Bus under threat
The future of two major bus routes in Rangitikei is murky as declining passenger numbers force Horizons Regional Council to reconsider their viability.
The daily service, from Marton and Taihape to Palmerston North and Whanganui, has been questioned each year its contract expired since it began in 2012.
Horizons transport services manager Phil Hindrup said the passenger transport committee would consider the future of the service on October 17. The committee would assess the route’s usage and fare recovery.
‘‘No decision regarding the continuation or discontinuation of the service has been made at this time.’’
Passenger numbers on the Marton to Palmerston North route declined by almost 2000 from 4863 in 2015, to 2575 in 2016. Meanwhile, the cost to run the service has increased from $37,031 in 2015 to $47,777 this year.
Passenger numbers on the Taihape to Palmerston North route increased last year from 284 in 2015 to 296. However, so have the costs to provide the transport – $4355 when it started in 2012, compared with $8280 in 2016.
Between December 2013 and November 2014, 260 trips were recorded on the service. This was down on the 324 trips recorded in the 12 months prior, during the service’s first year.
The first bus leaves Marton for Palmerston North at 7am, returning at 5.10pm. The Whanganui leg leaves Marton at 10am and returns at 3.30pm. It can be caught in Bulls and Sanson on the Palmerston North route, and in Turakina on the way to Whanganui.
The Taihape to Palmerston North service leaves at 9am, returning at 3.30pm with stops in Ohingaiti, Hunterville, Marton, Bulls and Sanson. The Whanganui leg passes through Ohingaiti, Hunterville, Marton and Turakina.
In its monthly Rangitikei Line publication, the Rangitikei District Council urged residents to use the buses.
‘‘Buses keep us together,’’ it said. ‘‘We do not want to lose our service so let’s make use.
‘‘Rangitikei district is fortunate to have a bus service that links our communities together and keeps us in touch with our neighbouring cities.
‘‘Not every rural community in New Zealand is so lucky.’’
The district is spread over a large area – about 100 kilometres from north to south.
The Taihape to Palmerston North and Whanganui route is under threat.