Wellington Scoop

Monthly cost of adding extra buses to solve network problems

Report from RNZ
The Wellington Regional Council council is paying $150,000 a month to add extra buses to its ailing new network. It has also spent $338,000 between July and September on contractors to help embed the new network, which has been riddled with problems since it launched in July.

Commuters have complained of overcrowded buses, buses not showing up at all, and the new routes causing inconvenience.

The regional council has been using what it called ‘banker buses’ to supplement capacity on routes that travelled between Lyall Bay and the city, Karori and Seatoun, and Johnsonville and the city. Those buses cost the council $108,000 a month. And it has been spending $41,000 a month to extend route 18 to link Miramar to Karori.

Eventually the buses would become a permanent part of new timetables, but the council would continue to pay for them, said councillor Daran Ponter.

“So the $150,000 that we may be paying now … gets incorporated into the overall network, and that’s the sort of amount of money we would continue to pay into the future.”

Mr Ponter said on the four routes with banker buses, which are all run by NZ Bus, there was a bigger demand for buses than the council had expected.

Banker buses were being used because, in part, buses that were not the right size were being deployed, he said.

When 17 double-deckers for NZ Bus arrived in December or January, they would help ease pressure on those routes.

In September it was revealed people were being left behind on a busy NZ Bus route because buses were too small.

The extra money was coming from a transport reserve fund, but the spending would have to be added to annual plans from next year.

The council had saved money through the tender process for the new bus contracts, Mr Ponter said.

“But we have to acknowledge that there are capacity issues to address, no councillor, no council, likes to go to ratepayers to say they require more money for a service, but the flip side to this is to do nothing, and that’s not tenable either.”

The council always planned to fill any gaps in the new service if it needed to, he said.

The council had spent $338,053 on contractors between July and September. It always intended it would need to employ additional specialist resources to assist with the transition to the new bus network, the bedding in and resolution of issues.

A National MP based in Wellington, Nicola Willis, said putting extra buses on was a good step, but the council did not have a choice.

“They have to do it, because Wellingtonians deserve a reliable effective bus service, but this just goes to show the council should have listened to Wellingtonians in the first place. They should have consulted properly, they designed the routes poorly and now Wellingtonians are having to pay the price not just through the poor bus service, but with a lot of ratepayers money going into the fix.”


  1. Michael Gibson, 8. November 2018, 7:28

    Luckily GW decided to get tough with operators three months ago and with a huge fanfare announced that they would fine operators who were falling short contractually. Getting this money back will help offset some of the extra expenditure which has now been revealed. (I am still waiting for the answer to the O.I. question I asked at GW’s last Transport Meeting: how much has been recovered in this way?)
    P.S. I record my expectation that the palaver three months ago will prove to be another clumsy shot by GW at blaming somebody other than themselves.

  2. Wellington Commuter, 8. November 2018, 10:20

    Let us not forget that greaterwgtn cut subsidies to bus services by $5.2m/year under PTOM and its hub&spoke design. They could be spending $400,000/month more and still be ahead financially. Providing a worse bus service has been very profitable, in PT terms. [via twitter]

  3. Roy Kutel, 8. November 2018, 13:28

    Wellington Commuter – they may have cut subsidies but the final bill (if we ever know what it is) when everything is added up (including lawyers, taxi fares, flying remedial ‘experts’ in) will far exceed the tiny savings they thought they’d make after taking 8 years to plan this farce.

  4. Trish E, 8. November 2018, 14:49

    I expect there will also be reduced income from fares, due to commuters giving up on the inadequate buses and driving.

  5. Morris Oxford, 8. November 2018, 16:25

    The smell does not lie only in the fumes of the stinking exhausts.

  6. Shane W, 9. November 2018, 6:48

    Everyone seems to blame NZBUS for not having enough drivers and buses to run their routes.
    Remember they had to get rid of a lot of their drivers and a lot of their buses because their new contact with the the council said they would not need them.
    Getting a new bus is not like buying a car, they are all custom orders. So take time.

  7. Jonny Utzone, 9. November 2018, 9:19

    Awarding the contracts gave the new operators over 8 months to organise drivers and buses! Surely, in doing any sort of risk management GWRC should have factored in that the new operators hadn’t the drivers, buses or depots so everything they offered was a ‘promise’.

  8. Graham Atkinson, 9. November 2018, 10:26

    Shane: NZ Bus did not HAVE to get rid of a lot of drivers – merely enough to ensure they had sufficient drivers to cover the reduced contract. It appears they may have miscalculated.

  9. Tony Jansen, 9. November 2018, 14:08

    NZ Bus have punished Wellingtonians for the loss of most of their bus contracts. We now have ancient dirty diesel buses, many unfit for purpose. I refer particularly to the purple and orange ex Hutt Valley buses. Many of these are single front door entry/exit models. They are too small, shabby, noisy and belch huge amounts of diesel pollution. I suspect NZ Bus could have allocated different buses and more of them if they had wanted to. They are deliberately punishing their customers for something that was out of our hands. My sympathy goes to all the drivers – redundant and still employed – but certainly not to NZ Bus management.

  10. Joanne Perkins, 9. November 2018, 20:06

    NZ Bus has not punished Wellingtonians at all. GWRC chose to not sign the contract with NZ Bus until late January, leaving them with 5 months to organise the buses that GWRC wanted, like double deckers etc. The double deckers are due to arrive in December to be in service in January; in comparison Tranzurban had the contracts in hand in April last year and of their electric double deckers, for example, the last one was delivered today. This is not the fault of Tranzurban or NZ Bus but is reflective of the time it takes to order, have manufactured and delivered new buses. Furthermore, in February changes will be made which will require NZ Bus to increase their fleet size but that decision was made this month which leaves effectively 3 months. Do you think NZ Bus will be able to get new buses in 3 months? I sure don’t. In response to Graham Atkinson regarding the number of drivers NZ Bus made redundant, it was worked out how many drivers would be needed for the work the company was contracted for; unfortunately because the network is not up to standard it was soon discovered that a number of banker buses were required, needing drivers in peak periods which increased the number of drivers required. The only way to get drivers, for either company, is to advertise and hire them. It is not possible to shanghai people into jobs, and both companies are having difficulties with having a full roster of drivers. The faults in the new system can objectively and determinatively sheeted home to the GWRC who used a system designed 6 years ago, that is not suitable for a city with the topography of Wellington and was not updated with data from the last few years because the regional council was not prepared to purchase the data from the people who had it. The debacle is based on an idealogical point of view that comes straight from the neo liberal beliefs of the last Government who never believed that Public Transport should be seen as a Public Good but as a profit making concern, so they devised the PTOM way of doing things which essentially led to reduced services despite there being more buses on the road, and increased costs to those who use the system.

  11. Reg Varney, 10. November 2018, 10:04

    Stand on Willis Street and count the number of virtually empty buses noisily farting their noxious emissions along the street. Their number is little changed from 2017 except we don’t have our quiet 100% electric trolley buses. GWRC needs abolishing for its costly stupidity!

  12. Greenwelly, 10. November 2018, 14:51

    Anyone able to confirm that the reef street charger is still not commissioned ?

  13. Wellington Commuter, 11. November 2018, 10:13

    Cr Roger Blakeley wrote on 5 November: “The commissioning and testing of the Reef Street fast charger, with required sign-offs by numerous parties, is expected to be complete in the next few weeks. All 10 EVDDs are expected to be fully operational by end of November.”

  14. Roy Kutel, 11. November 2018, 15:27

    GWRC had 8 years to plan the Reef Street charger, and missed the target by months! Shocking…

  15. Concerned Wellingtonian, 11. November 2018, 16:53

    I tried a double-decker for the first time today. I was shocked how noisy it was INSIDE. Also inefficient because of the time needed to use the staircase.
    The noise of most buses now in Wellington is far too great and now we get it inside as well. A complete new ticket is needed for next year’s local elections.

  16. Chris Baxter, 11. November 2018, 19:31

    Sounds like you need therapy and or maybe chiropractor help with the knees to get up the stairs.

  17. Graham Atkinson, 12. November 2018, 13:26

    Roy Kutel: the Reef Street charger is being installed by Tranzit, not GWRC, and is subject to ongoing testing before final approvals are issued.

  18. Roy Kutel, 12. November 2018, 16:45

    Graham – why was it not GWRC, WCC or the electrical company who owns the charger? Since regional ratepayers will be paying for most of it in the end. The charger will be a monopoly piece of infrastructure – which was the ‘problem’ with the trolley buses and was why GWRC in a fit of power pique got rid of them. The system is mad! GWRC needs replacing with a PTA that owns/operates all the buses and trains. Much cheaper when you add up all the unnecessary and duplicated overhead (GWRC staff, GWRC councillors WCC staff, lawyers and bus and train management…)