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Wellington Public Transport Plan requires decisive action

Wellington Public Transport Plan requires decisive action

NZ Bus welcomes the Draft Wellington Regional Public Transport Plan 2014 (PT Plan) but calls for the decision-making process to be fast-tracked to provide Wellington with greater certainty over the future shape of its public transport system.

NZ Bus CEO Zane Fulljames says the PT Plan, if implemented well, has the otential to improve the efficiency of Wellington’s bus networks, reduce travel times and enable better access for the public.

“NZ Bus is a strong supporter of both the Spine Study and Bus Rapid Transit, as we believe Wellington public transport deserves a boost. For too long the system has suffered from poor connectivity, weak infrastructure, infrequent trips and expensive fares, especially in the central city,” says Mr Fulljames.

“Adopting the recommendations of the Wellington City Bus Review has been well signalled and moves to reduce duplication and congestion on the Golden Mile are overdue. The draft PT Plan’s proposed simplification of the bus network by consolidating 43 routes down to 34 will make it easier to manage and more user-friendly.”

The draft PT Plan reinforces Greater Wellington Regional Council’s preference to scrap the trolley buses from 2017 and seeks feedback on what new fleet could be introduced to replace them, but stops short of putting the case forward for a favoured option.

“Unfortunately we are no closer to gaining clarity on whether the trolleys will indeed be scrapped, and if so what will replace them. NZ Bus spent close to $40 million – not the $27 million reported last week – on rebuilding the trolley fleet of 60 buses in 2007, which have an expected life of 15-20 years.

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“As an operator, having $40 million in assets retired halfway through their expected life span provides little incentive to invest in new fleet, particularly when 2017 is only three short years away and we don’t know what that new fleet requirement will be,” Mr Fulljames says.

There are a number of options available to the GWRC, the simplest of which is to extend the trolley services through to 2022 when the new services proposed under the Spine Study are to be implemented.

Councillors have also suggested in the media that GWRC intends to replace a further 218 buses at the same time as removing the trolleys, at a cost of roughly $80 million. Without certainty, it is difficult for bus operators to make sound decisions involving this amount of investment.

“It is prudent to evaluate all options. But right now, given the timeframes in play, it is vital we move beyond discussions to decisions. It’s important that GWRC provide clarity as soon as possible to their operational partners and ratepayers on the when, how or even what new buses, currently of an indeterminate nature, will be servicing their loyal customers from 2017. While the PT Plan looks good on paper, action needs to be taken now to ensure this opportunity to deliver a step change for Wellington’s public transport system isn’t lost.”

ENDS

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