Wellington Scoop

Will there be enough bus drivers?

A month ago, TransUrban (also known as Tranzit) said they were still forty drivers short for their new bus service. Then two days ago, the situation seemed to have got worse.

The DomPost reported on Friday that the Tramways Union estimates the new bus operator will be about 200 drivers short in Wellington, while Tranzit managing director Paul Snelgrove admitted a “worst-case” shortage of 10 to 15 drivers.

Who do you believe?

The DomPost´s Tom Hunt writes:

The disputed figure is symptomatic of the tension between the union and company that has been seething since Tranzit was awarded contracts for most of Wellington’s commuter routes, making it the major player in town at the expense of NZ Bus, which operates the Go Wellington and Valley Flyer services.

The new contracts begin today.

It´ll be Wellington commuters who´ll be first to find out the reality – has the new bus operator succeeded in finding enough drivers?

The launch of the new service is already shaping up to be less than perfect.

Bus hubs are an integral part of the new timetables and routes, but the situation with them is less than satisfactory.

MetLink reports, seemingly without any embarrassment, that five of the hubs are still being constructed, and work on the other two hasn´t even begun.

So much for deadlines.


  1. pjclutterbuck, 15. July 2018, 11:38

    The Tramways Union has been against the changes from the start, primarily because more efficiencies in services and less congestion (including the shift to double deckers) will mean fewer buses on the road, and thus fewer jobs for union members. However, that will mean at least equally good services for less money (and less still after the bus fleet is progressively retrofitted with electric propulsion), less congestion and lower emissions. The travelling public needs to put all negativity aside and study the changes, which are the most wide-ranging for Wellington since 1904, because it will have a profound impact on how to get around the region.

    Other regions have had competitive tendering and network redesigns since 1991. Wellington has so far been sheltered by GWRC’s practice of rolling over contracts to incumbents. Change is uncomfortable sometimes, but this has been the norm around the rest of the country for almost 30 years.

  2. Roy Kutel, 15. July 2018, 16:45

    Daran Ponter is on record in Scoop as saying GWRC has been planning the new bus system for 8, yes I did say EIGHT years. Just what have they been doing? Surely a public inquiry is warranted.

  3. Gillybee, 15. July 2018, 21:11

    @pjclutterbuck: “more efficiencies” is just neolib speak for cutting costs. You must work for the NZTA, or be mates with Fran Wilde the architect of this mess.

    I invite you to come to my suburb Seatoun, stand next to the terminus by the clubrooms and see just what those “efficiencies” have brought us. An antiquated bus stock consisting of rattly old South Auckland diesels – some with 700,000 kms on the clock – every 15 minutes, from 6am till midnight, 7 days a week now, with no respite. The diesel fumes linger in the air (and in our lungs no doubt) and the noise is unbearable.

    Instead of introducing “competitive tendering”, why wasn’t Wellington – given it was the city with the highest uptake of public transport use in the country with the highest number of electric buses – “the norm” on which other NZ cities were held to?

    Instead we’ve got another fare hike – which is counterintuitive if you want more people to use public transport – most of our experienced drivers have taken redundancy thanks to sub-standard contracts that risk public safety; and by 2021 we’ll still have less than half the electric buses we had just 8 months ago. More than 95% will be diesel.

    And you ask us to “put all negativity aside?”

  4. MetLink, 16. July 2018, 9:41

    Hey guys, we did have a few issues this morning but have sent out some messaging addressing this. (Via twitter)

  5. KRE, 16. July 2018, 9:45

    The new 23 and 3 connection is a joke! In summary… number 23 late, bus driver mutters something about being forced to start late, gets to hutchinson street…. by now 18 people standing in rain. Bus (every 7 mins) turns up after 15 mins…full! Somehow we get on anyway. (Via twitter)

  6. Cheryl, 16. July 2018, 9:48

    Thanks Metlink. Love being late to work. No buses through Island Bay. Between 6.20am and 6.55am. (Via twitter)

  7. Felix Marwick, 16. July 2018, 9:53

    Nice start to the new bus services in Wgtn Metlink. I arrived 5 minutes early for mine to see it sailing down the road. Next bus not for 23 minutes despite timetable promising 10 min intervals. (Via twitter)

  8. Ross Teppett, 16. July 2018, 9:55

    Not surprising given the new contractor is desperately short of drivers… The Regional Council have made a hash of it, (via twitter)

  9. H, 16. July 2018, 10:45

    New-old bus this morning had a malfunctioning snapper system. It let passengers tag on but not off – so every single person on the bus will end up with penalty fares. Driver obviously new & didn’t know how to be helpful.

  10. Roy Kutel, 16. July 2018, 11:39

    I wonder if Daran, Roger, Sue, Ian, Chris our GWRC Councillors are out riding the buses today?

  11. Morris Oxford, 16. July 2018, 13:42

    At 12.55p.m. a Number 22 turned up at Vic 20 minutes late and the driver refused to go to Mairangi. He said he was stopping at Vic even though there is NOTHING in the timetable saying 22s stop at Vic.
    What is the system for reporting this? It wasn’t even in the rush-hour.

  12. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 16. July 2018, 16:03

    The last Go Wellington service on our route home on Saturday night failed to appear, quite a hike up the hill on foot, but we got there in the end. Cannot blame the driver for failing to appear for the last run of an era.

    As to the fare hike mentioned by Gillybee, if one was a user of the old non-digital beneficiaries pass, prefers to pay by cash and takes issue with the snapper system which no doubt keeps a record of who went were and when they went there, the cash fare has doubled, so henceforth we will not be catching the buses at all.

    Top marks to the Metlink driver who stopped in the rain last night, got out of his bus and braved a bus shelter full of bros armed with a slab of Victoria Bitter with AC/DC booming out of the beatbox and politely asked if anyone of us was waiting for a bus. If that is the caliber of front line staff being employed to drive the new services, we’d say they are hiring the right people as drivers.

  13. Jonny Utzone, 16. July 2018, 19:55

    Sekhmet – you’re one of those pesky old mammalians who pay by cash that GWRC wants to exterminate! $10.80 for you old chap!

  14. SAB, 16. July 2018, 22:12

    Bus late. Snapper wouldn’t tag off. Missed connecting bus. Uber $10 to work. Returning home $5 penalty as previously unable to tag off in the morning. Unable to tag off again when exiting in the evening. Another $5 penalty?
    Total extras today $20. I dread to think how time consuming it will be to get my money back.

  15. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. July 2018, 9:18

    Hi SAB – contact Snapper, give them your card number and explain your situation. You will find them very obliging.

  16. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. July 2018, 9:24

    Hi Roy, yes eight years. Much of that was consultation and redesign following feedback and managing to meet the new PTOM requirements. Actual implementation planning started in earnest once the routes were tendered about a year ago.

    There were always going to be issues with the rollout as the changes are total. Today is much smoother than yesterday. As the network beds down we will be able to identify areas where there may need to be some rethinking around timetable, connections and capacity. It’s an ongoing process.

    And, rather than riding the buses I was at the Lambton Interchange and Courtenay Place assisting commuters with way finding. A few disgruntled people, but most seemed fine and were getting to where they need to go to on time.

  17. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. July 2018, 9:27

    Hi KRE – yes, 23/3 interface needs some work, and possibly some rethinking. I have alerted Metlink and will be having discussions.

  18. Andy Mellon, 17. July 2018, 10:06

    Not just the buses with problems either. My train turned up shorn of two carriages and thus packed to the rafters. Train staff didn’t bother to check tickets, meaning those of us on a monthly pass subsidising those on 10 trips/cash fares.

  19. Roy Kutel, 17. July 2018, 10:34

    Daran – good to know you were doing something useful but I would have preferred you being out at one of the suburban bus hubs you haven’t finished building.

    I think you are letting off your officers lightly. Surely if the regional council had decided on suburban bus hubs and started planning them EIGHT years ago it would have made sure they were built and ready to go for the start of hub operations yesterday?

    I would not want you guys organising a sporting event. Sorry everybody, we will finish the stadium a day after the final is played. It’s a legacy project…

  20. Katie, 17. July 2018, 13:41

    Hey Cr Ponter – what’s the excuse for the unfinished or hardly started Hubs? In particular the fiasco in Kilbirnie; who on earth decided that NOW was the appropriate time for major storm water upgrades that needed doing years ago, in the exact area the Hub is meant to be, meaning said Hub is (indefinitely) temporarily relocated and what is there has hardly even been started! Were there any discussions between WCC – whom I assume arranged the drainage works – and GWRC?

  21. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. July 2018, 14:47

    Hi Katie, The stormwater work is running about four weeks behind schedule. Had the pipe works been on time the hub would have been completed and operational.

    Because the hub cannot be used until the pipe works are completed the hub construction has slowed a bit and word diverted to other hub projects. Today though I see they have started installing the shelters.

  22. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. July 2018, 14:52

    Hi Roy, we have a lot of personnel at the bus hubs, and quite frankly, despite the delays in completion, they have operated fine for most users.

    You can keep banging on about eight years all you like but until consent is delivered by WCC you can’t do anything, and then you are subject to the weather.

    Do I wish they had been completed on time – yes. Am I loosing sleep over it – No.

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

    Daran – Although I certainly would not want you going without sleep I’m more concerned about bus passengers getting wet and cold waiting for a bus at a suburban bus hub that GWRC has not built yet. GWRC should have delayed implementation until they had finished the infrastructure.

  24. Mike Mellor, 17. July 2018, 17:55

    Some responses:
    Morris Oxford: the route 22 timetable https://www.metlink.org.nz/timetables/bus/22 shows that of the six services per hour, four terminate at VUW;
    Sekhmet Bast Ra: “the snapper system which no doubt keeps a record of who went were and when they went there” – it does, but that info is linked to an individual only if the card is registered. If it isn’t registered and you buy it and top it up with cash, your travel is anonymous;

    KRE: as Cr Ponter acknowledges, the 23/3 interchange is poor. But the 23 timetable https://www.metlink.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Route-2323e2929e-web6.pdf makes no mention of such an interchange, with Vogeltown passengers apparently expected to take the longer and slower route via Kingston and the 7. Bizarre!
    Katie: the temporary Kilbirnie hub is certainly poor, having poor pedestrian access from the shops, poor shelter, no RTI, being very exposed, and requiring route 3 buses to go round three sides of a square (which some drivers seem to forget – and these buses have to make five consecutive right-angled turns, instead of the single one on the old route, or two with the permanent hub.) The permanent hub can be criticised in some of these respects, but the temporary site is worse. Even with the roadworks the old stops are still usable, and to me it would have made sense and been much better for passengers to continue using them until those works were complete.

    Cr Daran Ponter: many thanks for your continued engagement on this important issue. Some points: “until consent is delivered by WCC you can’t do anything” – absolutely right, but WCC can’t grant a consent until an application is made, and as I understand it their processes went as quickly as such applications normally do. As for the hubs, which have always been seen as an essential part of the new network, I fear that their lack will put many people off using the bus. It’s a great shame that none of them are ready, with some of them not even started. And as for the hubs operating fine for most users, that was certainly not the case this afternoon at Brooklyn (where were no staff visible) or Kilbirnie (with just one poor soul amongst the many confused passengers at the outbound stop). Shouldn’t someone be losing sleep?

    But it is early days yet, and the view from the top deck of the new doubledeckers is great!

  25. Andrew, 17. July 2018, 18:48

    Why on earth is there blue lighting on the new buses? Not like we have a heroin problem in Wellington?! Not even the public loos have blue lighting.

  26. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. July 2018, 19:48

    @ Mike Mellor, I am really responding to the suggestion in an earlier post that because this has been 8 years in the planning we could somehow had got consent for the hubs at a much earlier – like 3-5 years ago. Just not how things work. But definitely should have commenced three months earlier.

  27. Morris Oxford, 18. July 2018, 7:44

    Mike Mellor, what really went wrong was the electronic notice which showed that all 22s
    went further than Vic. It is all very confusing and the cut-down in services in the suburbs is mean.

  28. Buswatcher, 18. July 2018, 8:49

    It would appear that the bus routes were informed by computer literate snapper users and the height of the double decker buses. Seniors, cash users and those that don’t top up on line weren’t taken into account in use data. Do the double decker buses fit through the tunnels? Also failure to measure the length of the buses means that the longer buses struggle turning. Notably the new Esplanade roundabout at Island Bay and those trying to uturn onto the Esplanade from Derwent St. It would be comical to watch if it wasn’t so broody dangerous.

  29. Roy Kutel, 18. July 2018, 10:29

    So Daran, adding on three months means the bus hubs won’t be ready until November?

  30. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 18. July 2018, 11:54

    Hi Mike, thank you for the clarification on the dataprofiling aspects of the snapper system. A recent chat with GWRC revealed discounts for beneficiaries on supported living allowance no longer exist. The options now available are one can apply for a ‘Total Mobility Card’ which involves a personal visit from an assessor, followed by an adjudication on eligibility. This option only applies to citizens with physical disability who have difficulty boarding and disembarking from a bus.

    Using 2 zones as an example, previous cash fare for a beneficiary was $2 on off peak times, these were 9am to 4pm and after 6pm on weekdays plus all weekend. With the new bus service, off peak times have changed, they are now 9am to 3pm and after 6.30pm plus all weekend. Realistically, there are some good reasons for changing the off peak times, school buses are in action from 3pm, and by changing 6pm to 6:30pm that brings general discounts into line with the time one may use a gold card.

    Under the new service the cash fare for 2 zones at all times is $4. With a snapper card at peak hours $2.81 and off peak fare is $2.11. That’s a fair fare for those who will opt in to the snapper system but some of us prefer to pay cash and remain anonymous.

    Hi Andrew, regarding the blue lighting in some of the new buses, the word from Metlink is this intended to reduce reflections on the drivers’ windscreens, so it’s intended to be a safety enhancement. More on the blue internal lighting here

    The photo in the article of the interior of one of the buses appears to be either a poor photo or an act of media sensationalisation. In real life the interior lighting is not as blue as that photo suggests.

  31. Paul, 18. July 2018, 12:08

    Not just the blue lighting on the new buses that is a pain, there is also the constant screech emitted when the back door is open. Got off the bus three hours ago and the ringing in my ears is only just subsiding. I now know what tinnitus must be like. Also means that the driver can’t hear passengers asking for the door to be kept open when they close it before everyone has got off. I guess it’s a safety feature so that they know it’s open? But does it have to be ear ringingly loud?

  32. Morris Oxford, 18. July 2018, 15:16

    Has anyone seen one of the 124 new Euro-6 diesel buses from England? Do their doors squeak? Are they noisy?

  33. MetLink, 18. July 2018, 19:09

    The blue lights on buses are factory fitted & commonly used here and overseas. We know some people don’t like them but equally many have no issue. We are in the first few days of new buses & this is one of the things that is new! However we’ll continue to note feedback. (Via twitter)

  34. Andrew, 18. July 2018, 21:29

    But for what are they commonly fitted overseas Metlink? Just because some cities have an intravenous drug problem does not mean we should follow suit. Or is there some other compelling reason?

  35. Jonny Utzone, 19. July 2018, 8:57

    Interior blue lighting could be the precursor to semi-automatic buses! New UK buses (where Tranzit buses were built) are being designed for semi-automatic operation.

    “While it is a manned vehicle, one of its key features is the ability to switch between manual and automated drive modes, allowing the driver to relinquish control at certain times. Luminous paddles on the front, along with sections of the interior lighting, change from white to blue when the bus enters ‘semi-automated’ mode so that passengers and pedestrians can tell when the vehicle is travelling independently”.