Auckland Transport braces for $64m hit amid 'huge losses' in patronage

4:06 pm on 23 November 2021

Auckland Transport (AT) is seeking support from the government to help it turn around the $64 million hit it expects to take to its finances following a fall in public transport due to Covid-19.

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Auckland Transport says it has been hit hard by the latest Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: LDR

A report to an Auckland Council committee on Tuesday outlined the financial pressures it was facing.

It said AT's budget projections had been based on Auckland remaining in alert level 1 and not going into another lockdown. But it is now looking at a year-to-date net operating deficit of $113m.

A spokeswoman for AT said they understood that the Minister of Transport Michael Wood was considering how to provide support for public transport providers impacted by Covid-19. But they said it was still waiting to hear back from the government.

"AT is forecasting a shortfall in public transport revenue of around $64 million for this financial year. This shortfall could be bigger under certain scenarios."

The spokeswoman said prior to the lockdown in August the public transport use was sitting at about 75 percent of patronage during the same time in pre-Covid 2019.

"Right now we are seeing approximately 80,000 passenger trips per day, which equates to approximately 22 percent in comparison to the same time in 2019."

But the AT spokeswoman said they expect public transport numbers to recover in February as people return to work and children head back to school after the holiday season.

However, it is still seeking more clarity from the government on the planned easing of restrictions.

"Travel on public transport will largely be dependent on what traffic light stage Auckland is in and we are yet to obtain a full indication of what the traffic light stages means for public transport."

'Three to four years' to recover?

Auckland deputy mayor Bill Cashmore said the council was facing a tough time ahead and AT's financial position was one of the issues that would have to be addressed.

"AT has had huge losses in patronage and other examples around the world show it could take three to four years for the public transport numbers to recover."

He said AT has approached the government to provide some extra financial support to make up for its loss in public transport.

"We've requested that they do what they did after the last lockdown," Cashmore said.

But he said the Auckland Council and AT are still waiting for an answer.

"We're living in hope," Cashmore said. "We are in a tough financial situation and with this lockdown it's made it very hard. There are going to be some big challenges for the council in the coming months."

06122018 News Photo: Abigail Dougherty/Stuff. Breakthrough – ceremony held for the breakthrough of the tunnels for Auckland City Rail Link tunnel construction. Auckland Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore

Bill Cashmore said AT's financial position is one of the issues that will have to be addressed. Photo: Stuff / Abigail Dougherty

Wood said he was aware of Auckland Transport's financial position.

"Mayor Goff has been in contact with me about this issue, and we are looking at whether further support is needed. I expect that we will come to a view on this in the coming weeks," he said.

"I know that the current outbreak has had a big impact on communities and councils around New Zealand, especially in Auckland after a long and difficult lockdown."

Wood said he expects the number of people using public transport to pick up from next month as the government's new traffic light framework kicks in and gives people in the city greater freedoms.

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