The Dominion Post

Capital bus network rethink

- Damian George

Upset commuters have already forced a rethink of Wellington’s new bus network.

Bus users in the suburb of Karori have been particular­ly outspoken about their dislike of the new network, which was launched three weeks ago.

Their complaints include late and over-crowded buses, the removal of a direct off-peak connection to Wellington Regional Hospital in Newtown, and issues for Wellington College students getting home after school.

Greater Wellington Regional Council now says it will review the decision to cut the hospital route.

That route, which runs from north Miramar to Karori via Kilbirnie, Newtown, Massey University in Mt Cook and Victoria University in Kelburn, was cut to a peak-only service when the new network was rolled out.

But the regional council’s sustainabl­e transport committee deputy chairman, Daran Ponter, said the all-day service could be reinstated.

‘‘That’s partly with the benefit of hindsight but also because of how some of our communitie­s have developed in the past four or five years.’’

The new network was launched on July 15 but planning for it went back several years.

However, it could take several months for the change to take effect as a new contract was negotiated with route operator NZ Bus. The general unrest among commuters has led to local councillor­s and MPs setting up two public meetings later this month to discuss the issues, with further meetings also likely.

Wellington city councillor Simon Woolf said Karori Rd was the busiest he had ever seen it on Monday mornings. He believed

‘‘For the regional council to say we’re seeing a few difficulti­es would be an understate­ment.’’ Simon Woolf

the congestion had been caused by an unreliable bus network forcing people back into cars.

‘‘For the regional council to say we’re seeing a few difficulti­es would be an understate­ment.’’

A meeting for Karori commuters on August 30, which will also involve Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, Wellington­based MP Nicola Willis and several local councillor­s, was about local politician­s being collegial, Woolf said. ‘‘This is not about political point-scoring. The ultimate aim is for the regional council to make improvemen­ts as soon as possible.’’

Willis has also started a petition for the regional council to address issues that were ‘‘forcing commuters to use a car or taxi’’.

The meeting will likely be followed by another one for Ngaio, Khandallah and Broadmeado­ws commuters, while Rongotai MP Paul Eagle and Ponter are behind a planned meeting for eastern suburb commuters on August 26.

City councillor Diane Calvert said the current network ‘‘isn’t good enough’’. There were health and safety issues because of overcrowdi­ng on buses as well as stressed and untrained drivers.

‘‘That’s fundamenta­l before you go live with anything – you have to train your staff.’’

Sustainabl­e transport committee chairwoman Barbara Donaldson acknowledg­ed drivers recruited from outside of Wellington had made some errors on the new routes, but so had experience­d Wellington drivers.

There had also been issues with operators using smaller buses than had been stipulated by the council for some services.

‘‘I think the evidence is services are getting better every day. We said right from the beginning that there would be some issues. We asked the public for patience and, by and large, they’ve been very patient.’’

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