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Published: 2005-09-14 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s Finance Committee today agreed to provide three new bus services in Hamilton on a two-year trial basis – without increasing rates.

The three new services – the Inner City Shuttle, the Chartwell Express, and the Orbiter – will commence as soon as possible next year, subject to obtaining Land Transport NZ funding, and commitments from Hamilton City Council to share the risk of implementing the new services and providing the necessary infrastructure such as bus stops and bus bays.

“The petrol price rises are having an impact on people’s lives – and we wanted to take this important step of improving passenger transport in the city,” says Environment Waikato’s chair, Jenni Vernon.

“With enhanced bus services from the growing area of Chartwell, plus the Park-and Ride service from Knox Street to the CBD, as well as the new $3million Orbiter service travelling around the city in a circular route, we believe more people will choose to leave their cars at home and use the bus.”

Environment Waikato finance committee’s decision (which has yet to be approved by the full Council) follows a request from the Hamilton City Council’s Transport Committee for Environment Waikato to consider the provision of these services from 1 February, 2006.

Chartwell Express: “Every effort will be made to start the Chartwell Express service by 1 February, 2006 in time for the commencement of the new school year,” says Mrs Vernon.
The Inner City Shuttle park-and-ride service is likely to commence once the new Knox Street carpark is completed towards the end of March.
The Orbiter, whichwill require 10 new buses, is likely to start operation from 1 April 2006. The later start date for the Orbiter relates to the construction time of between 4-6 months for building the new, fuel-efficient CNG buses. This time delay is due in part to the world-wide demand for CNG cylinders and imported bus parts as a result of the current oil crisis. It is anticipated the Orbiter will be ready for the start of Term 2 of the school year.

The cost of the two-year trial of these three bus services is estimated to be $3.8 million per annum. Councillors debated the issue of how best to fund these services, but voted unanimously to reject any increase in the passenger transport rate for the trial services.

“We’re funding our portion of this two-year trial out of Environment Waikato reserves, because we are not willing to contemplate any increase in the passenger transport rate without full public consultation. This will occur as part of the Long-term Council Community plan (LTCCP), and any consultation will include a full long-term report on the transport needs of the region,” Mrs Vernon says.

In its request to Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council had also requested a period of free peak-time bus services from Chartwell, with Hamilton City volunteering to “cover the additional cost that would have been met by fares”.

In speaking about this issue, Environment Waikato’s Cr Paula Southgate expressed concerns about the equity issues involved in providing a free service to one area of the city, and not another. Environment Waikato Councillors resolved to continue discussions with Hamilton City Council about the amount, timing and duration of any fare subsidies that Hamilton City might wish to devote to a subsidised bus service.

“Overall, the provision of increased bus services will be good for the city, especially as the fuel crisis turns everyone’s minds towards the most cost-effective means of transport,” says Cr Southgate.

“Environment Waikato and Hamilton City Council are working closely together to co-ordinate the effective introduction of these new services, as well as working on future services that might be identified as part of the Hamilton Alternatives to Roading Study (HARTS), the CBD Report, and the Access Hamilton report.”