Fight for bus route be­gins

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - THOMAS MANCH

Pen­sion­ers and dis­abled res­i­dents have mo­bilised to protest changes to a Hamil­ton East bus route.

Threats of le­gal ac­tion and en­gag­ing deputy prime min­is­ter Win­ston Peters were made to Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil staff when 15 res­i­dents stepped off the bus to say their piece on Mon­day.

Staffers’ con­cil­ia­tory re­turns largely fell on deaf ears.

Newell St res­i­dent Ge­orge McCarthy, 78, ral­lied the group after be­ing made aware of the coun­cil’s plan last week after see­ing a coun­cil no­tice at a bus stop.

‘‘As ratepay­ing peo­ple we are en­ti­tled to a rea­son­able bus ser­vice ... many of the blind are used to their route, which they’ve trained to do.’’

As of Jan­uary 27, the Hamil­ton East-Uni route 17 bus will no longer op­er­ate in off-peak times, be­tween 9am and 2.30pm.

This poses a prob­lem for McCarthy and fel­low res­i­dents of Ne­wall, Gra­ham, Brook­field and Mac­far­lane streets, who use their Su­perGold cards to ride for free dur­ing off-

‘‘As ratepay­ing peo­ple we are en­ti­tled to a rea­son­able bus ser­vice, many of the blind are used to their route, which they've trained to do.’’

peak hours - many into town and to the hos­pi­tal.

‘‘It is ex­tremely es­sen­tial this bus gets re­in­stated ... They’re wip­ing us out com­pletely, and they’ve wiped out the gold card.’’

Other bus route changes are sup­posed to fill the gap. Route num­ber 10 will now travel Nay­lor St, one block north from the cur­rent route 17, ev­ery half an hour. For many res­i­dents, this stop may be closer. But it also re­quires a walk up the in­cline of Gra­ham St, dubbed ‘‘car­diac hill’’ by those in at­ten­dance.

‘‘They can’t ac­cess the other routes be­cause their dis­abil­ity pro­hibits them,’’ McCarthy said.

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil pub­lic trans­port cus­tomer team leader Susi Marinkovich said the changes were first con­sulted and planned three years ago to serve the peak needs of bus users.

Staff be­gan no­ti­fy­ing of the changes to the route six weeks ago, and she was meet­ing with com­mu­nity groups such as the Blind Foun­da­tion in the com­ing week. The coun­cil’s pol­icy was to have a bus route within 600 me­tres of ev­ery home, which this change al­lowed for th­ese res­i­dents.

Marinkovich promised to con­sider the ex­pressed needs of the group, and meet with them again on Jan­uary 18 with any po­ten­tial ad­just­ments.

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