COVID and seasonal sickness wave hits bus drivers hard across the region
Metlink says two of the biggest bus operators in the region have been hit hard by a wave of COVID and seasonal sickness, with hundreds of drivers affected.
Passengers across Metlink's Hutt and Wellington City services have felt the worse of it with almost 800 cancellations on Tranzurban and NZ Bus services this week.
Samantha Gain, General Manager for Metlink, says her team are working closely with operators to reduce the impact on passengers.
"We are right alongside our operators, supporting them to make good decisions so when we absolutely have to make cancellations we can try to make sure that we target trips where passengers have alternative services. Our Metlink drivers have shown immense commitment to our communities over the past few years to keep our public transport network operating and we thank them sincerely.
"We're incredibly thankful for the support, understanding and kindness that's being shown by passengers to drivers despite the number of cancellations. They understand that bus drivers provide a valuable public-facing service, " says Samantha Gain.
Jay Zmijewski, Chief Operating Officer at NZ Bus, says his depots have been hard hit across the country.
"Whether you work in one of our offices or out on the road COVID unfortunately finds a way to disrupt journeys. In the past we've put 'planned cancellations' in place so passengers know which services will turn up and which won't but COVID takes that out of our arsenal as we don't know how many more drivers will be hit with COVID until this wave is over,” says Jay Zmijewski.
Keven Snelgrove, Transport & Operations Director at Tranzurban, says bus drivers are only human.
"Many families are being hit hard by the latest wave of COVID, flus and colds and bus drivers are no exception. We hope the peak will be over soon but we're working with Metlink to try and ensure that we cancel services with the least impact on passengers and with good notice so people can plan their journeys," says Keven Snelgove.
Despite moves from Metlink to increase driver wages and conditions in the last year there is an underlying shortage of 120 drivers in the region.
Metlink actions to improve drivers’ conditions and wages and the attractiveness of a career in the industry, include: wage top up agreements operators to a base rate of $27 per hour support for Fair Pay Agreements, a reduction in split shifts for drivers, as well as the trial of free sanitary and health products for frontline staff at various locations and starting a programme of improved bus driver rest facilities.
Passengers are encouraged to check the Metlink app and website to keep up with all the latest news and cancellations before they travel.