Metlink reinstating almost all suspended bus services

Service Changes Staff & Operators

113 suspended bus services are returning to Wellington’s public transport network over the next two months, as successful driver recruitment almost fully restores Metlink bus timetables.

59 weekday services will be reinstated from 18 December 2023, before 54 weekend services resume on 28 January 2024. Operated by Tranzurban, the services were put on hold in November 2022 because of the national bus driver shortage.

Greater Wellington Transport Committee chair Thomas Nash says the reinstatements are a positive sign of network health. 

“Rebuilding the bus driver workforce has been a priority for council, Metlink and our operators. We’ve lifted driver wages to drive recruitment and restore public trust in our network. We know we have more to do to improve driver pay and conditions and I want to thank drivers for all their work to make our region function," Cr Nash says.

“Metlink bus patronage is now at 100 percent of pre-Covid levels, whereas patronage in most of the world’s major cities has only bounced back to about 80 percent. That shows just how much Wellingtonians value public transport. 

“We’re pleased our passengers will soon see almost all of the remaining suspended services returning to timetables, and we hope the world class reliability we are now providing will encourage more people to catch the bus.

"Every bus journey that replaces a petrol car trip helps reduce emissions and air pollution and frees up space on the road. If you've ever been put off by cancelled buses, we want you to know reliability problems are behind us."  

A total of 181 services were suspended in late 2022 to give passengers greater certainty during the driver shortage. As recruitment ramped up, one Tranzurban service was restored in March and 67 Kinetic services were reinstated in August, joining the 3,600 Metlink bus services that run each weekday. 

Thanks to a significant investment in local and international recruitment campaigns by operators, as of 1 November only 25 driver positions needed to be filled to reach the 685 required to operate the full Metlink timetable. 

Tranzurban Wellington general manager Samuel Stairmand says recent years have been challenging for operators across the country, as they worked to resolve the driver shortage.

“In 2022, we made the difficult decision with Metlink to reduce frequency on some of our routes to enable more consistency across services for our passengers,” Mr Stairmand says.

“We then launched domestic recruitment campaigns to attract new talent and future proof the industry, including our successful ‘Put the U in BUS’ campaign. We brought in drivers from the Philippines and Fiji after the government changed immigration settings last December, but 73 percent of our workforce recruited since February are locals.”

“We also introduced the driver pay increase from 1 April and now have more than 300 drivers getting Wellingtonians where they need to go.”

Metlink group manager Samantha Gain says the decision to reinstate services was based on the operator’s good performance record.

“Tranzurban’s recent reliability rating of over 98 percent indicates they are ready to start resuming suspended services,” Ms Gain says. 

“We are grateful for our customers’ patience both during the suspensions and as we restore timetables. The reinstatements will add daily capacity for 5,000 passengers across Wellington city and Porirua.” 

For more information on the reinstatements visit: Transport-Committee-30-November-2023-order-paper.pdf ( link)

Before travelling, Metlink encourages passengers to plan ahead by checking the latest information on the Metlink website(external link) or app, or by calling 0800 801 700.