The claim comes from the head of gas company UnitedNetworks’ communications division, Sean McDonald. McDonald says it’s his “personal view” that the trolley bus infrastructure that CityLink uses for its fibre-optic network will be dismantled for environmental reasons.
McDonald says he has heard anecdotally “from various sources” that Wellington’s trolley buses only have two to three years of life left.
“I would have assumed that with Wellington’s move to align itself with environmental issues, the infrastructure would be removed. That poses the question of what happens to CityLink’s customers.”
But CityLink manager Neil de Wit dismisses the suggestion, saying it’s an attempt to spread “FUD” (fear, uncertainty and doubt).
“United Networks is just trying to scare our clients,” de Wit says. He says he has “absolutely no concern” about the longevity of the trolley bus infrastructure.
But a question mark does hang over the buses. Wellington Regional Council public transport manager Anthony Cross says the trolley bus contract with bus company Stagecoach runs out in the middle of 2004 and a decision will be made between now then about the buses’ future.
“Trolley buses are comparatively expensive,” Cross says, with the council putting a figure of $1 million a year on the extra cost of running them rather diesels. When the council was confronted with the same decision before signing the existing contract, a survey of environmental factors and public opinion came down on the side of the trolley buses.
Even if the buses are scrapped, the poles carrying the overhead wires would not by removed in the foreseeable future, says Wellington Cable Car, the city council-owned company which maintains them. Manager Kim Crysell says Telecom and electricity supplier Meridian also have wires slung from the poles, and have rights to their continued use.
“Who knows, they might try to buy them from the company,” Crysell says, adding that it’s a “terribly convoluted issue”.
McDonald raises the issue of the bus infrastructure’s future as UnitedNetworks steps up marketing of its fibre loop networks in Auckland and Wellington. He says his intention is not “scare-mongering”.
“We feel our network has much greater long-term value than CityLink’s.”
United would like to sell CityLink bandwidth, McDonald says. He says he has a meeting planned with Neil de Wit this week.
CityLink’s Wellington network has scores of customers, many of which are state agencies. A commercial user is Megalith, a prepress production house.
Megalith IT manager Peter Hurnard says he’s “not too fussed” about the possible removal of the trolley bus infrastructure. While United claims its network, which runs through gas pipes, is more secure than CityLink’s, CityLink’s prices and customer service satisfy Megalith’s requirements.