Wellington Scoop

New timetables, new buses

by Brent Efford
This coming weekend sees the biggest change to Wellington´s public transport services since, well, forever.

The old route pattern grew with the electric tram system and was retained with few changes when converted to trolleybuses.

A personal example: my own Aro St to Railway Station route dates from 1904 – but as from Sunday will be just part of a service from Highbury to Khandallah. The changes will benefit many – I may not want to go to Khandallah by bus all that often, but the evening and weekend buses through the CBD will definitely be a plus.

Others will not be so well placed after the changes: bus to bus transfers at suburban hubs are inherently problematic, where a feeder route in uncongested suburban streets transfers to a trunk service bogged down in traffic. The key to acceptable transfers is ensuring a minimum of discomfort and quicker door-to-door travel overall, compared with all the bus services squeezed into the same trunk, which has been the paradigm up to now.

There is also disquiet over the slow start to constructing the suburban hubs, most of which will clearly not be ready by Sunday!

The quick cross-platform transfer system, which has worked well on the Metlink rail system since the 1950s, is inherently difficult to arrange in all-bus systems.

Time will tell, but expect plenty of complaints – and only a small increase in PT use (if any), compared with the order-of-magnitude increase which a complete rail trunk through the CBD and Newtown to the eastern suburbs would ensure.

With the trolleybuses (until recently Wellington’s claim to public transport distinction) now a fading memory and the overhead wire infrastructure nearly all gone, concerned Wellingtonians are agitating for the regional council to make good on its ‘100% electric bus fleet’ (using battery buses, of course) promise a good deal quicker than it will take at the current tokenistic rate of progress.

The 10 electric double-deckers launched at Parliament on 5 July have received most of the media attention and GWRC greenwash, despite being only 2.3% of an otherwise-diesel bus fleet of 420, largely brand-new, which may last in service for at least 15 years.

Fortunately the GWRC, smarting from the backlash over the premature ditching of the trolleys, now sees the need to get beyond this tokenism. Cr Daran Ponter has persuaded most of his fellow councillors to try to speed up the re-electrification process – let’s hope that he can achieve at least as many electrics in service in five years time as there were five years ago!

Brent Efford is the NZ Agent for the Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA).

More on the bus revamp: Eye of the Fish
And more from M28A31


  1. greenwelly, 11. July 2018, 16:56

    …has persuaded most of his fellow councillors to try to speed up the re-electrification process

    Can you provide some more information on what this means. Are you talking about funding for NZ Bus to retain their potentially converted trolleys in Wellington? Or something else entirely ?

  2. NigelTwo, 11. July 2018, 19:16

    @greenwelly. Ha, spits, what “re-electrification process”?
    GWRC are too busy trying to shift the blame onto PTOM.

  3. Phil D, 12. July 2018, 9:35

    All-in-all this whole process has been just one big eff up after another with reroutes without shelters, unfinished bus hubs, I could go on & on. (Via twitter)

  4. Roy Kutel, 12. July 2018, 14:02

    Watch your rate bill go through the roof when GWRC seeks to redo its 10 year contracts to get operators to introduce expensive battery buses! There will be lawyers rubbing their hands in glee.

  5. Alan, 12. July 2018, 15:42

    The “quick cross transfer system” at Kilbirnie is just still one large construction site. It certainly won’t be ready for the new services on Sunday so expect bus chaos in this area. Lots of concrete yet to be laid. Bus shelters to be erected to say nothing of the toilet facilities. And GWRC has known about this for how long? John Street facilities in Newtown are not completed either.

  6. hr, 12. July 2018, 17:45

    @Alan Not to mention the problems at the Kilbirnie/Bay Rd intersection where buses at the stops block the lane for straight ahead traffic which have to up behind the buses waiting for them to leave the stop. And this is without the extra buses from Monday. Such a wierd design fault that no-one will take responsibility for.

  7. Andrew, 12. July 2018, 18:25

    Alan, nor in Brooklyn. Easily a few weeks behind schedule after the contractor had to redo one of the slabs.

  8. Roy Kutel, 12. July 2018, 18:30

    Apart from Daran Ponter who says he uses the Airport Flyer, do any GWRC Councillors actually use buses? I know Chris Laidlaw used to use taxis quite a bit but it’s not the same is it? So do GWRC Councillors care about wind and rain and wasting your life at bus ‘hubs’ in suburbia?

  9. Ross Clark, 12. July 2018, 22:04

    Apart from Daran Ponter who says he uses the Airport Flyer, do any GWRC Councillors actually use buses?

    If they use public transport, it is by exception. I once heard the story of a couple of local public transport advocates who had used public transport to get over to an RLTC meeting in Greytown, whereupon they discovered that the local politicians had driven over. When, not unreasonably, they asked why, the-then chairman of the GWRC Transport Committee is supposed to have replied that “local politicians’ lives are too busy, far too busy, to be organised around public transport timetables”.

  10. Cr Daran Ponter, 12. July 2018, 23:48

    Nice try Roy and Ross, I tagged on and off for three journeys today as I do most days of the week if I’m not walking. Sue Kedgley and Roger Blakeley are regulars, while Ian McKinnon lives at the top of the transport pyramid as a habitual walker.

  11. Peter456, 13. July 2018, 6:12

    The new islandbay roundabout is not yet finished. Started about four months ago ….today’s question is how many trucks does it take to build a roundabout? This must be one of the most expensive roundabouts in the world. Maybe finished by Christmas? (Via twitter)

  12. Roy Kutel, 13. July 2018, 8:50

    So 3/13 GWRC Councillors use buses/trains with two using gold cards?

  13. Katy Mansfield, 13. July 2018, 12:10

    Daran – Why not organise a day out on the buses for all your Councillor colleagues (especially the ten who never use them).

    How about a trip out to the suburbs and back where they can sample a transfer at one of your ‘new’ bus hubs. Hey, and aim to try out one of the hubs that aren´t quite finished yet despite your team starting the planning work eight years ago.

  14. Cr Daran Ponter, 14. July 2018, 10:10

    Hi Katy – good idea. I’ll wait a few weeks until things have calmed down a bit. Understand your sarcasm about the bus hubs. The works are a bit behind but should all be completed by August.

  15. Cr Daran Ponter, 14. July 2018, 10:15

    @ Roy I only covered Regional Coubcillors in the City. Paul Swain and Ken Laban are daily public transport commuters from the Upper Hutt and Wainuiomata.

    In terms of members who qualify for Gold Card use that would be ten out of thirteen regional councillors.

  16. Ben Schrader, 14. July 2018, 12:51

    The Karori Tunnel hub comprises a sole sign stating it is a hub and a bus route map. There are maybe three seats for people to wait for a bus transfer on one side of the street and none on the other. Seeing the Karori Tunnel bus stops can only accommodate one bus at a time I can see this hub becoming quickly congested.

  17. Roy Kutel, 14. July 2018, 14:09

    Gee Ben, what has the GWRC being doing? It took them 8 years of ‘planning’ to come up with this system. GWRC is just a retirement home for minor-celebs.

  18. greenwelly, 14. July 2018, 14:43

    @Ben S, The WCC Traffic Resolution indicated that the bus bays are supposed to be big enough for two buses… have they not yet been altered?


  19. Ben Schrader, 14. July 2018, 17:46

    You might squeeze the front end of another bus in there but the back end would be out on the road. There’s not really room for two buses at once due to the fact that there is a tunnel in the way. Why you’d place a hub in front of a tunnel is uncertain to me but I’m sure GWRC has very good reasons.

  20. Cr Daran Ponter, 14. July 2018, 22:58

    Hi all, update on Bus hubs from Metlink.


  21. Traveller, 15. July 2018, 4:45

    I looked at that Metlink update. None – not even one – of the hubs has been completed. They´re all either under construction or not yet started. What a dismal record.

  22. greenwelly, 15. July 2018, 8:36

    @Cr Ponter, thanks for that. But it´s pretty disappointing that none of the Hubs have been completed, (save the wellington interchange where all that was needed is changino the signage.
    While some havent even been started….

  23. TrevorH, 15. July 2018, 8:45

    So this is how public transport in Wellington ends? Not with a bang but a whimper. The incompetence behind the decision-making and “planning” for the new “services” is off the scale.

  24. Cr Daran Ponter, 15. July 2018, 10:51

    @Greenwelly. Yep, I’m disappointed we didnt get the hubs in on time. But they are coming and temporary container shelters are in place at some locations.

  25. greenwelly, 15. July 2018, 12:39

    And now it appears that Wellington residential ratepayers are going to end up in 6 years time paying around $200 /household more to fund the boondoogle


  26. Boaz, 24. July 2018, 18:11

    The cheapest option and the best would be for a law change to form a Wellington Passenger Transport Board, oh and, $500 million to replace the trolley bus system that would have cost only $50 million to retain, only it wasn’t retained because the Labour Government, bowing to their mates on the City and Regional Council, wanted the trolleybuses gone. They then threw a party for those heaps of crap the battery buses at Parliament Buildings. Only, the Speaker, Trevor Mallard, a Labour Party man, made it publicly known the disgust he had for celebrating the loss of wages for his poorest neighbors. He was right to do so, since the Labour Party are supposed to be for the workers. Mallard’s refusal to celebrate the Transit Coachlines victory over Wellington highlights internal ruptures in the Labour Party. They should be kicked out of office for having allowed the trolley bus system to be junked. The most honest thing for the Government to do would be to intervene and restore the trolleybus system, and have it owned and operated by a public sector organization separate and distinct from the diesel bus industry lobby.