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Another 25 Wellington bus services cancelled

A chronic bus driver shortage continues to plague the Capital’s peak hours services.

A new double decker bus Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

In a bid to ‘provide a better service’ the Greater Wellington Regional Council cancelled another 25 Tranzurban bus services due a lack of drivers.

The number of suspended peak hour services is now 46.

It’s a common story for Wellingonians braving the elements to wait for a bus only to see the board change from ‘one minute away – to cancelled’.

Or if the bus does show up, it’s so jammed full of people it drives by without stopping.

This is often the case for commuter Abbey.

“I notice that at peak hours that the buses can be a little bit unreliable, especially around 6pm when you are trying to get home from work. It says the bus will come, it says it’s due and then it never shows up,

“And then you’re kinda screwed,” she said.

Abbey said it was now routine for her to have a back up plan before she attempted any bus journey.

Wellington regional councillor Daran Ponter said the decision to cut further services would make things more certain for commuters.

He said before these suspensions, upwards of 50 services a day were cancelled on a minute by minute basis.

“Now we have greater certainty that it’s just those 46 and that we can reduce any last minute cancellations.

“It’s embarrassing that more than a year on we are still dealing with these kind of issues. It’s embarrassing for the council but absolutely frustrating for commuters,” he said.

Mr Ponter said the cancellations doesn’t promote public transport but does give commuters some certainty rather than guessing if a bus would show up.

One of Wellington’s main providers, NZ Bus, had 21 services suspended in February due to a shortage of 30 drivers – some were even replaced with taxi vans.

But chief executive Zane Fulljames said they were on track to resume by the end of September.

“At NZ Bus we are about 10 to 12 driver down now. Over the last six months across the country we’ve interviewed 1225 people, employed 225 drivers and we are expecting to return to full complements over the next two months,” he said.

Both NZ Bus and Tranzurban said there was a nation-wide bus driver shortage, it wasn’t just limited to Wellington.

Tranzurban runs about 50 percent of the city’s bus services – it’s director, Keven Snelgrove said they were short 40 full time drivers and 14 part time drivers.

He said the 25 services would be suspended for six months so Tranzurban could deliver the best possible service to their customers with the drivers they currently had.

RNZ / Charlotte Cook