Spine bus route to increase services
Improvements ‘changing the dynamic’ of transport
Horizons Regional Council’s public transport services in Whanganui are set to increase with a new ‘spine’ bus route planned for the 2022-2023 financial year.
Horizons has endorsed the latest service improvements, with recommendations also received by Whanganui District Council last Tuesday.
The improvements will see services on a new ‘spine’ route connecting Castlecliff and Aramoho, increase in frequency from 2-hourly to every 20 minutes between 7am and 7pm on week days, and between 9am and 3pm on Saturdays. Services will also increase on Friday nights, with hourly buses between 7pm and 11pm.
Horizons Passenger Transport Committee chair Sam Ferguson says the long-term vision is to provide a land transport system that is environmentally sound, safe, efficient, sustainable and accessible.
“Over recent years we have been working towards changing the dynamic of public transport in Whanganui,” says Cr Ferguson.
“The spine route is a connector, creating a link to the hospital and surrounding medical services.
“We know that currently, the highest patronised routes are Castlecliff and Aramoho, and this new route will provide a critical connection to services and social opportunities for residents and workers in those areas.
“The extra frequency will offer residents a viable alternative transport option to private vehicles, especially on Friday nights when other options are particularly limited.
“There will be time to monitor the new route for 6-9 months prior to Horizons next Long-term Plan process in 2024. The results of which could then inform a case for a greater level of investment or any further changes to the network, with the potential to roll out high frequency services along other key transport corridors in future.”
Both Horizons and Whanganui District Council have committed to co-funding the local share of bus improvements for the Longterm Plan period 2021-2024, with Waka Kotahi contributing the remaining portion.
Cr Ferguson says the transport mode shift sought from this investment is an important step towards achieving the carbon emission reductions highlighted in the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP).
“Transport is a significant source of carbon emissions and investing in frequent public transport is an important tool for climate action.
“Horizons have recognised climate change is an urgent issue and we are pleased we can work with Whanganui District Council to implement real action to address our emissions.”
Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall says the service changes support the district council’s shared pathways programmes and climate change strategy.
“With the population increasing in and around Whanganui, as in other regional centres, there is a desire to provide public transport to users other than those who have predominantly used current services,” says Mayor McDouall.
“The service improvements will also create employment for the district, with more drivers required to cover the increased frequency of services, without burdening the existing workforce.”
The current Whanganui Urban bus services contract is for nine years, and started in October 2019. While the midterm review is not due until mid-2024, services are monitored on a regular basis to ensure they operate effectively and efficiently.
The details of the improvements and upgrades required will be determined working alongside the operator, Tranzit Coachlines, over the next few months; with services set to hit the road in late 2022/early 2023.
For up-to-date Horizons bus timetables and passenger transport information please visit www.horizons.govt.nz/ buses-transport