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Published: 2006-04-11 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is thrilled with a whopping increase in Hamilton city bus patronage last month.

The number of bus trips recorded through ticket purchases surged past 200,000 for the first time ever in March, hitting a record 212,674.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have cracked the 200,000 mark – and we didn’t just crack it, we smashed it,” said Environment Waikato’s Land Transport Manager Russell Turnbull.

Last month’s figures represent a huge 22 per cent increase over March 2005, when 174,207 trips were recorded.

“Whilst there were two extra working days this March, which some of the increase can be attributed to, there remains a very healthy increase in passenger transport usage in Hamilton city,” Mr Turnbull said.

He attributed the growth to rising petrol prices and an increasing awareness of the benefits of using buses.

Two new services that began operating in the city this year – the Chartwell Direct and the Ruakura – have also helped.

The Chartwell Direct, a new peak-time service for commuters looping from Thomas Rd to town, logged 5038 trips last month, compared to 3384 in February. The service is a joint Hamilton City Council and Environment Waikato initiative, which was launched on 1 February.

“The Chartwell Direct service is designed to help commuters save on fuel costs, eliminate parking hassles and to alleviate congestion, so it’s great to see so many people using it,” Mr Turnbull said.

High demand also saw extra buses added to the Pukete and Te Rapa services at certain times in March.

Patronage figures for the Night Rider service climbed to an all-time high last month too, with nearly 800 trips recorded – almost twice the passengers carried six months ago.

“Hamilton’s passenger transport growth is quite possibly New Zealand’s best at this time,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Our patronage figures are on target to hit the two-million mark in 2006, and we’re looking forward to growing the network through further initiatives with Hamilton City Council this year.”

Environment Waikato manages the passenger transport network throughout the region.