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New bus service for the Mackenzie Basin

March 14, 2012

New bus service for the Mackenzie Basin

Twizel and Tekapo’s new community bus service is up and running.

Four months after a steering committee was set up in the region the on-demand transport service linking the Mackenzie Basin with Timaru is in operation.

Environment Canterbury’s Timaru-based Transport Officer Tony Henderson says the service will operate in a similar way to the very successful long-running community bus services in Geraldine and Waimte.

Mr Henderson spearheaded the formation of the steering committee last year, following changes brought in at Government level. These changes had seen the former subsidised Twizel-Timaru bus service no longer meeting government funding criteria.

The previous service had provided a regular Friday link using a 20-seater bus but the new service, which will operate a hoist-equipped mini bus will be on-demand, providing Twizel and Tekapo residents with more flexible transport options.

“We know that people did appreciate the bus service but it did have its limitations especially for those with medical appointments at Timaru Hospital as most specialists’ visits were scheduled for Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the bus didn’t operate,” Mr Henderson says.

The fact that the service is not tied to one particular day will also benefit Twizel especially during winter when snowfalls can disrupt road services. In the past, if snow was blocking roads on a Friday people needing transport to Timaru would have to wait for the following week. Now, the service will be able to operate as soon as the road is clear, depending on demand.

At first the door-to-door service will run with just the minibus, which will require a minimum of between four and six people to book. However plans are already in place to buy a car as well to provide transport for smaller numbers of travellers. A team of four to five volunteer drivers has already been recruited with plans to built this number up to about 12.

The steering committee which has launched the service and is currently chaired by Graeme Palmer will be gradually replaced by a locally based community bus trust to oversee its future operation.

“The new service has had great support from Waimate and Geraldine’s community trusts. Both have been able to provide advice based on their many years of experience but Geraldine also sold to Twizel, at a very reasonably cost, one of their vehicles that they were about to replace. It was a very generous gesture.”

The trust was established with a grant of $14,000 from Environment Canterbury and $5000 from the Mid and South Canterbury Trust. Environment Canterbury will provide ongoing financial help for vehicle replacement.

ENDS

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