Reprieve possible for trolley buses
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