6 Apr 2023

Metlink says it has overstated the number of cancelled bus services in Wellington

5:00 pm on 6 April 2023
Image of a bus with Wellington sign in the background

Photo: RNZ / Composite image

Bus cancellations in Wellington are not as severe as Metlink's own data had initially suggested.

On Monday, 3 April, RNZ launched a major series on the crisis in the Auckland and Wellington bus networks.

The series included an analysis of cancellations across the two networks on weekdays in February.

It found an average of 1085 cancellations on a weekday in Auckland, and 448 in Wellington.

In the days after the series was launched, the organisation responsible for Wellington's buses, Metlink, contacted RNZ to advise the data it had been publishing was incorrect. It also pointed out some errors in RNZ's analysis.

"Metlink is working to resolve a problem with our Open Data Application Programming Interface that has caused the number of our cancelled bus services to be overstated," Metlink General Manager Samantha Gain said.

In addition, RNZ's initial analysis of the Wellington data did not remove trips which were cancelled, but then later reinstated, from the total number of cancellations.

Our updated analysis produced different results for Wellington. It shows an average of 296 daily cancellations in Wellington on a typical weekday.

Over all days of the month there were 7000 cancellations during February across Wellington - down on the previously reported figure of close to 10,000.

The worst routes

The investigation also revealed the bus routes in each city most prone to weekday cancellations.

On the new analysis, the 36 between Lyall Bay and Wellington station remains the most cancelled route. Almost a third of the scheduled trips on this route were cancelled in February.

Our analysis excludes cancellations on Waitangi Day and a day when there was a union meeting and almost double the number of cancellations occurred.

The interactive graphic below shows updated cancellation data for each day in February by bus route. Choose the route you want to see from the drop down menu.

The patchiness of cancellations in part comes down to the way the contracts are awarded to private companies by councils. Routes are bundled into 'units' and companies bid to secure the contract for the unit. If one company is struggling to retain and recruit drivers, then passengers in that unit will be hit with cancellations.

Wellington's 44 worst routes were all run by Tranzurban or NZ Bus, which each cancelled more than 2000 trips over all February weekdays.

Mana Coachlines and Uzabus also run services for the council. During February, Uzabus had one weekday cancellation, Mana Coachlines had 123 cancellations.