Download The Wellington App for more stories like this.

Troubled bus network: process was correct, officials say

The Greater Wellington Regional Council says it wouldn’t have done anything differently in its implementation of the city’s problematic new bus services, but is committing to fixing it in eight weeks’ time.

Story from RNZ by political reporter Gia Garrick
@giaisonline [email protected]

Politicians have been inundated with complaints over Wellington’s troubled bus network. Photo by RNZ / Emma Hatton

The council’s executives have been hauled into a Parliamentary committee for a “please explain” today, after a shambolic few months.

Wellington-based politicians said they had been inundated with complaints from people whose buses had stopped turning up, with routes that have changed so they now must catch multiple buses – particularly to get to the hospital – and those that did turn up were full.

Chairman Chris Laidlaw and chief executive Greg Campbell said they were sorry.

But after a grilling from MPs about what they might have done differently, Mr Campbell said he could not think of much.

“The process was correct. There were some unique things that we had to deal with, one of them was a driver shortage, one of them was a large change in tender provision that was not a natural outcome but what the process drove.

“It gave us a combination of events to manage with and we’ve just managed them as best we can.”

National’s Nicola Willis was one of six local MPs who told the council they did not think their actions, or their responses to the issue, had been good enough.

“So you wouldn’t do that differently, you wouldn’t do the network design differently, what is it that you would do differently?” asked Ms Willis.

“You made a decision to fundamentally challenge decades of customer behaviour in the way the buses were used. It has not worked, it’s been a disaster,” she said.

The council said it was looking at a review over the next eight weeks to figure out what could be done to manage those concerns and fix parts of it that were not working for commuters.

But it maintained this morning that the overall system was not broken.

The Tramways Union, which represents 450 bus drivers or around 90 percent of those in Wellington, is planning indefinite strike action from 23 October if it does not receive a better pay offer.

At a stop work meeting yesterday, drivers also passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the council.

Secretary Kevin O’Sullivan was at Parliament for this morning’s select committee, and doubts any notable change is coming for commuters given the council’s attitude on the matter.

“They’ve said they won’t talk about the network design, that’s the fundamental operational aspect. Until the network design has changed that’s going to be a problem,” he said.

“Then there’s the industrial issues. And until that’s fixed, that’s going to be another problem. The two combined, mean big problems.”

Read the full GWRC submission to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee.