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Wellington consultation as bus network woes continue

Wellington regional council seeks more consultation as bus network woes continue

Jonathan Mitchell, Reporter

A year after a revamp of Wellington's bus network threw routes and services into disarray, the regional council is consulting with the public to try and fix it.

Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown last year. Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

Greater Wellington Regional Council and Metlink are launching an online forum on Friday along with a series of public meetings and drop-in sessions for people to voice their opinions and come up with solutions.

They will start in the eastern suburbs of Strathmore Park, Kilbirnie, Lyall Bay, Hataitai and Miramar.

Wellington's bus woes began a year ago with operators NZ Bus and Tranzurban taking over the contracts just as a new timetable and new routes were brought in.

Since then, there have been reports of buses turning up late, not showing up at all, with services cancelled or regularly overcrowded. To make matters worse, there's still a driver shortage.

One bus user on Lambton Quay along the city's "Golden Mile", Christine, said it started out bad and got better over time, but there were still some bottlenecks.

"Last Sunday night for the Matariki fireworks I decided to catch the bus home into town and it took an hour and a half to get home again," she said.

Another commuter, Alan, said a lot could be learned from systems in Asia.

"I believe we could have more bus - or like more bus lanes ... compared to my home town (in Asia) there is a lot of bus - more bus and the bus there is a lot cheaper," he said.

Simon said his run to the northern suburbs was fairly smooth.

"I've heard some of the routes on the southern and other - yeah I think a hub model could be a bit of an issue - more buses just to help with that," he said.

Metlink's Facebook post about its review also featured several negative comments:

"Metlink and its world class services in recent past has improved my health significantly. I have taken up biking to office instead."

"It's the worst service since changeover. Especially for us in Strathmore. Nothing has improved! Should have kept it the way it was!"

"The constant cancellations / lack of the 7 in the morning is terrible and the buses are chock full by the time they reach the bottom of the hill. And the evening is not much better from the railway station. So now I just walk to and from work, or sometimes Scooter."

"A year of terrible decisions and not listening to feedback, just thankful I got a job in Lower Hutt so don't have to use the trains and buses anymore!"

Local city councillor Sarah Free lives in the eastern suburbs and said she would not give the bus service a pass mark.

"To be honest it would probably be very middling, probably even a little bit less than five - maybe a four," she said.

She said it was just limping along.

"I never thought that we would actually have to wait so long for improvements - when it was so clearly not working," she said.

Tramways and Public Transport Union secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said he would be front and centre giving his view about the network problems.

"I did say to them - when they rang me only just a month ago - I said 'I've been waiting 12 months for this call'."

He said central government would need to get around the table at some stage too.

"At the end of the day there'll be more funding required - but that's an issue that so far central government have been reluctant to address directly," he said.

Regional councillor Daran Ponter accepted many frustrated bus passengers had already stated their dislike of the current system, but said the consultation was important.

"So, there are people and there are particular communities that have not been well served in the last 12 months and we really want to make sure that we can get past that," he said.

Mr Ponter said there could be new designs and routes in place by December, as well as more buses and drivers to meet demand and ease pressure on the network.

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