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Council tackling remaining bus challenges in city

Progress on stabilising Wellington’s bus network was reported to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee at an update at Parliament today.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Chief Executive Greg Campbell detailed improvements in bus performance across the region but outlined congestion and the nation-wide driver shortage as the remaining roadblocks to uplifting performance in Wellington City.

“The shortage of drivers is still impacting some Wellington commuters. This is our greatest concern and priority focus to resolve. While not large in absolute numbers, any cancelled service is not just frustrating to commuters, but can cause subsequent services to be overcrowded or be too full to pick up all passengers. I publicly acknowledge the distress this has caused our customers at times,” said Mr Campbell.

Details of a joint Metlink and operator led recruitment campaign to deal to the shortages were shared alongside the fresh challenges the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 puts on resources.

In relation to congestion Mr Campbell detailed an agreement between Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council to work together to deliver new bus priority measures.

“Congestion is a major obstacle in Wellington City. We have limited and congested road spaces and, compared to other cities, a lack of dedicated bus priority lanes. Operator tests show there can be vastly different travel times when running the same bus route at the same time from one day to the next. The result of this is lack of reliability for our customers. Wellington has fallen well behind in providing bus infrastructure. This has to be resolved urgently to ensure reliable levels of service.”

Mr Campbell also noted that Greater Wellington is moving into a period of intense community led reviews of the new bus network.

“This work will determine what changes are still needed for the network to address customer feedback and requests, social benefits and what can be afforded. We started this work last week, working with people in Strathmore Park, and we’ll be going suburb to suburb over the coming months. Changes have been progressively implemented in response to customer feedback since launch. ”

The report to select committee showed growing use of the network, with the majority of growth coming from Wellington City. In May, growth in the city reached 6.3%. year-on-year.

“The growth in patronage is not surprising. While much of our conversations have been around the problems experienced with transition to the new network, what has been delivered is a huge range of benefits. There are 45% more services at weekends now, 26 more suburbs have more regular off peak services, we have free transfers, better tertiary and accessibility concessions, and many brand new buses including double deckers and electric vehicles.”

“We, and our operators, are committed to continue working to lift the whole network to perform to target levels. Gradual improvements will eventually add up,” added Mr Campbell.

Mr Campbell was presenting the update alongside Greater Wellington acting Chair Barbara Donaldson, and General Manager, Strategic Programmes, Wayne Hastie.

GRWC submission can be found at: https://www.metlink.org.nz/gwrc-presentation-to-the-transport-and-infrastructure-select-committee

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