Wellington’s trolleys are cost effective

“European cities are steadily converting back to trolleybus public transport“ was the message from Gunter Mackinger, at a public meeting Thursday 10th March. “Complete public transport systems cannot easily convert to fully battery operated systems, and there is a significant problem with battery life and consequential waste disposal!”
RSCN2065Presentation to Gunter MacKinger by Brent Efford
Mackinger, is an electric transport consultant and former GM of Salizburg Railways and now working with organizations such as the UITP (International Public Transport Organisation) and the German Government. He advocates trolleybuses and trams as an essential green emission investment in modern liveable cities.

Trolley bus supporters were delighted to hear of Mackinger’s support for trolleys and to be shown that trolleys were cost effective compared to battery buses and polluting diesel buses. Mackinger’s statements were backed up by studies at three independent German universities.

Mackinger gave examples of new trolley buses being purchased for Seattle, San Francisco, Mexico, and west European cities Salzburg, Linz, Luzern, Arnhem, Eberswalde and Bratislava. Turkey has now mandated trolley bus systems for its smaller cities under 10,000 inhabitants, and modern light rail in the bigger cities. Major Chinese cities such as Beijing, were ordering large numbers of new trolleys to replace diesel and its experimental battery buses. Shanghai is re-opening trolleybus lines after a recent closure decision, and Guangzhou is undertaking continuous network expansion.

Mackinger pointed out battery bus technology have proven to be impractical in the medium term future, except in very limited special applications. “The few systems which are using battery only buses are doing so in small numbers as a trial, on selected routes.”

However, we are very concerned at Greater Wellington Regional Council’s continued determination to trash Wellingtons clean green zero emission trolleybus fleet, 
which flies in the face of emerging international evidence of their value. There is a need for an urgent review of the GWRC business case.  Extra polluting diesel buses 
will lead to 2000 tonnes extra of carbon dioxide per year, and a 20% increase in 
the small 2.5 microns particulates that lodge in respiratory tracts leading to cancers and 
asthma of people in the Golden Mile. Both result in future costs to the economy. Euro diesel standards don’t ensure the removal of the smallest and most dangerous exhaust particles. Nor do they bring lesser greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo: Cr Paul Bruce, Gunter Mackinger, Allan Neilson, Alan Wickens (left to right)
A new business case should concentrate on the east/west route which had a considerable amount of new overhead wiring, and include the cost of modifications to increase the reliability of the power supply network, as well as the installation of lithium ion batteries in the trolleybuses for off line capability. Aggregated costs of abandonment of clean green zero emission trolleys is estimated (Allan Neilson) at about $34 million (of which $20 million is a charge to public entities), compared to a cost of $15 million for an upgrade of the entire network, and a further reduced figure for the east-west route.

300 cities around the world manage trolley bus networks successfully,  so we are confident that Greater Wellington Regional Council could also find the governance and management capability to operate its system as well as other cities.

The Council’s Council aspirational target was for a low emission city, and Wellingtonians support retention of their electric buses and see them as a vital part of their low emission city.

Important upcoming dates

Council 9.30am on 6th April, when tender documents will be approved.

The date for approval of the new operators has been deferred by one month until October 2016 following the local body elections.


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