Re­prieve pos­si­ble for trol­ley buses

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - TOM HUNT

An 11th hour bid to save Welling­ton’s trol­ley buses is set to come down to the wire.

With at least two of New Zealand’s three Govern­ment part­ners hav­ing pre­vi­ously stated they want to save the trol­leys, some Greater Welling­ton re­gional coun­cil­lors have felt em­bold­ened to make the bid to at least hold off on their de­com­mis­sion­ing - set to be­gin this week.

Labour did not cam­paign to ei­ther save or get rid of Welling­ton’s trol­ley buses, but a spokesman said Trans­port Min­is­ter Phil Twyford has asked for some quick turn around ad­vice from of­fi­cials on the is­sue.

The long process of pulling down the over­head wires be­gins late to­mor­row but, ear­lier in the day, the re­gional coun­cil’s sus­tain­able trans­port com­mit­tee has a meet­ing where a group of coun­cil­lors will try to de­lay the work.

Coun­cil­lor Sue Ked­g­ley con­firmed she would pro­pose that the re­gional coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive was di­rected to ‘‘ur­gently’’ find out from cen­tral govern­ment what is wanted done with the trol­ley buses.

‘‘We have got two if not three po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Govern­ment want­ing to save [them]. We should de­lay pulling down the wires or do­ing any­thing ir­re­versible till the Govern­ment has had a chance to look at it.’’

Coun­cil rules meant the de­ci­sion to pull the wires down could not be re­versed to­mor­row, but the works could be de­layed and re­vis­ited later - pos­si­bly with an eye to keep­ing some key routes ser­viced by trol­leys.

In June, NZ First trans­port spokesman De­nis O’Rourke re­port­edly said his party would re­tain Welling­ton’s trol­ley bus ser­vice.

Green Party trans­port spokes­woman and now As­so­ciate Trans­port Min­is­ter Julie Anne Gen­ter con­firmed the Greens’ pref­er­ence was to keep the trol­ley buses un­til full-elec­tric buses were ready.

She con­firmed she had contributed to Twyford’s ques­tions to of­fi­cials and hoped to have those an­swers back early this week.

She was ham­strung in what she could say be­cause, while she was con­firmed as as­so­ciate trans­port min­is­ter, her ex­act re­spon­si­bil­i­ties would not be con­firmed un­til later in the week.

Tramways Union sec­re­tary Kevin O’Sul­li­van said some­one in cen­tral govern­ment needed to take ur­gent ac­tion to at least put a hold on the re­moval of the wires.

‘‘I ap­pre­ci­ate it is only the first days on the job, but there is an ur­gency.’’

He sup­plied a copy of an email he sent to Twyford and Gen­ter last week in which he ad­dressed the ‘‘ur­gent and press­ing’’ mat­ter of the de­com­mis­sion­ing of the trol­ley wires.

‘‘Should the ex­ist­ing all elec­tric trol­ley bus sys­tem be re­tained and up­graded it is im­per­a­tive that pres­sure be brought to bear on the Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil (de­spite the over­head net­work be­ing owned and op­er­ated by Welling­ton City Coun­cil) to de­fer the de­com­mis­sion­ing so that at the very least a gen­uine all en­com­pass­ing cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis can be un­der­taken,’’ the email said.

‘‘Pre­vi­ous anal­y­ses lacked in­tegrity as they were com­posed to fit the failed mar­ket drive com­pet­i­tive ten­der­ing model of the pre­vi­ous Na­tional govern­ment.

‘‘We trust you will give this mat­ter your ut­most and ur­gent con­sid­er­a­tion due to the lim­ited time avail­able be­fore this ir­re­place­able as­set is lost.’’

Welling­ton City Green coun­cil­lor Iona Pan­nett said she com­pletely sup­ported any at­tempt to save the trol­ley buses: ‘‘Elec­tric is the way for­ward.’’

"We should de­lay pulling down the wires or do­ing any­thing ir­re­versible till the Govern­ment has had a chance to look at it." Coun­cil­lor Sue Ked­g­ley

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