when compared with Light Rail. The costs to reinstall the trolleybus system are next to nothing when compared with Light Rail investment. It would be possible for the trolleybus system to be restored starting at $100 million for 3 mainlines. When looking at all the operating factors, a battery bus will simply burn out after a few years use. battery buses are not connected to mains power. The weight of a fully laden bus, the constant demand for electricity, the hours of operation, the service route miles, etc etc, plus weight of batteries means that an electric bus system entirely reliant on battery power is not feasible. A Trolley battery system however, which uses a system of mainline trolley routes, and trolley buses equipped with batteries and in motion charging is the way to g. The trolley-battery buses can stray off wire on secondary routes when required, then return to the wired system. Modern trolley buses being built in the USA Feature automatic pole adjustment. In other words the trolley poles can be adjusted without the driver having to leave his seat.I seriously urge Revolt Wellington to advance that type of system.

  7. Daryl Cockburn, 7. June 2018, 19:47

    I’m staggered each day the way people make decisions without surveys of best international practice and business cases. Our trolleys will be proven to be very worthy of maintenance

  8. Ross Clark, 7. June 2018, 22:39

    Apart from the demands of the PTOM, why couldn’t anyone find the $40-$45m which would have been needed, according to the electricity network company, to keep the trolley buses in service?

  9. TrevorH, 8. June 2018, 7:52

    The best investment we could make in public transport would be to buy back our electricity company, upgrade the substations, and introduce a modern and comprehensive trolley bus system throughout Wellington.

  10. Traveller, 8. June 2018, 7:55

    As the electricity network company is 100 per cent privately owned by a Hong Kong billionaire, has anyone done a peer review of their quote for fixing the network so that the trolley buses could have been retained? Perhaps a second opinion could have brought a different figure.

  11. michael, 8. June 2018, 10:15

    The increase in noise in Willis Street is shocking and at peak hours living in an apartment nearby has become depressing. There is also a huge increase in “soot” on windows and building front which cannot be good for anyone’s health. GWRC will have a lot to answer for down the track as the effects of both noise and pollution start impacting on residents and workers in close proximity. Imagine what this is going to be like in another 6 months let alone years!

  12. glenn, 8. June 2018, 14:44

    @ dave b, you’re not comparing apples with apples and you know it. Are you saying Wellington, pop 300k+, or even the Wgtn region, pop 500k+ can fund anything remotely resembling Sweden’s public transport, pop 8mill+? And while we are at it, “let’s boot cars out of cbd wellington”, no worries dave, i,ll take my disposable income and shop somewhere else. Meanwhile every tradesman who services any inner city works would have to lug their gear onto the train, and stagger up lambton Quay, trailing building materials behind them…..bloody brilliant, not ! I vote for suzie for mayor.

  13. Cr Daran Ponter, 8. June 2018, 15:05

    In the interests of accuracy, a number of points:

    § There will be no Euro I or II buses operating on any Metlink route from 15 July.
    § NZ Bus and Mana were not given 50% of bus routes. The correct figures are approximately 60% by Tranzit, 28% by NZ Bus, 6% by Mana and 6% by Uzabus.
    § The demise of the trolleys had nothing to do with PTOM tender process. The decision to axe the trolleys was taken in 2015, though there were a number of rearguard attempts to have the decision reversed, including attempts by Crs Ponter, Kedgley and Blakeley in 2017.

    There are a range of reasons trolley buses were axed. You can see such a discussion here https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/94893226/Chris-Laidlaw-Some-clear-eyed-facts-about-Wellington-buses

  14. Cr Daran Ponter, 8. June 2018, 16:59

    On a related matter, note that the new Wellington City bus timetables are now available on the Metlink website. These timetables are for all 15 July onwards.

  15. Roy Kutel, 8. June 2018, 17:27

    I wonder what’s going to happen with the Cable Car which is hemorrhaging money. Good job Chris Laidlaw’s not in charge or it would be axed already and replaced by a 20 year old Euro III bus.

  16. Gillybee, 8. June 2018, 18:34

    Daran…The east-west corridor will be serviced by Euro 3 buses – an 18 year old standard! Worse, there’s no requirement to adhere to it this far down the track. You must know that. And Euro 5s pollute worse than Euro 4s! Anyone familiar with Volkswagen’s diesel-gate scandal understands why.

    Noisy and dirty buses (as others have noted above) are not fit for purpose in 2018. That’s a message to your colleagues at the GWRC that’s not going to go away anytime within the next 12 months. We’d like something better than to have a bunch of old diesel buses going past our homes every 10 minutes for the for the next decade from 6am till past midnight.

    With local body elections coming up next year, it’s time for some of your colleagues who voted for this mess to start singing another tune, or they will be consigned to history like our trolleys.

  17. Cr Daran Ponter, 8. June 2018, 19:57

    @ GillyB. As previously advised the best hope for change to the bus fleet on the new East-West route is the reintroduction of the ex-trolley buses or an alternative electric bus option provided by NZ Bus. The GWRC is in negotiations with NZ Bus.

    I am familiar with the arguments against the older diesels as I and Crs Kedgley and Blakeley advocated for the retention of the trolleys for many of the reasons that you outline.

    On a related matter, NZ Bus will apparently be trialling the first ex-trolley on the No 11 route next week.

  18. Andrew, 9. June 2018, 9:27

    Thanks for that link Daran. Laidlaw stating that transport powered by overhead wires is outmoded is gold.

  19. Gillybee, 9. June 2018, 23:19

    From the Laidlaw link referenced by Cr Ponter:
    “Harmful emissions will immediately fall 38 percent in Wellington compared with current [July 2017] levels…”
    and this from Metlink:
    “…by July 2018, harmful emissions across the region’s buses will be around 68% lower than they were in July 2017”

    My question to chairman Laidlaw and Metlink is this: how do you expect the public to take your figures seriously, when carbon emissions are consistently omitted from your figures? The report produced for the GWRC by Price Waterhouse Cooper (2014), cited above, states quite clearly on p.42 that even with a Euro 5 & 6 diesel bus fleet, CARBON emissions will in fact INCREASE by 15% when compared to the trolley bus era.

    Given that the Wellington City Council is upping the rates partly to create resilience around climate change, the idea that carbon emissions are somehow not “harmful” is ludicrous and in fact breaches ‘Objective 2.H’ from the GWRC’s own 2014 Public Transport Ten Year Plan to “reduce the production of carbon emissions from the public transport network”. And this nugget from P.33 in the same report…

    “Introducing a fleet of modern diesel buses would be the cheapest option, but was the WORST-performing option on carbon emissions and reduces harmful local emissions by a smaller amount than either the battery electric or diesel-hybrid options.”

    Lastly, chairman Laidlaw admonishes those of us who “still object to the fact it will take years to reach an all-electric fleet”, to which he adds “yes, but we will have the cleanest-burning diesels to carry us through the transition.” I think I can see a hole in his logic. Now there’s a story worth writing about!

  20. michael, 10. June 2018, 11:22

    @Gillybee: I absolutely agree.
    Living in the central city I have already noticed a dramatic increase in engine noise and sooty emissions coating our building and windows from the buses, and cannot understand how GWRC can get away with these kinds of statements.
    As for chairman Laidlaw to expect us to believe that, after dumping 100s of second-hand Auckland buses on us “we will have the cleanest-burning diesels to carry us through the transition” is an insult to our intelligence.

  21. Roy Kutel, 10. June 2018, 14:03

    Chris Laidlaw should call it quits and retire at the next election.

  22. Tom, 10. June 2018, 20:46

    I was shopping at one of the shoe shops on Lambton Quay/Willis St last weekend and the reverberating noise of the idling diesel busses was deafening in the shop. I asked the shopkeeper how he coped and he said “it’s terrible, it’s worse when customers just walk out because they can’t even hear me!”

    Thanks GWRC. I really do think it’s time you considered removing the “Great” part from your name….perhaps focus just on the “er” part. When it comes to transport, how about we extend it to “Error Wellington Regional Council”.

  23. Josie B., 10. June 2018, 22:58

    I second that Roy! We should have kept our unique ‘tuatara’ trolleys and consigned our inept councillors to the Southern Landfill alongside the asbestos impregnated Ganz Mavags!

  24. Gillybee, 11. June 2018, 7:31

    @michael: come to the meeting. It’s for everyone living and working along the east-west corridor, affected by the added noise and pollution.

  25. Tony Jansen, 14. June 2018, 11:08

    Great to see that some GWRC councillors advocated for the retention of an electric option. Also great to see so may people unhappy with the performance of GWRC especially around the region’s transportation. However as most people vote on name recognition, pretty much all current councillors who decide to stand for re-election will be voted back in. Not enough of us bother to be informed and even less of us actually vote. Depressing isn’t it, when so many of the current crop of local body politicians need to go.

  26. Keith Flinders, 15. June 2018, 13:13

    @Tony Jansen. Agree 100% with your comments. It isn’t healthy for democracy to see the same people in councils for multiple terms. 19 years for one in the GWRC, and 26 years for another on the WCC. We should instead see the three strikes rule applied. Three terms and then stand down. I do hope that you stand for the WCC again in 2019, as you have a lot to offer this city.

  27. Suzie, 15. June 2018, 15:57

    Citizen Joe: you “liked the ‘ceiling’ to Wellington streets that the wires produced”. And I like the beautiful harmony of sounds the bus engines make on Lambton Quay.

    It is one thing to support the electric trolleys, but these sorts of statements take away credibility of those arguing for this cause.

  28. Citizen Joe, 15. June 2018, 22:47

    Perhaps, discuss with an architect Suzy? You’ll find views, when tied up with strings, can be some of our most beautiful things and perhaps you are a rebel in search of a cause? Brrrrrrrm, brrrrrrrrrrm, brrrrrrrrrrm.

  29. Barbara S, 16. June 2018, 7:42

    Suzie. Try riding a bike behind an old diesel bus. You should do some research on what car and bus (all transport) do to yr lungs.

  30. Jodie B, 16. June 2018, 7:47

    Funny how the WCC wants to ban smoking in public but is quite happy for GWRC to cloud our streets in dangerous diesel emissions. It’s time for the Health Board to do its job and ban old diesels from Wellington.

  31. Bart, 18. June 2018, 12:36

    Citizen Joe: you are attacking Suzie’s motivation, rather than disagreeing with a (subjective) viewpoint. Note that Suzie was not actually defending the diesels, but pointing out that there is also a long term solution (battery powered electrical). I assume the comment re harmony of engines was sarcasm in response to the statement of overhanging electrical wires being an architectural feature.

  32. Citizen Joe, 18. June 2018, 23:09

    Err Bart, the battery has been around for few years now. The Baghdad battery maybe for 2,000 years and Allesandro Volta’s from the 1790s.

    It’s obviously developed a bit. Indeed the trolley buses had some batteries on them, as have cars since the starter handle was ditched. Now carting a big battery around is a bit of a millstone and the battery can only be recharged a few hundred times.

    Now those pesky wires of the trolley buses that Suzy hates so much (but I don’t mind) allowed the buses to charge on the go and if Wellington had been a bit cleverer it could have upgraded the batteries so the trolley bus could run off the wires around Suzy’s house. Two of us might then be happy.