Regional Council forges path for transition to all-electric bus fleet
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."
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