23 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Bus service disruption likely due to plea for over-70s to stay home

7:50 am on 23 March 2020

Bus services throughout the country may start to be disrupted from today as drivers over the age of 70 stay home.

School bus

Many school bus drivers are over 70 as they prefer shorter working hours, First Union says. Photo: 123rf.com

The government has asked all people over that age to stay off work in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The union representing most bus drivers, First Union, says bus driving has one of the oldest demographics of any industry.

Auckland Transport said it expects full bus and train services during morning and afternoon peak hours on Monday will be maintained and this includes school services.

It said bus companies are telling it some drivers are over 70 but it is not sure of the numbers.

Auckland Transport said it has told bus operators that it would be prudent to place on leave all employees who are over 70 and those with compromised immune systems.

The Waikato Regional Council said the vast majority of urban services will operate but some will be impacted by the over 70s restriction.

Transport manager Andrew Wilson said as and when they know which services will be affected the public will be notified on its website.

He said the impact was not likely to be so great that passengers would not make connections.

There are about 30 drivers over 70 out of a total of 150 drivers in the region, Wilson said.

He said there has been a noticeable decline in passengers since last week.

Wilson said at the moment the object is to keep as many services operating as they can and not look at making service reductions over and above what the council absolutely has to.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

The Ministry of Education which oversees school bus runs said it is unable to comment on any route cancellations at this stage.

Many school bus drivers are over 70 according to the union as they prefer shorter working hours.

It is known that some school bus services in Hawke's Bay have been cancelled today.

RNZ has been told services operated by Nimon Buses will not be running in Whakatu, Clive, Haumoana and Pukahu.

Jared Abbott from First Union said some drivers over 70 will have no choice but to drive as they need the money.

He said the union is not going to tell them to starve and get into debt.

Abbott said bus companies can get around the risks of Covid-19 by using urban drivers on school bus runs, increasing social-distancing on buses by closing off seats near the driver and removing fares.

From today, Wellington and Auckland are removing cash sales on public transport to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

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