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Auditor-General writes to Council on buses

Implementation of the new bus network and services in Wellington City

The Auditor-General has written to Greater Wellington Regional Council regarding public concerns about aspects of the implementation of Wellington’s new bus network and services.


Chris Laidlaw
Chairman
Greater Wellington Regional Council
PO Box 11646
Wellington 6142

Dear Mr Laidlaw

Implementation of the new bus network and services in Wellington City

My Office is aware of the public’s concerns about the operation of the new bus network and services in Wellington City. We have also received correspondence asking us to look into various aspects of the governance, management, design, and implementation of the new bus network and services.

As a first step in working through the concerns that have been raised with us, my staff have met with senior personnel from Greater Wellington Regional Council (the Regional Council) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), and have spoken with staff from the Ministry of Transport. This was to understand the background to the development and implementation of the network and services, and whether there are aspects of those that we should further inquire into.

My staff have also obtained and reviewed the extensive material that is available on the Regional Council’s website about the planning for, and procurement of, the new bus services, as well as extensive additional information made available to us by the Regional Council.

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We have also spoken with some of the bus operators to understand their views and perspectives on what the issues are.

It is clear that aspects of the Regional Council’s procurement process for the new network and services have already been highly scrutinised. It is also clear that the Regional Council has obtained external specialist advice throughout the design and procurement stages of implementing the new network and services.

The short-term priority appears to be addressing implementation issues such as ensuring that there are enough buses and drivers and having accurate real-time transport information. These are issues that the Regional Council appears to be taking steps to address, and they are not matters that my Office’s expertise could help with.

Others have recently announced that they will look into aspects of the new network and services. This includes the Regional Council’s commissioning of an “urgent independent review of the situation”, and Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee scheduling of a hearing this Thursday. The Regional Council is also planning some evaluative work beginning next calendar year.

As one of my Office’s roles is to advise and assist Parliament, I intend to wait until after the Transport and Infrastructure Committee hearing, and any subsequent work, before I decide if further inquiry from my Office would help. In particular, I am interested in whether there are lessons from this experience for other large and lengthy transport projects involving public organisations.

While there are aspects of the Regional Council’s implementation of the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) that we could further inquire into (such as risk management of the transition to the new network and services), assessing the appropriateness of the policy decisions made about the design and operation of that model are outside of our mandate to comment on.

One of the concerns raised with my Office is whether the Regional Council has diverted funding for buses to trains. The information made available by the Regional Council and by NZTA indicates that funding has not been diverted from buses to trains. That said, this is a matter that I will take into account when deciding whether to carry out further inquiry.

Operating the new bus network and services is highly dependent on the contractual relationships between the Regional Council and bus operators. These relationships are intended to be long-term (for some, up to 12 years) performance-based partnership arrangements. I do not intend to get involved in, or complicate, any contractual relationship or industrial relations matters.

While I do not intend to inquire further at this time, we will continue to monitor developments and review any new issues or information that arises to decide whether those warrant further work by my Office.

Because of the level of public interest in the issues with the new bus network and services, we will publish this letter on our website.

Yours sincerely

John Ryan
Controller and Auditor-General


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