Wellington Scoop

Metlink says bus timetable changes will reduce unplanned cancellations

News from Greater Wellington Regional Council
Metlink is taking the lead by working with operators to redesign timetables to provide more consistency across our network and reduce unplanned cancellations.

Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher says in the wake of COVID-19 there have been a series of flow on effects that have impacted some parts of our network – primarily a shortage of bus drivers which can result in unplanned cancellations and create uncertainty for passengers.

“Contributing to our driver shortage, we have also seen the cost of living in Wellington increase even further, and housing unaffordability gather pace.”

“The Metlink team is aware of the frustrations our customers face with cancellations, so we’re working to fix this by making amendments to selected bus timetables,” says Mr Gallacher.

With the vast majority of services running smoothly across the region, the timetable redesign will focus predominantly on Wellington City services run by Tranzurban and NZ Bus.

Cutting peak hour buses

“We have agreed to a set of timetable changes that will better match staffing numbers to ultimately create a more flexible and reliable network,” says Mr Gallacher.

“We’ve identified there is an opportunity in changing the way our communities are using public transport following COVID-19 that will be reflected in the timetable redesign.

“We will therefore be looking to increase and improve our off peak services so that a number of our communities have more flexibility for their daily commute and better options to plan their off peak travel,” says Mr Gallacher.

More information on timetable changes will be available in July, once timetable redesigns are finalised.

Thirty eight buses were cancelled between 4pm and 7pm tonight.

Expect more cancellations

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  1. Kara, 15. June 2021, 17:51

    Sounds like bustastrophe 4.0 is well underway. Anyone have a magic wand that could return Wellington buses back to pre- PTOM?

  2. Dave B, 15. June 2021, 18:16

    Kara, we would need to go back in time and not vote National into government for 9 years. And not scrap the 100%-electric trolleybuses.

  3. Bob, 15. June 2021, 18:17

    I’m not sure I follow the logic. How does cancelling a peak hour bus and substituting it with an off peak bus get me to work by 8:30am? Does this also mean that because Metlink are renegotiating timetables the penalties that should be being charged now (I would like to think they are but who knows) to bus companies for not providing a contracted service are effectively being waived? Where’s the incentive for them to perform?

  4. Pipssqueaks, 15. June 2021, 18:28

    Today’s number 7 to Kingston cancellations: buses at 4.35, 5.05, 5.15 and 5.25 all canceled ‘due to driver shortages’. We are supposed to be one of the priority routes as the only bus servicing the area. So how are we supposed to get home? [via twitter]

  5. Metlink, 15. June 2021, 18:30

    We are very sorry that these Brooklyn services were so badly affected tonight. Be assured we have logged another complaint. [via twitter]

  6. Thomas Nash, 15. June 2021, 19:52

    I really want to apologise for the cancellations of bus services in Wellington at the moment. We are short of about 60 drivers and we urgently need to improve pay and conditions so we can attract more people to the profession. Bus drivers are employed by private bus companies and under the public transport model designed by the previous National government, the system prioritises profit over public good and has placed downward pressure on pay and conditions. This system is failing all of us. Wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living and split shifts are a killer. The covid situation has piled more risk and pressure on drivers, who kept us going as essential workers during the pandemic. As a result it has become harder and harder to retain and recruit drivers. So what to do? Read more.

  7. Local, 15. June 2021, 21:59

    What is the logic of fewer peak and more off peak? I cannot fathom it.
    It seems the wrong way round from a passenger’s point of view. Won’t it encourage more peak time car use and traffic congestion? How will that attract more drivers or help the driver shortage?

  8. Mickey Mouse, 16. June 2021, 8:35

    Hey Councillor Nash. You were going to fix all of this when you stood for election. None of what you say will get us a reliable bus system tomorrow or maybe ever. My uncle needs to get to work … now he has no bus or maybe no bus, and more congestion if he takes his car. So what’s the solution for tomorrow? What’s with the increase in non peak buses? Please explain the logic that Local has asked about and let me know how he gets to work tomorrow and how he plans for July. By the way he also needs to go to Auckland. He told me an Uber cost him $60 the other day from central Wgtn to the airport. Any chance of an airport bus?

  9. fmacskasy, 16. June 2021, 9:12

    I might be wrong, but I seem to recall buses ran better back in the 70s when I was an adolescent, and I’d bus to movie theatres like The Majestic, Regent, Plaza, Cinerama, Lido, Roxy (the old one that showed Shakespearean classics like Frankenstein vs the Wolfman, The Green Slime,etc)… [via twitter]

  10. Dr Kirsty Wild, 16. June 2021, 10:10

    A periodic reminder that people using buses stuck in car traffic have the lowest travel satisfaction of all. We cannot get people out of cars by offering them something worse. Buses need to be as ‘train like’ as possible: ie. have their own lanes. And ps.what if you can’t walk? [via twitter]

  11. James, 16. June 2021, 12:03

    One simple solution to improve bus timings – the UK Highway Code has a rule to let the buses pull out from stops:
    “Rule 223: Buses, coaches and trams. Give priority to these vehicles when you can do so safely, especially when they signal to pull away from stops. Look out for people getting off a bus or tram and crossing the road.”

  12. Codger, 16. June 2021, 13:12

    So does Melbourne and others. Thou shall not pass a bus which is signalling with its right-hand indicator whilst at a bus-stop.

  13. Two Foot Three, 17. June 2021, 9:32

    They’ve basically mucked it up (the Regional Council) royally! Services have gone downhill since PTOM, the contracts with NZ Bus and the disastrous route planning fiasco back in 2019.
    Many people waiting in the cold and rain for non existent / late / cancelled buses. Would be nice to see someone stand up and take responsibility.

  14. Mike Mellor, 17. June 2021, 10:25

    2ft3: the Laidlaw-led Regional Council did indeed muck things up royally in 2018, not just in planning but particularly in implementation. But the Ponter-led Regional Council has since righted many of those wrongs, with (driver shortages excepted) many parts of the city having their best bus service ever.

    The driver shortages are unacceptable, and need fixing – but that’s a separate issue from the council’s past failings. It’s largely an operator issue, as is clear from the very different ways that the three operators that cover the city are affected – Mana Newlands barely, NZ Bus to some extent, Tranzurban severely.

  15. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. June 2021, 12:01

    Okay, so a number of issues in here about the logic of removing peak services and providing more inter-peak services.

    First some context:

    – We have a driver shortage – we are endeavouring to address this by working with operators on driver terms and conditions – but this will take time and therefore won’t be a quick fix. The shortage of drivers mirrors many other employment shortages in other sectors, but cannot be “massaged” as easily within the context of a transport network.
    – cancellations are a bigger issue in the peak periods because that is when the Network is at capacity and the majority of drivers are required.
    – the large number of cancellations on the network at the moment largely relate to driver shortage. A single driver who does not turn up for work can lead to as many 5-10 services cancellations – so the numbers can quickly add up.
    – the network is operating at approximately 86% of pre-covid capacity – so we have some headroom for cancellations in the peak period.
    – because we have a very “peaky” service in Wellington City in particular, we need an extraordinary number of drivers and buses for the peak only, which results in many split shifts, which drivers generally hate.


    1. Metlink are removing SOME peak services to ease the driver demand in the peak period. We could keep offering these services, but the reality is that we will keep cancelling them. Instead we favour removing SOME services so we can better manage the Network with the drivers we have, and commuters have greater certainty that their service will actually arrive.

    2. Metlink are proposing that at the same time as removing SOME peak services, more inter-peak services are put in place. This will will give people more travel options during the day, and critically lead to the removal of many split shifts.

  16. Cr Daran Ponter, 17. June 2021, 12:08

    Mickey Mouse. Stop goading Cr Nash. You know full well that an Airport bus is on its way – Metlink have now completed the expressions of interest process and will shortly move to the tendering process. In the meantime, your Uncle has a number of options to get to the Airport, including a shuttle service, which from the City is $2 cheaper than the former Airport Flyer Service.