Greater Wellington shares key initiatives for bus, rail, and ferry amid growing patronage
A roadmap for the region’s bus, rail and ferry network was shared with the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee at Parliament during an update from Greater Wellington Regional Council and the NZ Transport Agency today.
Greater Wellington Chair Daran Ponter outlined a program of works to bring customers more services across the network, including: results from its city-wide network review, further investment in electric vehicles across its bus, rail, and ferry operations, bus priority measures, and progress against the nation-wide bus driver shortage.
“Only a couple of hours ago, Council agreed an aggressive schedule of activity starting in January 2020 which will see a reduction in forced transfers, more direct services, reinstatement of suspended services and more reliability through additional peak and shoulder peak services. These actions are built on feedback from 1756 Wellingtonians that took part in our Wellington City bus network review,” said Chair Ponter.
Greater Wellington also shared key network statistics with the committee. In an important September milestone it carried 40 million passengers across rail, bus and ferry services during the year – a first for the Wellington region. Bus patronage was up by 5 per cent year-on-year with reliability at 99.3 per cent and punctuality at 93.9 per cent for October. There were significant increases in its rail network too, with a new annual patronage high of 14.3 million passengers, an increase of 800,000 passengers on the previous year. Peak patronage rates were even higher, with the two busiest lines Hutt Valley and Kapiti rising by 12 per cent.
“The significant increase in train passengers shows an urgent need to fund a modern electric or hybrid fleet so we can avoid commuters being “packed in like sardines” on a daily basis, on long journeys across the region,” said Chair Ponter.
Greater Wellington is also in final negotiations with bus operators to get more than 80 new electric vehicles on the network and Wellington will welcome the Southern Hemisphere’s first electric ferry early in the new year.
The NZ Transport Agency and Greater Wellington also detailed an agreed action plan with Wellington City Council on bus priority measures throughout the city.
“In the short-term we are focusing on eight congestion corridors across the city. Simple solutions like traffic light priority for buses, road layout changes, better kerbside access for buses, removal of obstacles and how we space our bus stops, will give customers greater consistency day-to-day. Longer-term we’ll see more reliability through the dedicated bus priority lanes planned under Let’s Get Wellington Moving,” said Chair Ponter.
Chair Ponter said that the council was taking a pragmatic approach to the network and that very real constraints such as driver shortages would be considered and factored into its initiatives.
“Bus operators have been working hard to recruit in a tight labour market and the numbers of drivers have steadily improved with three of our four operators at full contingent now. We have also been working in the background with unions, operators, other councils and the Government to ensure that drivers get the rest and meal breaks they need,” added Chair Ponter.
NZ Transport Agency Director of Regional Relationships Emma Speight said, “The Agency recognised the significant work that Greater Wellington has put into addressing the issues it has faced. We will continue to work with the Council as it progresses its immediate and long-term improvements to Wellington’s public transport network”.
The NZ Transport Agency, Ministry of Transport and Greater Wellington were in attendance at today’s Select Committee . Greater Wellington Chair Daran Ponter presented the update alongside Greater Wellington Chief Executive Greg Campbell and Metlink General Manager Greg Pollock.