Airport Flyer saved – for now

An 11th hour announcement from NZ Bus that it will keep running – at least for now – the Airport Flyer and commuter bus routes 80, 90, 91, 92 and 93 took the heat out of last night’s public meeting organised by Labour MP Ginny Anderson and city councillor Campbell Barry.  

Ginny Anderson and Campbell Barry address the transport meeting.

But it wasn’t the only piece of news on public transport in the Hutt Valley, with confirmation a fare increase of 3% is coming in on July 15, as well as new discounts, more frequent off-peak trains and an end to fare penalties when passengers using a Snapper card transfer from one connecting bus service to another within a 30 minute window.

About 100 people packed the Petone Rugby Clubrooms to hear from speakers including the deputy chair of the regional council’s sustainable transport committee Daran Ponter and Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood.

The regional council had only been informed by NZ Bus earlier yesterday that, after a review, it had decided it would not stop running the Airport Flyer and the Valley’s five popular commuter bus services.  These are services run on a commercial basis (i.e. unlike most other public transport services, there is no subsidy by ratepayers).

The transport meeting panel included David Ogden, Ray Wallance, Prue Lamason and Ken Laban.

But just as Cr Ponter welcomed the news from NZ Bus as much as anyone else in the room, there were a couple of qualifications to the announcement.   Cr Ponter pointed out that as there is no subsidy for these bus services, an operator can withdraw them at any time they wish and only needs to give the regional council a fortnight’s notice of an intention to do so.

Moreover, he noted that NZ Bus owner Infratil has indicated to the Stock Exchange that it is reviewing whether or not to retain ownership of the bus company.

Little wonder that Mayor Ray Wallace sought confirmation in writing from NZ Bus it would keep the Hutt services going for now, also noting that the council was working to help the company find land in Lower Hutt for a depot.

Meanwhile, the changes coming in on July 15 include:

  a general 3% fare increase on buses and trains, the first increase in five years, Cr Ponter said;

  • 50% discount for all school students
  • 25% discount for all tertiary students
  • 50% discount for people with disabilities
  • 25% discount for off-peak services
  • New concessions for people who connect to a train service by using a bus via RailPlus monthly cards
  • off peak rail services every 20 minutes rather than the current 30 minutes

Other changes from June 17

  • free bus to bus transfers anywhere where there is a connecting service when using Snapper across the region
  • a new Saturday service for Belmont on Saturdays
  • a new weekday route for Riverstone Terraces
  • new buses and livery, including roll-out of the first 10 double decker electric buses on Wellington routes.

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