26 Feb 2019

Bus chaos in Wellington

From Nine To Noon, 9:20 am on 26 February 2019

A Wellington bus company is being accused of poor management by a regional councillor over the cancellation of services due to driver shortages.

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Photo: Facebook / NZ Bus

Twenty morning rush hour services will be cancelled for up to six months because of lack of drivers, and another two routes have been replaced with shuttle buses.

Greater Wellington Regional Council sustainable transport committee deputy chairman Daran Ponter blamed NZ Bus for poor management.

Mr Ponter said NZ Bus did not have a shortage last year, but was now struggling to get drivers, even though it had come to an agreement with the union.

"It is a little bit difficult to understand how this situation has arisen when a collective agreement has been signed, and I can only put that down to a management failure within the company," he said.

The other contacted company, Tranzit, had been short of driving staff last year, but was now close to a full complement.

Mr Ponter said Tranzit was more agile in dealing with a driver shortages on a day-to-day basis with managers stepping in if required.

"In other words, the management in the company get in the bus and drive the bus," he said.

The council was working with NZ Bus to try to get them assistance, he said.

"It's a national problem, not just a Wellington problem - but it's also a problem of the bus campanies' making because they just haven't done the advertising for drivers or the recruitment and training that has been required," he said.

There have been ongoing problems with Wellington's bus services since the introduction of a new network in June.

Mr Ponter said there would be a review of the routes and the first area to be addressed was likely to be the Miramar Peninsula.

A major roll-back of the new network was unlikely, though there would be significant amendments to some routes and lengthening of others.

However the Tramways and Public Transport Union spokesperson Kevin O'Sullivan said the regional council must shoulder most of the blame.

It was the regional council who tendered out the work without protecting terms and conditions of drivers, and changed the routes, making them a nightmare to drive, Mr O'Sullivan, the union's Wellington branch secretary, said.

He said the root cause of the current problems was cost.

"The council would have had to go to the agency [NZTA] and say we want more money and they weren't prepared to do that and that's why they wouldn't agree to transfer our terms and conditions," he said.

He said the network design was absolutely flawed.