Suspended Metlink bus services being reinstated
Two suspended services on Metlink’s number 21 bus route have been reinstated as plans take shape for the resumption of 65 other services temporarily removed from timetables last October.
A total of 181 scheduled bus services were suspended in late 2022 to reduce cancellations caused by the national bus driver shortage and to give passengers certainty.
Greater Wellington Transport Committee Chair Thomas Nash says driver recruitment has reached a level whereby the regional council’s public transport wing can begin to restore services put on hold.
“The national bus driver shortage has been a painful period for Metlink passengers, bus drivers and everyone involved in public transport, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel,” Cr Nash says.
“By lifting bus driver wages, working to improve conditions and opening an immigration pathway to overseas drivers, government, council, operators and unions have pulled together to restore reliability to the bus network.
“We know there’s more to do and we’ll continue to focus on improving bus driver pay and conditions to make sure our driver workforce is in a strong position now and in the future.”
Prior to the suspensions, operating Metlink bus timetables required approximately 675 drivers. As of 1 August 2023, 596 drivers were on the road and 53 were in training, all of whom are expected to be working by October. Twenty-six job vacancies remained.
Metlink Group Manager Samantha Gain says operator NZ Bus has demonstrated it’s ready to recommence its suspended services.
“NZ Bus has met reliability standards for two months in a row and planning has begun for the operator to resume the other 65 suspended services from early-October.” Ms Gain says.
“We’re grateful for our passengers’ patience during this long and seemingly intractable labour shortage. We ask them to bear with us a bit longer while we recruit and train the last cohort of drivers.”
Russell Turnbull, spokesperson for Kinetic, the new owner of NZ Bus, says resuming suspended services is a testament to its local and international recruitment efforts.
“Driver recruitment and improvement in service delivery have been the top priorities for Kinetic since we acquired NZ Bus last year. We’re delighted to see the drivers we hired from overseas now thriving in their new home,” Mr Turnbull says.
“Together with our local recruits, they’ve gelled with our existing workforce to cancel the cancellations.”
Cancellations are also trending down on routes operated by Tranzurban, whose suspended services will be reinstated when reliability standards are consistently met.
As always, passengers are advised to check timetables on the Metlink app or website before travelling.