Wellington Scoop
Network

Auditor-General writes to Regional Council on public concerns about buses

From the Auditor-General
Letter to Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw
Dear Mr Laidlaw
My Office is aware of the public’s concerns about the operation of the new bus network and services in Wellington City. We have also received correspondence asking us to look into various aspects of the governance, management, design, and implementation of the new bus network and services.

As a first step in working through the concerns that have been raised with us, my staff have met with senior personnel from Greater Wellington Regional Council (the Regional Council) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), and have spoken with staff from the Ministry of Transport. This was to understand the background to the development and implementation of the network and services, and whether there are aspects of those that we should further inquire into.

My staff have also obtained and reviewed the extensive material that is available on the Regional Council’s website about the planning for, and procurement of, the new bus services, as well as extensive additional information made available to us by the Regional Council.

We have also spoken with some of the bus operators to understand their views and perspectives on what the issues are.

It is clear that aspects of the Regional Council’s procurement process for the new network and services have already been highly scrutinised. It is also clear that the Regional Council has obtained external specialist advice throughout the design and procurement stages of implementing the new network and services.

The short-term priority appears to be addressing implementation issues such as ensuring that there are enough buses and drivers and having accurate real-time transport information. These are issues that the Regional Council appears to be taking steps to address, and they are not matters that my Office’s expertise could help with.

Others have recently announced that they will look into aspects of the new network and services. This includes the Regional Council’s commissioning of an “urgent independent review of the situation”, and Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee scheduling of a hearing this Thursday. The Regional Council is also planning some evaluative work beginning next calendar year.

As one of my Office’s roles is to advise and assist Parliament, I intend to wait until after the Transport and Infrastructure Committee hearing, and any subsequent work, before I decide if further inquiry from my Office would help. In particular, I am interested in whether there are lessons from this experience for other large and lengthy transport projects involving public organisations.

While there are aspects of the Regional Council’s implementation of the Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) that we could further inquire into (such as risk management of the transition to the new network and services), assessing the appropriateness of the policy decisions made about the design and operation of that model are outside of our mandate to comment on.

One of the concerns raised with my Office is whether the Regional Council has diverted funding for buses to trains. The information made available by the Regional Council and by NZTA indicates that funding has not been diverted from buses to trains. That said, this is a matter that I will take into account when deciding whether to carry out further inquiry.

Operating the new bus network and services is highly dependent on the contractual relationships between the Regional Council and bus operators. These relationships are intended to be long-term (for some, up to 12 years) performance-based partnership arrangements. I do not intend to get involved in, or complicate, any contractual relationship or industrial relations matters.

While I do not intend to inquire further at this time, we will continue to monitor developments and review any new issues or information that arises to decide whether those warrant further work by my Office.

Because of the level of public interest in the issues with the new bus network and services, we will publish this letter on our website.

Yours sincerely
John Ryan
Controller and Auditor-General

12 comments:

  1. Diane Calvert, 25. September 2018, 15:18

    Interesting response from the Auditor- General re public concerns into the Metlink Wgtn bus service. Good to see they have made it public. [via twitter]

     
  2. Michael Gibson, 25. September 2018, 16:36

    The Auditor-General gives a fine example by publishing his letter on his website. I have asked the five Greater Wellington Councillors to publish their reply on the Council website. I have also asked them to follow the Auditor-General’s lead and use their website to publish news that affects Wellingtonians such as proposed changes to timetables.
    I had already told them that they have made Wellington a nation-wide laughing-stock. It is time they began making amends.

     
  3. Citizen Joe, 25. September 2018, 16:37

    Well, nothing new from the Auditor General then! I wonder how much time and effort his team put in? Read some reports and wrote an open letter to us (the rate- and tax- paying public) via the GWRC about what we already knew.

     
  4. Gillybee, 25. September 2018, 17:21

    More of the same claptrap from another out of touch bureaucrat who appears unable to leave his office and talk to real people. Adherence to process and procedure is no substitute for actual thinking Mr Ryan/Ms Calvert. The fundamental question that should be asked is whether the network is working for the bus users who pay for it (80% of the costs to be precise.) Wellington.Scoop, Stuff and now Greater Auckland’s transport blog is full of comments from Wellingtonians who are not happy.

    A meeting was facilitated on the weekend full of elderly and disabled people – part of the silent majority who don’t blog or comment online – who feel totally disempowered by the callousness of authorities who don’t appear to give a damn.

     
  5. Ron Beernink, 25. September 2018, 18:01

    Dear John. You mention that the risk management of the transition to the new network and services is an area that is of concern to your office. There are two significant aspects that need attention from your office. 1. The impact of poor working conditions on drivers ability to work long hours and at the same time continue to drive in a safe manner. 2. The lack of training in ensuring that the bus drivers share the road in a safe way with people on bikes. Both of these issues have no doubt been a contributing factor to a couple of accidents and a number of near misses. Nothing indicates that GWRC or the bus operators are addressing these issues with urgency.

     
  6. Danny Lemon, 25. September 2018, 18:57

    $160,000pa for Laidlaw
    $7million – ‘ghost’ consultants
    $10 million -‘hubs’
    $12million to remove trolley infrastructure
    $40million on double-deckers
    Over 300 drivers made redundant in the Wellington region
    Incalculable number of ruined lives
    Someone is accountable [via twitter]

     
  7. Diane Calvert, 25. September 2018, 19:29

    Gillybee. Curious why you included me in your view on the Auditor-General’s approach?
    I personally have engaged with many bus patrons, organised community mtgs and been a strong advocate for the community’s concerns to be heard so that workable solutions can be found & put in place.

    Many others have also done the same which is why GWRC are finally acknowledging that the original design (network, capacity & hubbing) needs fixing. How soon and how much is still not clear however.

     
  8. Chris Baxter, 25. September 2018, 19:56

    $160,000 – normal – rather on the low side I think
    $7 million ghost consultants – normal, for a new system
    $10 million hubs – normal. Maybe liability. People don’t like change.
    $12 million – normal – get rid of used by date
    $40 million on double deckers – normal in a new contract. Not ratepayers’ problem I hope.
    300 drivers redundant ruined lives. Not normal. It does not make sense. There are job offers at NZBus and Tranzurban. How can there be 300 ruined lives when if you look online there are offers for drivers by both companies.

     
  9. Frank Lawton, 25. September 2018, 20:47

    The Auditor-General says “The short-term priority appears to be addressing implementation issues such as ensuring that there are enough buses and drivers and having accurate real-time transport information. These are issues that the Regional Council appears to be taking steps to address, and they are not matters that my Office’s expertise could help with.” Unfortunately the GWRC is doing nothing to ‘ensure enough… drivers”. This is either an incorrect assessment by the AG of what they are doing or he has been told porkies by the GWRC. The GWRC see (and have seen) for a long time the supply of drivers is purely an operator responsibility. But that is not going to work especially as they appoint low bid (and low wage paying) operators

     
  10. Chris Baxter, 25. September 2018, 23:02

    @Frank. The number of drivers and buses will sort the problem???
    I hope you will ring GWRC to morrow morning with this great news. We all know they are trying to work out what is wrong with the system and you have come up with the answer. How brilliant you are!!!

     
  11. Farmer Bill, 25. September 2018, 23:54

    @ C Baxter – As a farmer struggling to make $60k a year I find your sums disheartening. Maybe I should give up and become an email pusher!

     
  12. Keith Flinders, 26. September 2018, 11:14

    The Auditor General writes: The information made available by the Regional Council and by NZTA indicates that funding has not been diverted from buses to trains. That said, this is a matter that I will take into account when deciding whether to carry out further inquiry.

    Asking the question another way: “Why does it cost me nearly four times as much to travel from the CBD to Karori per km, than it does per km from the CBD to Upper Hutt on a Matangi?” The Karori journey standing all the way on a 12 year old diesel bus with insufficient straps to hold on to. Are train users paying too little for the $0.6billion train set they have been provided with ?

     

Write a comment: