They’ve been a few interesting pieces of news from Wellington over the last last week.

Transdev to run Wellington’s trains

Transdev – who run the trains in Auckland – has been picked as the preferred operator for the trains in Wellington. This is an interesting result as for one it means trains in both Auckland and Wellington will have the same operator. Whether this is a good or a bad thing will have to remain to be seen. The Dominion Post reported the company was surveying people earlier in the year asking about ideas such as quiet cars, indicators to say where seats were available and WiFi. All of which begs the question of if they’ve thought of it, why they aren’t doing it in Auckland already. Presumably their holding some improvements back while they wait for Auckland Transport to go out to tender again or restart the current tender process*.

Just whether changes will lead to growth is something we’ll follow closely. In recent year’s patronage in the capital has increased but not by much.

2015-10 - WLG - Rail Patronage

*Auckland was also running a tender for rail services with the short-list also being Transdev, Kiwirail and Serco however AT postponed it in September citing uncertainty over the outcome of the Auckland Transport Alignment Process. As such they extended Transdev’s contract.

Greater Wellington Regional Council has selected Transdev Australasia in association with Hyundai Rotem as its preferred future operator for Wellington’s metro rail service.

The Regional Council will now begin negotiations with Transdev to finalise the terms of the 15 year contract. Subject to those negotiations being successful, a new contract is intended to commence on 1 July 2016.

The jobs of 400 TranzMetro staff who currently deliver Wellington’s metro rail service and maintain the new Matangi trains will be preserved. GWRC’s contract will require Transdev and Hyundai Rotem to offer employment to those staff on the same or more favourable conditions.

GWRC Chair Chris Laidlaw says the selection of a preferred operator is a significant milestone towards a new era for public transport in the Wellington region. “The rail contract is the first of all new, performance-based contracts for our train, bus and harbour ferry services. The new contracts will mean better services for customers and provide strong incentives for operators to grow patronage by making public transport easier and smarter.”

Mr Laidlaw also acknowledged the very competitive tenders submitted by the two other tenderers. Those tenderers were Keolis Downer in partnership with KiwiRail, and the UK based rail operator Serco.

Transdev currently operates the Auckland passenger rail service under contract to Auckland Transport and operates rail, tram and bus services in 19 countries across 5 continents.

Hyundai Rotem is the manufacturer of the region’s Matangi electric train fleet.

Commenting on its selection by GWRC, Transdev Australasia’s Acting CEO, Mr Peter Lodge said “We are very excited by the news today and look forward to the next stage of the process and concluding the contract with GWRC in the New Year.”

GWRC will not be making further comment until negotiations with Transdev are completed and a decision has been made to award the contract. This is likely to occur in March 2016.

Diesel buses set to replace trolley buses

As part of a new bus network the regional council will phase out the use of the electric trolley buses in 2017 in favour of diesel buses that they can eventually replace with battery powered buses. It is part of their change to a new bus network but does sound like an odd way of going about things. As an example it raises the question of why not just skip straight to battery buses which as a technology are advancing quickly. It also seems a bit odd that they think they’ll get a whole heap of new diesel buses now and that bus companies will replace them again in just a few year’s time. That sounds like a recipe for bus companies charging a lot more to run services as they amortise the cost of the buses over a shorter time frame.

Wellington New Network
Wellington’s new bus network

The Wellington region now has a clear path to an all-electric bus fleet after the Regional Council made some decisions today on how best to get there.

Chris Laidlaw, Chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council, says an exciting future is in store for bus travel in the region.  “We are determined to be the first region in the country with an all-electric bus fleet when the technology is more mature and affordable.  We expect to progressively introduce electric buses to the region within the next five years, starting with an electric bus demonstration in the first half of 2016.

“In the interim, however, we need to begin upgrading the Wellington City bus fleet.  High capacity buses are a vital part of the new, simpler and more convenient network which will be rolled out in early 2018. The new network will give 75% of residents, compared to 45% at present, access within 1km to a high frequency bus route.  Services will run through the CBD instead of stopping or starting at Wellington Station or Courtenay Place as many do currently.  This, coupled with the use of high capacity buses, will speed up travel times for everyone.

“The Council has decided that an upgraded fleet should include new low emission double decker buses, ten of which will be hybrids. These will replace the older diesel buses in the fleet and the trolley buses, which are being phased out in 2017 because of their unreliability, the high cost of upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure and incompatibility with the new routes. The upgrade will mean that by 2018 the average age of the fleet will be five years compared to 13 at present and overall tailpipe emissions levels of the fleet will be about 33% lower than they are now.

“The biggest gain we can make in contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to get people out of their cars and onto public transport, and this is why the bus fleet strategy that we’ve endorsed this week is so important. By removing the trolley buses and the old diesels we can deliver services that are fast, reliable, comfortable, easy to use and that go where people want to go. And the only way to achieve these big changes by 2018 is by replacing those vehicles with the best technology available, which is a mix of hybrid buses and new low emission diesels.”

Mr Laidlaw says the Regional Council will be going to tender around April next year for new bus service contracts and will be working with operators to bring their ideas and innovations on how to provide a low emission bus fleet for the region.

“We also plan to hold a symposium around the middle of next year on electric vehicles, bringing everyone together to ensure we make the most of the exciting opportunities on the horizon.  Electric vehicles are coming and the challenge is to prepare the way for these by agreeing on the infrastructural needs. Wellington region is poised to lead the country to a cleaner, smarter transport future and we’re determined to make this happen.”

Island Bay Cycleway

While the work to build the Island Bay parking protected cycleway continues, some parts are already open and it looks fantastic. Unfortunately, the people who have long opposed any change to the street – claiming that the road was already safe (because only the hardy used it) and that people would be doored by passengers on the left have continued to fight the project.

A new cycleway through the heart of Wellington’s southern suburbs is threatening to tear the community apart, as thousands vent their anger at its “confusing” design.

Critics of the Island Bay cycleway have labelled it “a death trap” and say it has made one of the city’s main arterial roads too narrow for buses, reduced visibility for motorists on adjoining streets, and even made it “impossible” for some residents to pull out of their driveways.

But many also say the cycleway looks fantastic and will make life easier and safer for people on bikes.

There is a very good post on the project responding to many of the claims from supporters of the project and where the image below is from showing there is plenty of space for doors to open and not hit people on bikes.

Another claim levelled at the project is that the road isn’t wide enough for a protected cycleway. This image from Stuff highlights the width well. You can see the cycleway on each side (with some cars parked in it), the parking and the road lanes. It looks like plenty of space to me.

Share this


  1. History has taught us that private contractors will always destroy councils in negotiations, because councils are too nice. E.g. the NORSGA development (North West Mall) coming in three-four years late thanks to the private developers delaying.

    Any tender has to have pretty-much-brutal targets in it, or else the contractor just milks the profits. So, whatever new train contract we get has to be brutal. And if the private companies can’t do it, bring it in-house.

    1. Is it even LEGAL for Councils to run PT services themselves? I though “the market is best” people like ACT and certain wings of National had ensured that Councils need to focus on “core services” which for some weird reason includes roads but not PT…

      1. Perhaps not:
        11A Core services to be considered in performing role
        In performing its role, a local authority must have particular regard to the contribution that the following core services make to its communities:
        (a) network infrastructure:
        (b) public transport services:
        (c) solid waste collection and disposal:
        (d) the avoidance or mitigation of natural hazards:
        (e) libraries, museums, reserves, and other recreational facilities and community amenities.

  2. “New cyceway… threatening to tear the community apart…” That’s some quality journalism right there. Who new a cycleway could wreak such havoc? Let’s hope we don’t get a real emergency. The road looks wide enough for all.

  3. It strikes me that the minor panic that the appearance of a few cycle lanes in both Auckland and Wellington are provoking in a few people are principally because they are novel for these cities. The evidence for this is the current situation with bus lanes in Auckland, when AT finally got round to adding one or two there was a huge media amplified burst of outrage from surprised motorists used to total use of every piece of tarmac and newly resentful at the change. Now, AT are routinely adding them, extending their hours, enforcing them, and drivers seem to have quickly adapted to the new environment and they have suddenly become uncontroversial. In fact I was on Symonds St yesterday outside of the short operating hours of the buslane and not a single driver was using it, perhaps unclear of its hours, or, more likely assuming it is a 24/7 one.

    So the solution to the racket made by a handful of change-phobic cycle lane catastrophists is to build more faster until even they get used to this new normal on our streets and settle-down. Give them a few years and they’ll be screaming at anyone who suggests removing or changing them as they will, like bus lanes, be the familiar status quo street pattern.

    1. It’s happening because there is political gain in encouraging and facilitating it.

      The Dominion Post has a reactionary editorial line, and wants to see a change of leadership at Council. You have a number of councillors such as Paul Eagle and Nicola Young (the right’s mayoral aspirant) who have the temerity to claim that they are “pro-cycling” (and in favour of putting hoops on pavement streetsigns) and anti-cycleway who know that they can gain votes by exciting people.

      There is some organic opposition, but what you see is very much choreographed.

    2. “I was on Symonds St yesterday outside of the short operating hours of the buslane and not a single driver was using it, perhaps unclear of its hours, or, more likely assuming it is a 24/7 one.”

      Well, what does one expect when one changes the street signs to read ‘Bus Lane’ without any time zone mentioned? I’m guessing they have one at the beginning of the bus lane, but I always seem to miss it. Given that some bus lanes start at 3.30pm and others at 4.30pm it pays not to use them at any time, just in case. I am more than happy to have bus lane cameras pinging everyone using them at the wrong time, but please be clear with the times.

      1. Many of Auckland’s arterials are two lanes each way, and the left-hand lane is always a poorly-signposted crapshoot. Bus lane? Clearway? Parking? Mandatory left turn? Suddenly runs out with no warning? The obvious strategy for any car driver, particularly off-peak and if you’re not familiar with the area, is just to stick in the right-hand lane all the time.

      2. The law is that a bus lane once sign posted as such, is implicitly 24/7 – *unless* additional signage indicates a specific time period. e.g. 4pm to 6pm Mon-Fri. When it does state operating hours, then the bus lane is only applicable/operable during those stated hours.

        Clearways work the same – 24/7 unless a time restriction is stated. Most Clearways are limited in time (e.g. 7am to 9am, Mon-Fri). But not all.

        Motorists should not have a problem understanding the bus lane rules here as they work similar to existing signage and laws.

  4. Regarding your speculation about whether the change in Wellington rail service provider will lead to increased rail patronage. In the short/medium term the answer is highly unlikely. Firstly the biggest population growth areas are across Te Aro and gradually spreading south through Mt Cook into Newtown, where the PT is bus rather than rail. This intensification is actually driving rapid growth in active mode commutes rather than PT usage. The other growth area is up the western corridor which is rail serviced but were the big roading projects are likely to increase the attractiveness of car commutes in the short term until parking constraints and “next generation” congestion kick in. Little prospect of much change on the eastern line up the Hutt (population close to static and aging) until such time as property prices in the South of the City reach the level where they start driving intensification out to Petone. This is an obviously attractive area but we have been waiting for years for it to reach lift off and it still looks some time away. Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks to all Transportblog contributors for a whole heap of quality reading over the past year.

    1. I agree with this, except for your contention about Petone. It is the most vulnerable urban area in New Zealand.

      It is built on a river-floodland, and Pito-one (‘the end of the beach’) was a sandy swampy flax covered area. The entire area is around 1m above sea level, which renders it extremely vulnerable to earthquake induced tsunamis, liquifaction, and to even a small amount of sea level rise. Within 80 years it is likely to be difficult to maintain habitation. The quality of the land means that multi-story residential building has been forbidden.

      The Lower Hutt central area may be ripe for eventual intensification, but I suspect that areas such as Brooklyn, Thorndon, inner Karori (as wet and miserable as it is up there) Hataitai and Strathmore Park will see intensification first. The Shelly Bay development will also open up the market by several thousand properties.

      All of which means that a city-centric PT system and properly opened active modes – such as the bemoaned cycleway – are absolutely necessary.

      1. Accept your point re Petone.George, which is a shame because it one of relatively few attractive old town centres with natural appeal – potentially Newtown with a beach, although as you point out it could end up more like Newtown under the sea.

  5. Re: Buses.
    Logic escapes me on this one, I can see what GWRC are trying to achieve, not sure if their plan will get there, or will get there quicker than any alternatives as they suggest.

    All I think will happen is that NZ Bus, will end taking many old and new clunkers (those “new” ADL’s for example) off the Auckland roads as AT force them modernise their buses as part of the PTOM contracts.
    And/Or NZ bus loses out to many PTOM contracts so then has a ton of surplus buses in Auckland.

    Either way these old former JAFA buses will wash up down in Wellington, so they’ll replace the electric trolley buses and some other buses (or at the very least, prevent the purchase of truly low emission hybrid buses).
    Of course NZ Bus won’t want to retire these refugee buses too soon, as a result they’ll “sweat the assets” as much as possible, dragging their heels on upgrading to Hybrid or fully Electric buses in the interim.

    Those projected 33% tailpipe emission reductions they think they’ll get, will, like VW’s “break through” diesel emission technologies were, be found out to be complete marketing BS.

    That approach might have been do-able under Kyoto, but since COP21, NZ Inc will have to get serious about transport fleet emissions particularly around CO2/CO2e, buying in carbon credits won’t be the easy/cheap option from then on.

    So guys, suggest you start down the electric bus route now. Not in 6+ years time. Because any diesel buses we import (whether second hand Jap ones or new European ones), like all those tyres we import each year, we will be stuck with for 15-20 years – long after their useful life – while we figure out how to get rid of them.

    1. Greg – I think you and others commenting may be under reading the bit in Laidlaw’s statement about ” the high cost of upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure”. If the future is battery electric then how much do you spend on renewal of the wires and cables to support the declining technology of trolleys in the short term? The current network is not new and may not actually have much usable life left in it before it starts costing telephone numbers to keep it going. If this the case then the interim diesel strategy looks a lot more sensible.

      1. Yes. It’s a system that has had some life-extension, but will continue to create costs. Those become rather substantial at the next upgrade.

        The best solution would have been for the GWRC to exchange these vehicles for hybrid or electric vehicles one for one, as they decomission each route. That hasn’t happened.

        What would have been even better would be for some government-level policy pushing NZ’s entire fleet towards cleaner and healthier options. That also has not happened.

      2. No one is saying keep the trolley buses if they’re no longer fit for purpose. While there seems to be some question on that point, I’m not going there

        In any case GWRC can’t decide what sort of buses NZ Bus or whomever runs these services will use on the contracts in future, they can suggest, cajole and whatever, but not force.

        It comes down to economics.

        If NZ bus can reuse smelly old diesel buses and thus undercut another operator with modern hybrid or electric buses who tenders for the same route – they will.

        Wellington will be the poorer for it, but thats the rules.

        So thats why I don’t understand what GWRC think they’ll actually get with their “statement of direction”, all I think will happen, is that if the market is left to decide, they’ll get the same old crap everyone else has had to put up with for years. And tailpipe emissions won’t go down.

        1. > In any case GWRC can’t decide what sort of buses NZ Bus or whomever runs these services will use on the contracts in future, they can suggest, cajole and whatever, but not force.

          Yes, they can. The PTOM system being introduced allows councils to specify standards for the buses in the tender, and Auckland’s doing exactly that – requiring certain capacity levels and emissions standards, among other things. I’m not familiar with what Wellington’s doing, but they can easily choose to do the same thing.

          1. In theory maybe, but the jury is still out on that and as there are no major PTOM contracts actually tendered and won, let alone running in either Wellington or Auckland then its hard to know what stripe the future will be wearing.

            I bet that all those strict rules about having *new*(ish) buses and (not being plastered in) advertising will be mostly negotiated away during the PTOM tender negotiations, so the rulebook, far from being the 10 commandments, is really providing the opening bids for the tendering bus operators, and not the final bid.

    2. The Wellington removal of trolleybuses is a Jarrett Walker special. He’s in love with diesel buses for no readily recognizable reason, and he was hired as the consultant. Don’t hire him.

      1. Jarrett Walker has to be the most mode neutral man on earth. He also doesn’t typically recommend solutions but highlights the implications of each set of choices and leaves it up to clients to decide.\

        1. And his proposed network did keep the trolleys – on fewer routes, and with some slight moving of the wires needed, but the same number of buses, since they’d be running a larger proportion of the routes that did run them.

  6. so basically they are getting rid of the trolley buses so they can thru route the northern and southern services but dont fancy extending the wires.

    1. My read on it is that they need to get rid of the trolley buses so they can run a decent PTOM bus tender,
      NZ bus own the trolley fleet and if they were allowed to tender on those routes, they would have a significant advantage over any challenging company,

      One solution would be for the council to buy the Trolley fleet and simply seek an operator, but given they have no ability to force NZ Bus’ hand on this, I think they decided the only thing they could do was remove the trolley fleet.

      They were in a classic rock and non-squishy location situation

      1. Sorry, that sounds weak to me, even if it is true (on which I am not knowledgeable enough). ANY bus provider who is an incumbent has a massive advantage. That doesn’t mean you downgrade your system to make the tender more competitive.

        1. They got rid of trolleys so they can combine the island bay/miramar routes with the newlands/jville ones and newlands coach lines can extend there empire from what I can tell. I suppose it reduces the number of buses on the golden mile but personally Id have preferred an express limited stop route along the quays for the northern routes, with free transfers of course.

      2. “One solution would be for the council to buy the Trolley fleet and simply seek an operator, ”

        Or for the council to buy their own new trolleybuses and then seek an operator. There are several manufacturers, such as New Flyer in Canada.

    1. To produce “Hybrid” motor vehicles creates more polution and use of precious metals and resources problems than it solves. The trolley bus infrastuture is there now and they are truly emission free. It is a retrograde step to get rid of them with anything diesel.

  7. I don’t think this is as stupid as some are suggesting.

    Wellington has run the same running patterns for decades, with the only changes being increases in frequency. The city has outgrown those patterns.

    The trolleys were a major impediment on the new routes, and formed a minority of all buses in the city. Even on those routes with trolley lines, trolleys form about 1/3 – 1/2 of the buses running on them.

    So, the fleet is already composed largely of dirty diesels. There appears to be a real commitment to replacing the entire fleet with hybrid and electric types over time, and this will occur as the fleet comes up for renewal and technology advances. Given the rapid advancement of battery technology this decade, that is entirely pragmatic.

    1. And this all completely ignores the lifespan of the old smelly diesels.Its not 10 years, its a lot longer.

      We still have a few of the old “Bendy buses” trundling round here from the 1980’s – thats over 30 years ago now!

      And there are some equally old clunkers around, that NZ Bus seem to keep using on local routes.
      Yes, there are some new ones too.

      But where is the incentive for NZ Bus or any other operator to replace any fully amortised old diesel with a brand new super expensive hybrid or fully electric bus?

      There isn’t one other than operating costs, and I’ll bet that right now and for the next few years the total costs (including depreciation) of the old diesels will beat any flash new bus of any stripe no matter how efficient it is.

      And thats the nub of the issue – without being forced to NZ Bus won’t modernise the fleet in a timely fashion, so GWRC is simply pissing in the wind if they think they’ll get their way.

  8. Most likely NZ Bus will ‘dieselise’ the trolley buses (TB). The chassis are designed for diesel engines. NZ Bus was looking at the cost to covert the TB fleet to diesel operation 7 years ago if GWRC decided to scrap the TB network.

    Chris Laidlaw said – “We expect to progressively introduce electric buses to the region within the next five years, starting with an electric bus demonstration in the first half of 2016.”

    This make me think that one of the TB is going to be being converted to battery operation for testing from mid 2016.

    Since the power control systems have the regenerative braking, etc and tuned for Welly’s hills, it would be easier to convert them to battery, as buses from 304 to 360 have battery compartments on the roof forward of the trolley pole base.

    If the testing works, then the rest of the fleet would be converted to battery operation. It would be a cheaper option initially than going out to buy new ones from scratch.

    1. “Most likely NZ Bus will ‘dieselise’ the trolley buses” Rather than dieselise why dont they just fit a smoke generator at the rear and a really big loudspeaker so drivers can anoy the hell out of pedestrians (and of course leave it running whiles stopped for 20 minutes at the start of each route)?

    2. I agree. This is actually what happened to a number of the previous set of trolley buses that were brought cheap by Newlands/Mana buses and converted to diesels. Ironically they then operated bringing commuters in from the north which is where the trolleys cannot reach.

    3. “The chassis are designed for diesel engines” – really? Can you give a source for that information?
      “the power control systems have regenerative braking” – and a source for this information?
      “304 to 360 have battery compartments” – I think you mean 331-387 (304-330 don’t exist).

    4. unless they were retro-fitted with regenerative braking, I don’t think the Volvo trolleys have this facility, the trams did, but that’s progress

  9. Hybrid trolley buses can use the existing overhead lines AND run on the rest of the network on batteries. No need for any fossil fuel usage. If you ride in a Beijing trolley bus the driver pulls a lever and the trolley poles come down as the bus nears the city centre. Once past the city centre there is a momentary halt while the bus driver pushes the lever and the poles pop up back onto the lines automatically. These are not new buses so I assume they run on lead-acid batteries, and Beijing is flat.
    Getting rid of the existing trolley network is not only dumb, it is criminal, as it will increase carbon dioxide and particulate emissions.
    There may be some routes that would better better run on batteries, so taking out some parts of the overhead wire network might be reasonable, IF there are batteries in the buses powerful enough to cover those deleted sections. If consideration has been made to install diesel motors in the existing trolley buses, I would assume there is sufficient room in their chassis to fit a powerful battery pack and any required electrical control switching.
    Removing overhead lines in the central city and on the twisty parts of the network might pay for the installation of the batteries with savings on the maintenance of those removed line sections. However a hybrid trolleybus needs overhead lines. Pulling out the lines before you have a substitute hybrid system is so stupid…

    1. If you convert the existing trolley busses to battery/trolley hybrid you also will need a powered pulley at the rear to pull down the poles and let the poles up again. The reconnection points will need little ‘hats’ over the line to guide the trolley shoes back onto the lines. None of this appears to be rocket science.

Leave a Reply