July 31, 2018
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• Our quiet and non-polluting trolley buses have been replaced by a 95% diesel bus fleet for the next decade – a monumental step backwards for our city given that there are no concrete plans in any of the Regional Council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• On some high-density routes, the trolleys have been replaced by a 50% Euro 3 bus fleet – an 18 year old standard totally unfit for purpose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.
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