Wellington Scoop

After 12 months, public being asked to say what’s wrong with Wellington’s buses

Report from RNZ by Jonathan Mitchell
A year after a revamp of Wellington’s bus network threw routes and services into disarray, the regional council is consulting with the public to try and fix it.

The council and Metlink are launching an online forum on Friday, along with public meetings and drop-in sessions for people to voice their opinions and come up with solutions.

They will start in the eastern suburbs of Strathmore Park, Kilbirnie, Lyall Bay, Hataitai and Miramar.

Wellington’s bus woes began a year ago with operators NZ Bus and Tranzurban taking over the contracts just as a new timetable and new routes were brought in. Since then, there have been reports of buses turning up late, not showing up at all, with services cancelled or regularly overcrowded. To make matters worse, there’s still a driver shortage.

Christine, a bus user on Lambton Quay, said it started out bad and got better over time, but there were still some bottlenecks. “Last Sunday night for the Matariki fireworks I decided to catch the bus into town and it took an hour and a half to get home again,” she said.

Another commuter, Alan, said a lot could be learned from systems in Asia. “I believe we could have more bus lanes … compared to my home town (in Asia) where there is a lot of bus – more bus and the bus there is a lot cheaper.”

Simon said his run to the northern suburbs was fairly smooth. “I’ve heard some of the routes on the southern and other – yeah I think a hub model could be a bit of an issue – more buses just to help with that,” he said.

Metlink’s Facebook post about its review features several negative comments:

“Metlink and its world class services in recent past has improved my health significantly. I have taken up biking to office instead.”

“It’s the worst service since changeover. Especially for us in Strathmore. Nothing has improved! Should have kept it the way it was!”

“The constant cancellations / lack of the 7 in the morning is terrible and the buses are chock full by the time they reach the bottom of the hill. And the evening is not much better from the railway station. So now I just walk to and from work, or sometimes Scooter.”

“A year of terrible decisions and not listening to feedback, just thankful I got a job in Lower Hutt so don’t have to use the trains and buses anymore!”

Local city councillor Sarah Free lives in the eastern suburbs and said she would not give the bus service a pass mark.

“To be honest it would probably be very middling, probably even a little bit less than five – maybe a four,” she said. She said it was just limping along.

“I never thought that we would actually have to wait so long for improvements – when it was so clearly not working,” she said.

Tramways and Public Transport Union secretary Kevin O’Sullivan said he would be front and centre giving his view about the network problems. “I did say to them – when they rang me only just a month ago – I said ‘I’ve been waiting 12 months for this call’.”

He said central government would need to get around the table at some stage too.

“At the end of the day there’ll be more funding required – but that’s an issue that so far central government have been reluctant to address directly,” he said.

Regional councillor Daran Ponter accepted many frustrated bus passengers had already stated their dislike of the current system, but said the consultation was important.

“So, there are people and there are particular communities that have not been well served in the last 12 months and we really want to make sure that we can get past that,” he said.

Mr Ponter said there could be new designs and routes in place by December, as well as more buses and drivers to meet demand and ease pressure on the network.


  1. Traveller, 9. July 2019, 12:18

    After 12 months, why do they need to be told what’s wrong with the buses? Don’t they keep records of all the complaints?

  2. Local, 9. July 2019, 12:51

    I think the public should be paid to be consulted again and again.
    Take the hubs and transfers out, go back to the previous system, give the drivers decent wages and working conditions and stop asking us over and over what is wrong with the system.
    How much has been spent on consultants telling GWRC what is wrong/right or should be changed?
    I do not understand what the staff and councillors paid by us to provide a public transport system are doing. Frustrated? Yes. Cross? Yes.

  3. Commuter, 9. July 2019, 13:57

    Have they had a computer meltdown? Have they lost 12 months of data? Or didn’t they bother to keep records of all the complaints …

  4. Ruth, 9. July 2019, 14:16

    Unbelievable. Have they been under a rock for a year? They’ve been told. They know.
    Just fix it.

  5. HR, 9. July 2019, 14:34

    They must surely know what’s wrong by now? It’s about time they came up with ideas to move forward and advertised those for consultation.

  6. Marion Leader, 9. July 2019, 15:07

    I advocate co-operation with the Council on this. Give me a correct estimate for the number of passengers who still want to catch a bus in Wellington and I will tell you how many more buses we need on the routes which we had before last July.

  7. Andrew Bartlett, 9. July 2019, 17:48

    Given the challenges experienced by so many over the past year, particularly in the Eastern Suburbs, I feel the discussion there will be rather hindered by their own moderation rules:

    “3. Don’t defame anyone or any organisation. A comment is defamatory if it lowers or harms the reputation of a person or organisation. If you wish to insult anyone, this is not the place to do it. If you wish to accuse anyone of wrongdoing or incompetence, this is not the place to do it.”

    Now, I’m no friend of defamation, and perhaps the reputation of MetLink, the Regional Council and ‘our operators’ couldn’t be any worse, but this seems either a rather heavy-handed attempt at avoiding criticism, an overreach, or (much more likely) a poorly applied template. Either way, it should be fixed. Not that such a topic would be allowed there, because:

    “10. Please don’t raise concerns about the moderation on the site as it disrupts the flow of any discussion. Please direct any queries regarding moderation directly to moderation team at … (e-mail address at engagementhq.com).”

  8. Kara Lipski, 9. July 2019, 17:50

    Most of the previous comments are very apt. Why does GWRC/MetLink think they need to “consult” with us again. We have already given that organisation plenty to work on during the past 12 months or more. But given their record of repeated use of consultants since 2012 on the bus issue in Wellington, I have little faith in this latest effort to give us back a decent bus service. Marks for effort by Metlink: 2/10.

  9. Lim Leong, 9. July 2019, 19:13

    GWRC has run so many consultation sessions, surveys and public meetings since 2012 that I have lost count. For the record, here is the initial 2012 consultation on the proposed network change, from GWRC’s website. Pay particular attention to Section 3.2.1 and 3.3.3.
    • 57% of the respondents strongly dislike the proposed network change. 17% dislike the proposed change so a total of 74% viewed the change negatively.
    • Transfers, change of routes, timing and frequency are major issues for respondents.

    Customers were clear what they wanted from Day 1, but GWRC pretty much ignored feedback from that study and prettymuch all subsequent consultation sessions, public meeting and surveys.

    So the question is: what is GWRC trying to achieve by asking the same questions over and over again but expecting a different result every time? Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

  10. TrevorH, 9. July 2019, 20:50

    @ Lim Leong; Brilliant! Which once again shows that local government “consultation” is merely a box ticking exercise.

  11. Dave B, 9. July 2019, 20:52

    I would say Wellington’s bus woes began with the removal of the trolleybuses. This was the biggest loss and the hardest mistake to undo. And it was done in part to facilitate the setting up of the new routes and contracts, and we all know where that has led. Leaving everything as it was prior to 2017 would have been so much easier on everyone, GWRC included. Paying the cost to upgrade the trolleybus power-feeders would have been money well-spent in retaining (instead of destroying) Wellington’s head-start towards a zero-carbon system. And in due course the hub-system could have been implemented to feed into the rapid transit spine which will eventually have to be built to “get Wellington Moving”.

    As it is, our once enviable PT system has gone backwards, its carbon emissions have risen, and it has made the news for all the wrong reasons. How have we let our politicians do this?

  12. D.W., 10. July 2019, 8:43

    In the ongoing review, the new (but old) GWRC bus planners will reinstate the bus operating plan that was in place before they left GWRC. It will take time but gradually, with a series of contract variations agreed with the bus companies, we will will revert back to where it was before they left and their replacements decided to go for the inappropriate hub and spoke concept. Its just a pity they won’t be able to reinstate the trolley buses too (a sad loss for Wellington) that Dame Fran axed in a fit of road rage.

  13. Gillian Tompsett, 11. July 2019, 5:55

    According to the OIA I have in front of me, the geriatric NZ Bus fleet currently in operation along the No.2 route is as follows:
    66 Euro 3
    11 Euro 4
    23 Euro 5
    Almost as old as some of our regional councillors!

  14. Logic rules, 11. July 2019, 9:06

    Thanks Gillian, another gross failure of the GWRC, its CEO, officers and councillors. We were assured by the GWRC that 50% of the NZ Bus fleet would be Euro 5 and better by July 2018. A whole year later, 77% of the fleet is a deteriorating, more polluting standard than Euro 5.
    Who else remembers the signs that GWRC officers had erected all over the city to tell us the trolleys were going so they could be replaced with a fleet of modern electric buses? The mistruths and ineptitude continue because unelected officials aren’t accountable to the public and elected ones like Laidlaw and Donaldson make vague promises that have no substance.

  15. Greenwelly, 11. July 2019, 9:59

    It’s interesting that this page “A new generation of planet-friendly buses” has vanished from Metlink’s site.

    But, Google still has it:

    “And as we continue to phase in newer and better buses, by early 2019 harmful emissions across the region’s bus fleet will be an estimated 76% lower than in July 2017 and 80% of our bus fleet will be new.”-

  16. Tony Jansen, 11. July 2019, 10:34

    Perhaps they could give us big sheets of paper and crayons like they proposed at the last big Karori meeting I attended? Infantile.