6 Dec 2018

Wellington's hub-and-spoke bus model could be ditched

6:18 pm on 6 December 2018

Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] has signalled it's prepared to dump a controversial hub-and-spoke model at the centre of its problem-plagued bus network revamp.

Wellington commuters vent as all bus routes change

Wellington commuters vent as all bus routes change Photo: RNZ / YouTube

The region-wide over-haul, which came into effect in July, has had a rocky beginning, with widespread complaints of missed connections, longer journeys, cancelled services and over-loaded buses which triggered a "please explain" from MPs.

Council bosses, appearing before the Transport Select Committee for the second time to answer follow up questions, were apologetic but confident they can still deliver.

Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said the chaos had been "a harrowing experience" for many customers, bus drivers and council staff.

The council had a duty to get it right and was "focused on that goal."

National MP Nicola Willis asked whether the council would be prepared to conclude the hub-and-spoke model had "failed and needs to be replaced" following next year's route review.

Mr Laidlaw replied "If that were the conclusion, then we would act on it."

The public would get a chance to have their say during the "wide-ranging" review process, he said.

The Miramar bus hub in Wellington.

The Miramar bus hub in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

However, GWRC chief executive Greg Campbell later said he was confident the hub-and-spoke model is sound and it will prove itself in time.

The council also revealed its total spend on bus contracts dropped $6 million under the new system from $89 million to $83m.

Mr Campbell told MPs this was because the council had taken many of the functions of operating the network back "in house".

Ms Willis was not satisfied with this response.

"What I'm hearing is the regional council is now spending that money on activity at your end, rather than the bus services being provided."

Mr Campbell said there was "no intention of spending that money elsewhere".

"The re-investment will be back into public transport and bus."

At least one bus company has been hit with a heavy financial penalty for failing to meet its contractual obligations.

Green MP Gareth Hughes questioned Mr Campbell about whether any operators had been fined for poor performance since that became possible in October.

Mr Campbell confirmed they had and it had been what he called a "substantial" amount.

After further questioning by MPs, Mr Campbell said he would take legal advice on whether he could reveal the size of the financial penalties.

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