Wellington’s leadership in clean transport is seriously threatened by the Regional Council’s decision to scrap the trolley buses in favour of diesel buses. Tests of hybrid and battery buses are promised, but in 2017, the transition is to diesel buses away from the present electric fleet.
Other major cities such as Leeds, Verona and Montreal are renewing their trolley fleets and numerous others are recreating their light rail tram network. A recent guide for replacement of urban diesel buses by trolleys refers to the technology as “fully developed, technically secure and economical”.
No information has been provided to suggest a reduction in the tiny PM2.5 particulates that Euro 6 filters still struggle to remove. University of Otago Medical School Assistant Research Fellow Ed Randal’s preliminary findings indicate that replacing all trolley buses with diesel buses could lead to an approximate 20% increase in small carcinogenic particles on Willis and Manners Streets, bringing extra deaths. The small particles lodge in respiratory tracts causing cancer and respiratory disease, leading to a WHO Class One classification of PM2.5 particulates similar to that resulting from exposure to asbestos.
Council needs to at least establish a baseline for particulate emissions, and follow up with spot checks on diesel buses purchased to ensure they meet required Euro standards. At the moment, there are no measurements at all.
Wellington region’s bus fleet of 517 vehicles including 60 electric trolleys, reduce down to a proposed 412 all diesel fleet in 2018. Any change in greenhouse emission would be due to a reduction in fleet size, with the removal of the 60 zero emission trolley buses and supporting infrastructure counter-productive to that goal.
Opportunity savings of reduced greenhouse emissions is ignored, and they should represent our commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions at the upcoming Climate Action talks in Paris.
Trolley buses are as important to Wellingtonians and our capital’s culture as the wind and cable car.