Bay of Plenty Regional Council has apologised for the challenges that have been experienced recently by those using Tauranga’s new bus network and today announced changes to the network as a result.
Councillors agreed in principle at today’s Public Transport Committee meeting to reinstate route 36 and the former route 70 in Matua during off peak hours while maintaining the current peak service.
A Pāpāmoa to CBD route via Maungatapu – an extension to route 36 - will also be introduced while further changes to the network will be scoped over coming weeks.
The new network was rolled out on December 10 with a focus on improving reliability, increasing the frequency of buses and providing stronger connections between areas outside of the Tauranga City centre.
Public Transport Committee Chairman Lyall Thurston says there have been significant challenges with the implementation of the new bus contract, particularly since the beginning of the school year. Many of these issues were able to be attributed to a driver shortage which then disrupted the network’s timetable.
Cr Thurston says the Regional Council has been inundated with feedback about the network over the last two months and there have been some recurring themes which they’ve prioritised to address.
“The Maungatapu community has been largely affected by not having a direct bus route to the CBD, we will be re-instating this,” Cr Thurston says.
“We have also heard from those in Pāpāmoa that can no longer get a bus directly to the Tauranga CBD so we hope the extension to route 36 will address this.”
Cr Thurston says the priority right now is to resolve the immediate challenges – particularly the cancellation of some bus services due to a driver shortage, and the need for faster communication around any route disruptions.
Transport staff are also looking at making changes to the current timetables to give some certainty for bus users during the current driver shortage.
“We have met with NZ Bus this week in relation to the bus driver shortages and resulting service problems, and we have been very clear that their performance to date has fallen short of the expectations of the Regional Council and our community,” Cr Thurston says.
“We sincerely apologise for the challenges that have been experienced by passengers, schools and parents and acknowledge that this is impacting on the trust and confidence in our public transport system.”
“At the end of the day Bay of Plenty Regional Council is responsible for the public transport network. We remain confident that the network changes will ultimately contribute to a more efficient service - and therefore reduce the pressure on our roads – but we acknowledge that we have some issues to resolve before we see this outcome.”
Regional Council and NZ Bus are now working together to make the proposed route changes as soon as practical.