Wellington Scoop

Campaigners want ombudsman to investigate bus problems

by Gilly Tompsett
Community group ReVolt Wellington is calling on the government to appoint an ombudsman and hold an inquiry into widespread chaos and disruption on Wellington’s public transport network which it blames on the failure of bus contracts signed by the Regional Council that took effect on July 15.

ReVolt says responsibility lies with the government agency NZTA and the Public Transport Operating Model legislation passed in 2013 that forced competition onto public transport routes to reduce government subsidies – and an overly-compliant and complacent Regional Council.

It says current legislation has resulted in a dysfunctional new public transport network and a punitive compliance culture that poses a direct health and safety risk to the travelling public:

• Tranzit drivers’ inferior wages and conditions have led to experienced drivers familiar with Wellington’s challenging topography being replaced by large numbers of inexperienced new drivers
• Metlink’s practice of fining bus companies for falling behind schedule, combined with unrealistic timetables (59 stops in 59 minutes on the No.2 route between Karori and Seatoun – described as “generous” by one exasperated driver) has seen a surge in drivers’ stress and fatigue levels
• Double-decker buses are slow to load/unload, holding up buses unable to pass
• Passengers are left behind by “not in service” buses trying to get back on schedule
• Travelling times for passengers have increased compared to pre-July 15, leading to frustration and increased car use
• Fares have increased despite the substandard service

ReVolt Wellington also found that cost-cutting has seen bus companies encouraged to cut costs, without having to consider environmental and health impacts in their cost-benefit analyses:

• NZ is the first country since the Paris Climate Accord was signed to remove sustainable electric public transport, when progressive countries are moving in the opposite direction
• Our quiet and non-polluting trolley buses have been replaced by a 95% diesel bus fleet for the next decade – a monumental step backwards for our city given that there are no concrete plans in any of the Regional Council documents to bring on the “electric future” promised, beyond vague, aspirational statements in PR media releases
• On some high-density routes, the trolleys have been replaced by a 50% Euro 3 bus fleet – an 18 year old standard totally unfit for purpose
• Increased pollution and noise is being experienced in built-up residential areas from 6am-midnight (later at weekends) for the first time, despite Metlink claims to the contrary

The deterioration of Wellington’s once reliable public transport network since July 15 has shaken residents’ confidence in political institutions at the local and national level. Outraged residents who have spoken with ReVolt believe their political representatives are not listening and have either ignored their concerns, or are hiding behind spin doctors.

They are angry that the NZTA can continually override Wellingtonians’ desire for a well-run public transport network despite funding less than 20% of the city’s public transport costs; and that only five out of 13 regional councillors making decisions that affect city life are based in the capital.

ReVolt believes this imbalance must be corrected without delay, to remedy and prevent more flawed policy from politicians who are out of touch with the consequences of their decisions.

A group of concerned residents have called a public meeting for anyone inconvenienced by changes to the bus network to be held at:
The Newtown Community Hall
Sunday August 12 at 5pm.

All concerned members of the public are urged to attend.

Sign the petition at
Click on ‘Take Action’


  1. Benny, 31. July 2018, 9:10

    This morning, I saw five double-deckers passing by, consecutively, on Lambton Quay. What should have been a sight of hope turned into big disappointment: ALL of them had their diesel engines roaring, adding to the noise fatigue you get at that time of the day on any bus routes throughout the city. Back to middle age really!!!!

  2. Gillybee, 31. July 2018, 10:03

    Benny, there are only 2 electric buses operating in Wellington at the moment – both double-deckers – which are identifiable by their single rear axle. The diesels have a double rear axle. Most of the double deckers are diesel.

    There are no hybrids operating on Wellington’s roads at all.

  3. Traveller, 31. July 2018, 10:05

    The old purple(?) buses are especially noisy and smelly. And there are so many of them.

  4. Benny, 31. July 2018, 10:38

    I actually thought all double-Ds were electric. That’s what I understood when I read the articles on Stuff covering their launch. So Wellington only has TWO electric buses in the whole bus fleet ….. That’s simply mad. Do we know if any other electric buses will launch soon?

  5. greenwelly, 31. July 2018, 11:06

    @Benny, We have been promised 10 electric DDers, but their phase-in times are a mystery…
    Can anyone confirm whether the Island Bay charging station has been completed?

  6. Michael Gibson, 31. July 2018, 11:38

    What I can say is that the elected members of GWRC had no interest whatsoever in the operation of the last contract. Their officers simply passed on queries and there were no worthwhile reports to any Committee on the actual operating results which were being achieved.
    One example of ineptitude was GW’s readiness to accept an incredibly deficient criterion as their “standard” for measuring timeliness.
    I expect at least four of the “old-time” politicians to withdraw at the next election.

  7. Revolter, 31. July 2018, 11:49

    Benny, We have been misled to believe a fleet of electric buses were poised to replace the trolley buses when they went. This is false.
    The total predicted electric bus numbers after 4 years will only comprise 5% of the bus fleet. 95% of the fleet will be diesel for the next decade and longer. Many buses have over a million kms on the clock and are the very polluting Euro 3 standard that is 18 years old.

    Total bus pollution has increased by 15% when including CO2 since we lost the trolley buses. Some routes passing schools, homes and sports grounds will have over double the pollution causing long term health effects. Even the new Euro 6 standard buses which are being touted as the saviours of our atmosphere pollute with cancer causing PM2.5 emissions.

    To find out the facts look up the website http://www.revoltwellington.co.nz

  8. Chris Laidlaw, 31. July 2018, 12:45

    To clarify: there are two electric double deckers in service now. Another 8 are being readied for service shortly and another ten will arrive next year. 10 more are scheduled for 2020/21. With the prospect of around fifty trolleybuses, now being converted to full electric, joining the service Wellington will be light years ahead of any city in Australasia when it comes to electric buses.
    In addition, Tranzit is introducing a whole new fleet of Euro 6 buses to replace the older diesels. By the end of this year Wellington will have a lower emission bus fleet than any other city in Europe or north America.

  9. Katie, 31. July 2018, 13:39

    While I’m very keen to attend the advertised public meeting, it’s now TWO buses to get from Eastern Suburbs to Newtown with an alleged “smooth transition” at Kilbirnie ha ha. And given the No.2 route is full of completely missing buses – the printed timetables and real time signs being a masterpiece of fiction – it’s going to be pure luck if any bus going anywhere actually shows up…

  10. Gillybee, 31. July 2018, 13:44

    It’s amusing to read the same old vague, aspirational statements the GWRC & its spin doctors at Metlink have been producing for years to fool the Wellington public into thinking an “electric future” is imminent.

    It’s not. Current contracts will see a massive 400 diesel buses in use on Wellington’s streets for the next decade. Even with new electrics and converted ex-trolleys, we’ll still have fewer electric buses than we did last November! And emissions will rise according the the council’s own reports which I can assist Mr Laidlaw to find and read.

    As for the drivers, there are some serious health and safety issues brewing there which have yet to be addressed in the MSM.

  11. Keith Flinders, 31. July 2018, 13:45

    Ten battery double decker buses initially indicated for the start of the July contracts. Ten then reduced to five, but only two were delivered, and one of them broke down on the first day of operation. We may have missed the other one in operation, but has anyone seen it being recharged at Island Bay ? Has the broken down one been fixed ?

    The conversion of 50 trolley buses to battery operation would be great to see, but can we be assured that this is a reality rather than a pipe dream ?

    Diesel fleet: That’s odd, I thought that Tranzit were required to introduce a totally new fleet of Euro 5, or better, diesel buses from 15 July 2018. Now the GWRC chair appears to report that Tranzit are utilising some of their old buses presently. Are they introducing, or have they introduced ?

    NZ Bus who operate the east – west routes in Wellington City are still running diesel buses built as long ago as 2002, with over 1 million kms clocked up already and can operate under their contract these old buses for years to come. This in the Capital City of New Zealand. We require better Mr Laidlaw.

  12. Casey, 31. July 2018, 15:07

    Katie: I wonder where all the missing No. 2 route buses are being hidden. Those waiting on bus stops, and seeing the ones totally full go past, yearn for the old days when they could be sure of getting to work and home on time, even if they had to stand all/most of the way.

  13. Katie, 31. July 2018, 15:10

    If I might also point out some health and safety issues directly affecting the passengers (apart from overtired and stressed bus drivers and pollution).

    1. Elderly/mobility impaired passengers having serious difficulties getting to the hospital due to to having to transfer buses once or twice because nearly all the direct routes there from all directions have been scrapped. It can be very difficult/dangerous for some people to get onto/off buses and they don’t have any alternative. This might fall under the Disability Discrimination Act, I’m looking into it GWRC.

    2. The same group of people plus anyone more vulnerable, who is now at very high risk of finding themselves stranded at a secluded bus stop or hub after dark because the service has been so scaled back and even half of those are no-shows. Many people needing to use buses after dark time their trips to spend minimal time at stops for personal safety. Currently this isn’t possible.

  14. gk, 31. July 2018, 16:09

    @Gilly – There’s 3 electrics. You’ve missed NZ Bus’s ex trolley conversion. Used in service on a number of old routes (saw it on 11, 21, 22, 91) and has been in service on 91 Flyer short turns since the new network was implemented.

    @Benny – 28 diesel double deckers, 10 electric in first batch (once they finish building them). Arrival of diesels was reported by Stuff.

    @Traveller – Purple = clunky old junk ex-ValleyFlyer – temp until NZ Bus’s new buses arrive. (I particularly dislike the single door ones as they waste time through the city with boarding/alighting conflict. Should be kept to peak only & preferably express services where the single door is less of a problem.)

    @greenwelly – the charging station only had one charge point up when I saw it few days ago. Looked like foundation for second one was there.

    @Katie – Yes, bunching, etc is becoming somewhat tiresome. Route 1 frequency is a bit of a joke too… GW need to get this sorted (to put it mildly).

    @Keith – All of Transit’s Metlink painted buses are new (except one in the Wairarapa fleet, which I understand is used as a back up). I think what Chris is getting at is that NZ Bus will have some new buses by then, replacing the oldest most polluting of the current fleet. Unsure exactly what they’ve ordered other than it includes 17 double deckers (apparently for 3, 31x & 36).

    Electric deckers: got a ride on one last week and saw one about a few times in morning peak period last week. Island Bay charger wasn’t finished, so I’m guessing peak only use with charging at the depot.

    Ex-trolley battery conversion: more details? What timeframe, which routes, etc.

  15. greenwelly, 31. July 2018, 16:15

    @Chris Laidlaw – “Another 8 are being readied for service shortly and another ten will arrive next year. 10 more are scheduled for 2020/21” When was the information on 10 electric double deckers to arrive in 2019 announced?

    in 2017, you were quoted as saying the next 10 would be in 2020:
    Greater Wellington Chair Chris Laidlaw says the introduction of 10 double-decker electric buses next July, followed by another 10 in 2020 and a further 12 in July 2021.

    This was reiterated by Tranzit only a few weeks ago: “The initial fleet of 10 electric double-deckers will be phased in from July 15 in Wellington and bolstered by 10 more in 2020 and another 12 in 2021”

    Could you please point me to the announcement that this timetable has been brought forward.

  16. Keith Flinders, 31. July 2018, 21:43

    Katie: The new routes and timetables were apparently done by AECOM, an American based company. One might imagine chair warmers sitting in an air conditioned office totally oblivious to the plight of hundreds of commuters standing at bus stops and hubs waiting for buses that don’t show up, or are too full to take any more people. This in the middle of winter too.

    I did write to my three ward WCC councillors about the safety issue of people, females in particular, standing at bus stops in the CBD late at night. This is not a safe place to be, especially if alone. Two didn’t reply, the other berated me for using the words rape and shame, then went on to lecture me on how I should behave. The WCC, and in particular the Wellington mayor, should be concerned about safety in the city, as it is their remit to protect its citizens. They are not being critical of the GWRC presently, but should be asking the questions.

    Feel free to phone me if you wish. My number is in the telephone directory.

  17. Peter Kerr, 1. August 2018, 9:06

    @Keith Flinders: Who was the councillor who berated you about your concerns?

  18. Gillybee, 1. August 2018, 11:44

    gk: The battery bus wasn’t in service on the routes you speak of. It was being tested. I spoke to the drivers numerous times whenever it stopped opposite my house.

    Wellingtonians were led to believe that a fleet of electric buses and / or hybrids were to be introduced in July. Benny’s comment above is testament to how well the GWRC and Metlink spun their “electric future” disinformation. The contracts will provide @ 30 buses by 2021, but with no provision for more within the terms of the 10-12 year contracts. The future of the reconfigured trolley buses is still up in the air.

    The drivers tell me that bunching is due to:

    a) insufficient buses to meet demand
    b) lengthy loading / unloading times due to overcrowding
    c) inability to get past double-deckers on Wellington’s narrow streets, that are also slow to load/unload

    Lastly, the NZ Bus contracts are different to Tranzit’s. They can run whatever they want till the end of the year, then are only required to get rid of Euro 1 & 2 buses after that. With a 45% Euro 3 fleet, NZ Bus will be able to operate on some of Wellington’s highest-frequency routes for the next 10 years because your Regional councillors – most of whom live out of town – have allowed this to happen.

  19. Keith Flinders, 1. August 2018, 13:09

    @ Peter Kerr: There are three WCC councillors in my Onslow – Western ward. The two male councillors have yet to respond.

  20. Peter Kerr, 1. August 2018, 13:55

    @Keith Flinders: Thanks Keith. I’m in the same ward and have just emailed all three today about the decline in service in our area. By the way I have just had this reply from Grant Robertson’s electorate office to a letter of mine complaining about the state of affairs with Western Suburbs buses:
    “Thank you for this, Peter I will pass it on to Grant.”

    FYI this is what Grant posted on fb a few days ago.
    “This evening I met with Wellington Regional Councillor Daran Ponter to discuss the problems with the new bus services that have been raised with me. (The issues for drivers I have raised separately).
    The major issue in Wellington Central is with Karori services in particular overcrowding on the No 2, the change of route for the 21 and the infrequency and early cut off times of the 18, 37 and 33. Also overcrowding on 22 in my neck of the woods.
    Daran is aware of all these issues (and others in other parts of the city) and some immediate things are happening with more buses on the No 2 route in particular. Other changes are being discussed by the Regional Council but frustratingly will take longer to solve.
    For now please keep sending through your issues to Metlink or to me. One thing that has been resolved for Gold Card users – if they are transferring between 3 and 3 30pm on a journey that began before 3pm simply tell the driver and they can finish their journey without charge.
    A number of people including my Parliamentary colleague Nicola Willis and local city councillors are looking to hold a public meeting in Karori on 30th August to discuss the problems which Daran will attend. Watch this space for more details.”

  21. Peter Rendall, 2. August 2018, 8:24

    It’s a pity the Regional Council didn’t put the same priority and emphasis on building the bus hubs, as it has put into demolishing the trolley bus system. Speaking of electric buses, where are they, what’s the problem in Reef Street, has a fully loaded electric decker got to Johnsonville yet? [via Facebook]

  22. Katy Mansfield, 2. August 2018, 11:24

    I saw an ugly black thing yesterday which apparently is the future of battery buses in Wellington. Hopefully they will enlighten the livery. Black is so depressing.

  23. greenwelly, 2. August 2018, 11:48

    @Katy, that’s NZ Bus’s first converted ex-trolley…

    I’m guessing if they work out and NZ Bus do a deal with the Regional Council to introduce them on regular Metlink services (I’m guessing NZ Bus will be wanting some sort of $$) then they would adopt the new lime green livery…

  24. Jonny Utzone, 2. August 2018, 12:22

    I think the ugly black bus will have been returning from the Airport where the Regional Council’s empire doesn’t stretch.

    Christchurch will have an electric battery fleet to/from their Airport early next year and their Red Buses will be vibrant red. Remember Wellington City’s red buses. Pity they got out of running them and pity we don’t have a Wellington Public Transport Authority run by competent transport people.
    Redbus’s logo; “owned by Christchurch, for Christchurch”.

  25. Alan, 2. August 2018, 21:15

    why was the old #10 service from the Railway Station to the Zoo deleted ? the Zoo is a major tourist attraction in Wellington and people are having problems getting there from the rail …… its not good enough

  26. Tony Jansen, 3. August 2018, 11:39

    If you keep voting for the same people and expect a different outcome….
    You all know what to do come October next year. Maybe this time people will be energised enough to actually take an active and informed interest.
    I have had enough of the self serving lies. Time for a change.

  27. Susan Says, 3. August 2018, 16:08

    Couldn’t agree more Tony Jansen but I can’t wait until October 2019.

    The GWRC have stuffed this up royally and we are now in ‘complain and protest’ mode AFTER the fact. Green members did speak up but the glitter ball attraction of cheaper, cheaper, cheaper won in the end.

    We used to have a wonderful public transport system and now the choices made by the GWRC are driving people back to their cars (sigh) and soon the narrative will be one of ‘ no one’s using it, it’s not economic so let’s have more roads’.

    Sign the ReVolt petition and make some noise – right now!

  28. Stephanie Sinclaire, 4. August 2018, 23:58

    All of this is such a shame and was completely avoidable. Wellington has been considered a green city and now is a diesel clogged city in one fell swoop going from the coolest capital in the world to a dinosaur.

  29. Keith Flinders, 5. August 2018, 18:03

    Tony Jansen: The odds are stacked against Wellington City commuters no matter who they vote for in 2019. The GWRC comprises thirteen councillors, with eight from outside the Wellington City boundary able to outvote those from within. $550 million spent on suburban Matangi units and track improvements, $300 million being suggested to upgrade the Wairarapa commuter train service, all new low emission buses fleets for the rest of the region and some low emission double decker buses, some looking decidedly battered already for the North – South Wellington spine. Not overlooking all three battery double decker buses. From 60 electric buses to 3.

    The majority of Wellington City commuters are now being carried on over crowded buses when they can get on one, buses up to 16 years old, some with over 1 million kms clocked up already, and the majority of which are Euro 3 or worse toxic emissions producers. The GW web site has the emissions levels recorded back to 2016; a check of the Willis Street Air Quality levels shows a marked increase in average pollutant readings from mid July this year compared to the same time last year when most of the trolley fleet was operational.