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Published: 2006-01-25 00:00:00

A major enhancement to the city's bus services will commence from 1 February, with a host of new routes around the city.

The most significant initiative will be the commencement of the Chartwell Direct service – which will provide a rapid link for commuters travelling into and out of the city centre from the north-eastern suburbs.

The new Chartwell Direct service will operate at peak times from 6.45am-8.45am and 3.30pm-6.30pm, with a bus departing every 15 minutes. The direct bus will only stop four times on its route after leaving Hukanui/Thomas Road – namely at Westfield Chartwell, Bankwood Road, Heaphy Terrace and Victoria Street North – prior to arriving at the transport centre in Bryce Street.

"The new Chartwell Direct will provide a major boost for commuters, who are looking for a fast and efficient means of travelling into the city for work," says Hamilton City Council Transport Committee chairman, Dave Macpherson.

"Hamilton is growing rapidly, particularly in the north-eastern suburbs – and it is vital that we provide effective alternatives for people travelling to work, so that traffic congestion problems can be eased."

The Chartwell Direct is a two-year trial service, which is jointly funded by Land Transport New Zealand, Environment Waikato and the Hamilton City Council.

Other key improvements to the bus services include:

Ruakura service: The launch of a new service to serve the Ruakura area, which has grown rapidly since the development of the Sherwood Park subdivision. This new bus route will travel from the city through Claudelands, down Ruakura Road, loop around Sherwood Park, before stopping at the university – and completing its circuit at Crosher Place off Silverdale Road.

Northerner extended: The extension of services provided by the northerner, which acts as a feeder route from the expanding north-eastern suburbs into the Chartwell destination. This loop service will now be expanded to access a range of new subdivisions that have previously been without bus services, including Huntington, St James Park and Somerton Drive.

Hillcrest expansion: The Hillcrest bus will be extending its route to take in a number of areas that are currently without bus services – namely the Morris Street, Hudson Street and Riverlea Road areas.

Two hours extra: In addition, a significant number of routes will extend their weekday service by up to two hours – so that instead of buses stopping at 5.45pm, they will now continue until 7.45pm from Monday to Thursday. On Fridays, these services will continue to run till 10.45pm as usual.

“The extra two hours of service on the key routes will provide an alternative means of travel for those working late in town, or for people who want to catch a meal immediately after work,” says Environment Waikato's passenger transport spokesperson, Paula Southgate.

"Also as fuel costs rise, the expanded routes will be important for commuters – in terms of saving on fuel costs, reducing central city congestion and helping the environment.

"Especially when combined with the new RealTime system (which tells people exactly when their bus will arrive, thanks to GPS satellite tracking), these new services signal that Hamilton is coming of age in terms of passenger transport."

These steps are the first stage of a significant improvement to the city's bus services. The next stage will be the Inner City Shuttle, which is due to commence in the coming months. This shuttle service, which will commence when the new Knox Street car park opens in March, is designed to enable shoppers to park their cars at the edge of the CBD, and yet have easy access to the retail heart of the city – without any parking hassles.

The third stage will be the launch of the Orbiter service, which is due to start near the middle of the year. This bus, which will circle around the city rather than travelling in and out to the transport centre, will be a major step forward for Hamilton residents who want to travel around the city – without having to change buses.