Dirty diesel buses are the problem, not the clean trolleys, say two councillors

Press Release from two Regional Councillors
The problem with the Wellington bus fleet are the hundreds of old, dirty, polluting diesel buses, not the clean trolley buses, Wellington Regional Councillors Sue Kedgley and Paul Bruce said today.

“Wellington has more than 200 old-style diesel buses, which are dirty, noisy and polluting,” Sue Kedgley said today. “These old diesel buses pose a health risk to Wellingtonians and contribute to climate change. The Council should get rid of these dirty diesel buses, not the climate-friendly, zero emitting trolley buses,” Sue Kedgley said today.

“If the Wellington Regional Council wants to purchase hybrid buses, it should use the hybrids to replace the old polluting diesel buses, not the trolley buses,” Paul Bruce said today.

Sue Kedgley said the International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared diesel exhaust fumes to be class one carcinogens, in the same category as asbestos and arsenic, and a cause of lung cancer. “The tiny particulets in diesel can lodge deep inside the lungs, enter the bloodstream and spread into the organs of the body, and contribute to asthma, bronchitis and heart disease. Wellingtonians are being exposed to these cancer-causing particulates every day in Wellington, from our dirty old diesel fleet. The priority must be to get rid of them,” Ms Kedgley said.

Mr Bruce pointed out that diesel buses emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere even with the higher Euro6 standards, whereas trolley buses have no greenhouse emissions themselves. “That’s why trolley buses are enjoying a renaissance around the world. Many environmentally friendly cities such as Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco are expanding and upgrading their trolley bus fleets because they recognize that they are a sustainable, non polluting form of public transport.”

Forty million dollars has been spent recently modernizing the trolley bus fleet, which is only 6 years old and has a further 15-20 years of life left. “And yet this Council is proposing to send 60 modern trolley buses to the scrapheap —it is lunacy, Ms Kedgley said.

“We don’t accept Council figures about how much it would cost to upgrade the electricity sub-stations,” Mr Bruce said. “We believe they could be upgraded for substantially less than the Council claims. And it would still be an excellent investment to upgrade the substations, as it would enable a modernised trolley bus fleet to survive a further fifty years.”

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7 comments:

  1. City Lad, 15. June 2014, 17:02

    Two intelligent Regional Councillors talking sense. For a volume discount we could do a deal with Vancouver and upgrade our trolley fleet from their supplier. And allow them to place a small maple leaf tourist advertisement on the exteriors. But not on the windows please!

     
  2. Wellington Commuter, 15. June 2014, 21:33

    Are you sure they can make right hand drive trolley buses for keep-left countries like NZ?

     
  3. Cr Paul Bruce, 15. June 2014, 22:10

    Our present 59 trolley buses are only 7 years old, and can be upgraded with regenerative bracking, modern batteries, and a higher voltage power supply, which would make them good for 30 years. New battery buses would be complementary to this network, and could be assembled by ZEV…Zero Emission Vehicles who have already shown their capabilities in their design of a modern battery truck. http://www.zevnz.com/

     
  4. Daran Ponter, 22. June 2014, 18:46

    Cr Bruce, this is indeed a conundrum – the issue of timing to replace the trolley buses. I would prefer less haste. Extend the current trolley contracts out by another five years and give technology a better chance to bed down in cities that are already trailing hybrid, battery and ultra capacitor technology.

    But don’t lock us into a 30 or 50 year deal for the trolley buses – we need to be facing up to more flexible, adaptable and cheaper technology. My preference is to see electric buses that cover the whole city – not just the areas that the current 60 trolley buses serve. And not just during the week. By locking us in, you also potentially deny the possibility of revisiting light rail at some point in the future.

    If we are going to embrace electric bus technology, we need to find solutions that enable us to do that for the whole of Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley, seven days a week.

     
  5. Mike Mellor, 23. June 2014, 9:58

    Daran – in public transport one size does not fit all, and the the technology that’s right for high-demand routes may well not be good for the whole of the region. Trolleybuses are good for high-demand routes, and will continue to be. Such high-demand transport has to be an investment for the future, eg roads and rail “lock us in” for 30-50 years because the opposite, short-term, approach means that we end up with the worst of all worlds.

    It defies common sense to throw away an asset that is performing pretty well and has quite a few years of life left before major investment is required, so extending the trolley contract makes sense, even if it means GWRC has to rethink the network, then look at the options.

    And serviceable battery buses have been next year’s solution for over 100 years!

     
  6. Tony Randle, 24. June 2014, 20:06

    Sorry Mike, but I just cannot agree with your statement that “It defies common sense to throw away an asset that is performing pretty well and has quite a few years of life left before major investment is required, so extending the trolley contract makes sense”.

    The trolley buses are not performing well. The recently available bus tracking data shows the trolleys are significantly slower than diesels on the same route . . . taking the trolley usually means a slower journey (and they often also hold up other buses where opportunities are limited).

    Also, while the trolleys were mostly assembled from new parts by Designline, some of the core bodywork is much older (many of the diesel buses you want to get rid of are also ex-trolley buses). Even worse, the trolley buses are not “good for high demand transport” because they carry fewer passengers than modern diesel buses and are too small for use in the proposed Bus Rapid Transit. Keeping the trolleys means delaying introducing BRT to the Wellington CBD. In fact keeping the trolleys probably means no improvement to our bus services. And while the trolleys themselves can probably keep going for some years, the trolley overhead is apparently totally shot and the GWRC is in now the process of spending $27million on replacing most of it just so the trolleys can keep running until the end of their contract in 2017. Even after spending millions to get new overhead and newish trolley buses, the trolley power system still needs replacement at a cost of $50million.

    So Wellington taxpayers and fare passengers (who have to pay for 55% of trolley costs) are up for $10s of millions for the trolley network even without the $9million/year cost of running the trolley buses themselves. Millions and millions to keep 59 trolley buses going . . . and 3 out of four Wellington buses will still be diesel powered. Really, what is the point ?

    I have a lot of time for your efforts in PT but if you think the trolley buses are really an asset I have some land assets in South Florida you may be interested in . . .

     
  7. Mike Mellor, 24. June 2014, 21:55

    Tony: just some comments.

    “Also, while the trolleys were mostly assembled from new parts by Designline, some of the core bodywork is much older (many of the diesel buses you want to get rid of are also ex-trolley buses).” – no, the bodies of the trolleybuses were all new, and the few diesel ex-trolleys are 30 years old, overdue for replacement.

    “the trolley buses are not “good for high demand transport” because they carry fewer passengers than modern diesel buses” – no, they seat fewer but carry more passengers because of the greater standing area between the seats.

    “the trolley overhead is apparently totally shot” – no, according to GW’s experts the overhead is in the best state it’s been in the last 30+ years, with 60% either replaced since 2008, currently being replaced, or scheduled for replacement.

    “the trolley power system still needs replacement at a cost of $50million” – perhaps, for a replacement with a 50-year life ($1m a year). Replacement hybrids will cost almost that much for a life a third of that, and other experts say the system needs nothing like that expenditure to keep it going.

    “Really, what is the point ?” – replacing the trolleys will increase noise, emissions, particulates (very nasty things) in the CBD, at a cost scrapping assets well before their time is up. The rest of the world is investing in improving these things, and it just does not make sense to invest (and write off) millions to make things worse.

    “some land assets in South Florida you may be interested in” – sounds very attractive!

     

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