Wellington's iconic trolley buses to go

A last-ditch effort to save Wellington's iconic trolley buses has failed.

The new Government inspired hope among some advocates for an 11th-hour reprieve, but the Government will not intervene.

Wellington's trolley buses have been a feature of the cityscape for almost a century and on Tuesday, they were powered off for good.

In 2014, the Greater Wellington Regional Council voted to ditch the trolleys, which would cost $54 million to maintain.

"We decided we wanted to spend that money on the future and not the past," says sustainable transport committee chair Barbara Donaldson.

The fleet of 60 trolleys will be stored in Wellington until its owner, NZ Bus, decides if they have an alternate use.

One possibility is converting them to hybrid electric engines, but that technology isn't ready yet, so they've been replaced by diesel buses.

Advocates hoped the new Government might share that view, but today, that hope was dashed.

"We've decided that central government will not be intervening to stop the decommissioning of the trolley buses," Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.

Despite last-minute protests, work will begin on Wednesday to bring down 82km of cable around the city. - a signal that Wellington's bus network is moving in a new direction.

The network is in for another big change next July, when 350 brand-new buses are introduced.

Most will be low-emission diesel buses and only 10 will have electric motors, but the council's confident that will just be the start of Wellington's electric bus fleet.