Push to slash Wellington bus fares

NOT DONE YET: There are renewed calls to keep Wellington's trolley buses, and slash off-peak fares.
NOT DONE YET: There are renewed calls to keep Wellington's trolley buses, and slash off-peak fares.

Wellington bus fares could be slashed in half and trolley buses could be saved if a group of councillors get their way.

Wellington City councillors Sarah Free, David Lee, Iona Pannett are lobbying Greater Wellington Regional Council - which runs buses and trains - to reduce fares and switch to zero-emission buses.

A fare reduction of up to 50 per cent was needed on off-peak fares, Free said.

"We need to make our public transport assets sweat more; there are times the buses are under-utilised, and so incentives to improve patronage at off peak times make a lot of sense."

She urged the council to re-think its decision to scrap trolley buses, saying a comprehensive look at the costs and benefits of keeping them was still needed.

"The present trolley buses still have years of useful life and we would like to see them retained until there is a good electric alternative.''

Lee said Wellington's high bus fares could be to blame for dropping bus patronage.

Wellington bus users paid more than those in Auckland and Christchurch, while train users paid a smaller proportion of the cost of trips compared to bus users.

Pannett said the regional council needed to take a "real leadership role in reversing the trend of declining public transport use".

"I am concerned that the Regional Council may have already made up its mind to get rid of the trolleys.

"Trolleys are seen as a viable form of transport around the world; more than 300 cities use them, as they are seen as efficient and an environmentally friendly form of transport.''

There were questions about the accuracy of some of the figures supplied to council when it decided to ditch trolley buses.

Regional Council transport portfolio leader Paul Swain said the draft public transport plan had options to cut off-peak fares by up to 25 per cent.

However, service reliability had as much of an impact on passenger numbers as fares, and the bus network was not performing to a high enough standard. It was this the plan was trying to address.

"Severe bus congestion along the Golden Mile, over-crowded peak hour buses and bus break downs mean that too many services run late or are missed altogether."

Trolley buses would be ditched after 2017 under the plan, which aimed for a 15-20 per cent increase in passengers, he said.

"About $50m of work will be needed to upgrade the trolley bus infrastructure over the next six years and the network costs around $6m each year to maintain."

The Dominion Post