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Published: 2013-04-10 00:00:00

The one hour transfer on Waikato Regional Council’s Hamilton bus network remains unchanged for now, but will be reviewed in another 12 months.

In January 2012 the Hamilton bus network’s free 2 hour transfer was changed to 1 hour. 

This move held off a fare increase for 12 months and brought Hamilton’s free bus transfers policy in line with other metropolitan cities. It also prevented fare losses due to people using the two hour transfer to make return trips. 

Policy and strategy committee chair Paula Southgate said, “The two hour transfer was introduced to allow for a single complete journey at a time when the network was less developed and more transfers were required to a one-way trip. To retain the two hour transfer would have required more taxpayer and ratepayer money to fund the service.” 

Last year the council was asked to investigate the feasibility of reinstating the transfer time to two hours for persons with a disability. 

At yesterday’s policy and strategy committee meeting councillors heard that an independent review was carried out, which included consultation with the access and mobility sector. 

The review found that a two hour transfer would not guarantee access to all journeys, as some routes do not use wheelchair accessible buses, and it would be very difficult to administer an exemption without changes to the ticketing system. 

The committee heard that Gerri Pomeroy, on behalf of CCS Disability Action, contributed to the review. While expressing disappointment with the recommendation, she acknowledged it would be better to create certainty for disabled travellers by identifying wheelchair accessible routes where the one hour transfer would work. 

Councillors yesterday agreed the council recognised the mobility challenges of the disabled sector, but acknowledged there are technology limitations on implementing a practical ticketing solution. 

The committee also supported a staff recommendation to review the transfer time during development of the next public transport plan and in the context of progress on new ticketing systems. 

The decision will go to a vote at the next council meeting at the end of this month. 

“I am sympathetic to public opinion, but there is simply not enough Government funding to make it possible to reinstate the two hour transfer at this time,” Cr Southgate said. 

“Waikato Regional Council has worked hard over more than 10 years to improve people’s access to an efficient bus service. We’ve achieved this, and that is reflected in the significant growth in passenger trips from 2.2 million to 5 million across the region. 

“Concessions and subsidies will be reviewed next year during development of a draft public transport plan in consultation with community groups, in particular the transport disadvantaged. The plan will also be released to the public for comment.” 

At its meeting last month, members of the Hamilton public transport joint committee also agreed that the transfer time should remain one hour. The members indicated a reluctant pragmatic viewpoint of supporting the recommendation as there was currently no ticketing ability to define, implement, target and administer an exemption of the nature required.