Should coun­cils own the buses?

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

Bus ser­vices should not be ratepayer-sub­sidised, Welling­ton City Coun­cil can­di­date Hay­ley Robin­son says.

In­stead the money should be used to build up a coun­cil-owned bus fleet to run routes that were pri­vately un­eco­nomic and to sup­ple­ment pri­vately pro­vided peak-hour ser­vices, she said.

Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil eco­nomic well­be­ing com­mit­tee chair­man Peter Glen­sor said hav­ing coun­cil-owned bus ser­vices could only be vi­able if it de­liv­ered all bus ser­vices, not just those pri­vate com­pa­nies did not want.

Ms Robin­son will stand for Welling­ton City Coun­cil in the Onslow-Western ward.

She said each year Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil put about $80 mil­lion into pri­vately owned bus ser­vices.

‘‘This ap­pears rea­son­able, be­cause the aim is a good one: to en­sure an af­ford­able, qual­ity bus ser­vice for our re­gion’s cities,’’ she said.

How­ever, com­mer­cial en­ter­prises such as In­fratil, New Zealand Bus and Go Welling­ton needed to re­turn a profit to share­hold­ers.

As a re­sult, the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar profit the com­pany and its sub­sidiaries earned last year could be seen as hav­ing come di­rectly from ratepayer sub­si­dies.

Pub­lic trans­port was vi­tal be­cause it flowed on to ev­ery­thing else, such as res­i­dents and busi­nesses, she said.

‘‘With­out them func­tion­ing and ev­ery­one be­ing able to get to work, ev­ery­thing is stuffed, ba­si­cally,’’ she said.

Mr Glen­sor said he be­lieved Ms Robin­son had se­ri­ously un­der­es­ti­mated how ex­pen­sive it was to run the bus net­work.

‘‘The only way to make it even marginally vi­able is to de­liver all the ser­vices with the ser­vice you own, not fo­cus on the ser­vices where two peo­ple want to come home at 10 o’clock at night – a whole trans­port net­work rather than a se­ries of sep­a­rate op­er­a­tions,’’ he said.

‘‘Se­condly, you have got to have a net­work run­ning right through the day.

‘‘Pri­vate com­pa­nies want to fo­cus on only those ser­vices that make money – they pick the busy routes,’’ Mr Glen­sor said.

‘‘That is why we bun­dle to­gether all of those dif­fer­ent routes, so they can’t cherry-pick the ser­vices that they want to run for a profit.’’

One fleet of buses to pro­vide pub­lic- good ser­vices and a sec­ond run by a pri­vate com­pany to op­er­ate a com­mer­cial ser­vice was not re­al­is­tic, he said.

Photo: JIM CHIPP

On board: Hay­ley Robin­son says coun­cils should buy buses rather than sub­sidise bus com­pa­nies.

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