19 Sep 2018

Wellington bus network changes to be reviewed

6:43 pm on 19 September 2018

Wellington's new bus network will be independently reviewed after ongoing complaints of buses being late, too full to board or not showing up at all.

Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown

Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

The Wellington Regional Council today voted today to have the system urgently reviewed and the results reported back by December.

Since the system was changed in July the council has been bombarded with complaints.

Councillors have also asked officers to change a route so that it began and ended in Kilbirnie, as it previously did, and for feedback on whether some other routes can be changed.

Regional council chief executive Greg Campbell said he took full responsibility for fixing the network's problems.

He said the review needed to be done quickly.

"Any commuter that is left stranded, or a bus that is late, that is of extreme concern. We have to get a clear view of what is happening. What an independent review can really do - particularly for management and council - is give a view of what has happened and articulate that well."

After the meeting, he said his main focus was entirely on getting the network to work as well as it possibly could.

"Right now it is about getting this network to work, in the best possible way."

The independent review would be delivered by December, as requested by councillors, he said.

"Any commuter who is waiting for a a bus that has not arrived on time will think it is unreasonable to wait until December, I will do it as quickly as I possiby can."

For 90 minutes at the beginning of the meeting several Wellington residents addressed the council to let it know they were still unhappy with the new bus routes.

A Wellington principal said the recent re-jig of the routes was making his students late for class and putting them in danger.

St Patrick's College, Kilbirnie's rector Neal Swindells told this morning's meeting there used to be a Mana bus that went from the northern suburbs to the school.

But Mana had lost the contract during the tender service and students were now taking up seats on other services.

"Currently our two 753 buses from the station in the afternoon are significantly overloaded and are unsafe. On Monday this week, they were both loaded to the gunnels and there were 30-odd students who couldn't get on. So what they do is they cross the road to catch the new 24 bus, which by the time it leaves St Pat's now is also overfull."

Councillors voted unanimously for the review to go ahead, but councillor Ian McKinnon raised concerns about the price of independent contractors.

"I'm one of these people who always has a little bit difficulty for employing consultants all the time but possibly there is a case here to bring in somebody to take an objective view ... if we're going to do it let's do it, and get it done."

The public's trust in the regional council had been damaged - and to restore it the council needed to front up, he said.

Attempts were being made to do so.

Union leaders also addressed the council, calling again for action on agreements between Tranzit, and its drivers.

CTU president Richard Wagstaff said he had spoken to councillors many times.

"It seems to me you're sticking to plan A, and plan a throughout this process come hell or high water ... plan A's had one ingredient all the way through, and that's to keep bus drivers out, don't look after the bus drivers."

He said the problem on the bus network couldn't be fixed without the goodwill of the city's bus drivers.

Mr Wagstaff said the issues could be resolved by dialogue and negotation, and if that didn't work it would move onto action.

The council also voted to ask the chief executive to look at changing some routes, and adding bus services to others, and to let the council know of any time table changes that are needed so people don't wait more than five minutes for a connecting bus.

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