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'Too big, too quick' - Wellington bus operators warned regional council to slow down with overhaul

Two of Wellington’s bus operators today revealed they warned the Greater Wellington Regional Council they had concerns the network overhaul was launching too quickly.

In a Transport and Infrastructure select committee meeting held today, Tranzurban, NZ Bus and Uzabus outlined their views on the revamp of the region’s bus system, which began in June.

Tranzurban managing director Paul Snelgrove said what went wrong with Wellington’s bus overhaul is that it happened “too big, too quick” with not enough time given for preparations.

He said the company raised with Greater Wellington Regional Council that the implementation was planned to happen too soon and in hindsight, he believes central Wellington’s overhaul should not have happened until next year.

NZ Bus chief executive Zane Fulljames said the company had around four to five months to prepare for the overhaul, calling it an “unrealistic timeframe for smooth transition".

When NZ Bus shared these concerns with the regional council, Mr Fulljames said it was told by GWRC there would be no change and GWRC was confident it “would be able to deliver a world-class public transport system".

“Those short timeframes impacted fleet readiness and GWRC’s instruction to have seats removed from some vehicles further impacted the availability of those large busses,” NZ Bus chief commercial officer Scott Thorne said.

The company slammed the regional council for the time it took for the company to get access to operational data compared to other operators, a lack of transparency between operators and regional council staff and unacceptable communication to the public over the scale and impact of the overhaul.

NZ Bus said it did not receive operational data until last month.

“We never met with the programme director of GWRC once nor were invited to… this was a wholesale change of a network,” Mr Fulljames said.

He said the regional council missed a “golden opportunity” to use electric busses for the overhaul.

“There’s $450 million, and that’s our estimation based on the fleet that’s gone into New Zealand, that’s been spent on diesel fleet alone in Auckland and Wellington – you’ve locked into that technology for 20 years,” Mr Fulljames said.

Tranzurban’s Paul Snelgrove also commented that it was disappointing Wellington passed on the chance to lead the way with electric busses.

NZ Bus said the overhaul should have happened in stages.

Tranzurban and NZ Bus both said the network has improved since the overhaul and said their companies are working with the regional council to improve their operations.

A spokesman for Greater Wellington Regional Council said no operator requested extra time for their part in the network overhaul and all had access to the same data.

‘It would not make sense to withhold data from any operator and it was certainly not “forgotten”,’ the spokesman said in an email.

The spokesman stated communication with the public before the network overhaul was comprehensive.

Many are calling on central Government to fix the capital’s public transport woes.
Source: 1 NEWS