Wellington's trolley buses will not be retrofitted as city moves towards electric bus fleet

NZ Bus has hit the brakes on plans to retrofit Wellington's retired trolley bus fleet with electric motors. 

Fifty-seven buses have been gathering dust since being taken off the road in late 2017.

Now, they are destined for the scrapyard - or a local museum.

Trolley buses running on overhead wires were once a common sight in Wellington. Now, the closest New Zealanders can get to one will be at a museum.  

"It's very early days at the moment, we'd certainly be interested if there was one on the offering. It would be perfect for our collection," says MOTAT's James Duncan.

The 57 trolleys were removed from Wellington's roads two years ago as the upkeep of the overhead wires was deemed too expensive.

Plans to retrofit the buses with new electric motors have fallen through due to costs, with diesel buses filling most of the void.

"Of course it's disappointing, that's not where we wanted to go," says GWRC deputy chair Barbara Donaldson.

Forty of the trolley buses were still fit for purpose at their retirement, but are currently sitting idle at the Kilbirnie depot. 

They will now be disposed of as NZ Bus looks for electric replacements as part of its contract.

There's a grand vision for Wellington to have a fully electric bus fleet.

"We've got 10 electric double-decker buses at the moment, we'll have another 32 in the next couple of years and with these new ones from NZ Bus, we'll have 84 electric buses," says Donaldson.

Wellington's bus network was reconfigured last year, leading many commuters to complain about late or cancelled services.

A number of locals say it's a shame the trolley buses won't be used.

"It seems ridiculous in this day and age, where everyone is 'environmentally-conscious' - you can't get a plastic bag, but we're running a fleet of buses on diesel," says one local.

"Diesels are pretty noisy, in a town centre like this it would be much nicer if they were electric," says another.

Meanwhile, MOTAT, which has three trams dating from 1906 to 1951, says it's excited for some modern tech to potentially become part of its collection.