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Thursday, 21 March 2019 01:20 pm

Climate change promise all rhetoric say trolley bus fans

Wellingtonians queue up to ride one of the final trolley bus services.

Jacinda Ardern’s new government was called out by trolley bus campaigners in Wellington last night for its climate change campaign rhetoric.

Around 50 people who gathered outside Unity Books heard a fiery defence of the trolley bus network before riding on the bus for the last time.

The last trolley bus ran at 11.50pm on Tuesday night.

Local activist Roland Sapsford challenged the new government to prove they are committed to tackling climate change.

“We have a government that says climate change is the defining issue, the nuclear issue of our times, and this is their opportunity to step up.

“Say yes, it’s not just rhetoric, we mean it.”

Mr Sapsford said Wellington “deserves more than a cloud of diesel,” and that hybrid technology using battery power and keeping the wires could create a fully electric bus fleet within two years.

“That would be leadership, that’s the opportunity that exists in Wellington right now.”

Light rail advocate Brent Efford of the Light Rail Transit Association was disappointed at the scrapping of a perfectly good asset and a rare example of carbon-free transport in New Zealand.

“Just to save money, the regional council which is responsible for the whole public transport operations, is shutting down the carbon-free transport facility and substituting diesel buses.

“They promise 100% electric at some undefined time in the future, but they’ve got no way of getting there and no idea whether it’s possible.

“That’s just greenwash and deception.”

Mr Efford said trolley buses are the best option while battery technology advances to allow for a 100% electric bus fleet.

Wellington City councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman, who attended last night’s gathering, said the new technology to replace the trolley buses is unproven.

“It’s unproven in Wellington and effectively it’s unproven anywhere in the world.

“We have very difficult topography in Wellington, and my fear is that the regional council is investing in what one might call ‘bleeding edge’ technology.

“I have a fear that that technology will let down the city, it will let down the traveling public. That’s why I wanted the trolley buses to remain.”

Councillor Simon Woolf said he had concerns over the timing of the move and the impact of diesel buses on the environment.

“The phasing between the trolleys and what should be electric buses hasn’t been terribly great.

“To replace the trolleys with diesels is something that, as a council, I don’t think we would have really thought was the right thing.”

Newtown resident Sam Somers, who was at the gathering, said the trolley buses are a proven technology.

“We don’t want to have alternatives coming in that are bound to fail.

“I don’t want it to be like walking out of Britomart Station in Auckland where you walk into a bunch of diesel fumes.

“We don’t have that in Wellington, I don’t want it to start coming as a result because of some councillors’ poor decision-making.”

The fate of the network, which has been running since 1949 was sealed yesterday when Transport Minister Phil Twyford said he did not plan to step in and save the buses.


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