Wellington dewirement delayed by hybrid hiccups

The last trolleybus system in New Zealand has been granted a temporary stay of execution following delays in testing and ordering their hybrid replacements.

The Wellington system was due to close in June at the end of the current contract between Greater Wellington Council and operator NZ Bus, but they will now remain at least until October.

In April last year, NZ Bus announced it had signed a NZ$43million (£23.8million) deal with California-based Wrightspeed to fit a ‘significant number’ of its 1,100 buses in Auckland and Wellington — including the Wellington trolleybuses — with motors that operate mostly on rechargeable electric batteries, topped up by a small conventionally-powered motor.

Confirming the delay, Greater Wellington chairman Chris Laidlaw says: ‘Testing of the buses against Wellington’s steep streets and harsh weather conditions was scheduled to take place in October, but NZ Bus said recently it was only due to receive the first prototype from Wrightspeed in late April.

‘All of us are awaiting the outcome of the testing with some interest. I hope it’s successful.’

Greater Wellington public transport manager Wayne Hastie remains optimistic that the Wrightspeed conversions will go ahead, but says they will be done gradually, if and when the technology is rolled out. ‘Some of the trolleybuses could stop earlier if that process is successful. How many are still running by October will depend on the rate at which the buses are converted.’

■ Fifteen new Chinese-made Yangtse G92 trolleybuses have been standing idle at a depot at Marrakesh in Morocco for more than six months amid a row over their type approval. The system was due to start late last year (Global News, January) and be fully operational in 2019.