Police take 28 Christchurch buses off the road
Police are "staggered" by the state of Christchurch buses and fear for the safety of passengers after ordering 28 vehicles off the road in a sting operation.
Officers stopped and inspected 114 buses over three days, with 60 per cent needing repair, including 24 per cent with safety problems so serious a new Certificate of Fitness (COF) was required.
Four were "pink-stickered", meaning their defects were so significant failure was "imminent".
Police ordered 28 buses immediately off the road and a further 34 buses were ordered out of service until they could be repaired, but were allowed to complete their route.
Most of the defects involved suspension, steering and brakes.
Sergeant Michael Moloney, of the commercial vehicle investigation unit, said results of the sting were "very disturbing".
"I think vehicles that are operating with the flaws that police have identified today are placing passengers at risk and it is unconscionable that certain operators are using these vehicles," he said.
"It is extremely disappointing that police have to come out on the road to check up on a passenger service and find these flaws.
"We are staggered by the number of flaws we have found."
Police would not detail how many problem buses were owned by each of the three city operators, but Environment Canterbury said yesterday the buses removed from service were largely owned by Christchurch Bus Services (CBS).
ECan's acting operations director, Wayne Holton-Jeffreys, said the removal of buses meant CBS "may not be in a position to meet all their contractual obligations on some routes. Environment Canterbury apologises to bus patrons for the failure of these trips."
ECan said the impact of the police checks on the other two operators, Red Bus and Leopard Coachlines, was minimal.
The police operation found serious brake faults, suspension problems and loose steering columns on some buses, along with loose exterior panels and bald tyres.
It also uncovered minor problems like broken windscreen wipers and faulty lights. Serious safety breaches can attract an infringement notice with a fine of about $150. The sting, dubbed Operation Otautahi Waka, began on Tuesday morning and concluded yesterday morning.
One bus operated by Christchurch Bus Services (CBS) was ordered off the road at 9.40am yesterday for a very loose bumper and leaking air brakes.
Sergeant Max Newman said police had looked at letters of complaint about the buses to The Press.
"We targeted areas where people had serious concerns. If it wasn't for the letters to the editor this would not have come to our attention."
Red Bus said none of its buses had been ordered off the road and four had minor problems. Leopard Coachlines said two had been ordered off the road and six had minor problems, while CBS would not give figures for their buses.
Red Bus chief executive Paul McNoe said the figures were disappointing.
"It is not a very good look in terms of that number of vehicles coming off the road. It is not good for the industry as a whole," he said.
Leopard managing director Brent Early said the findings were "pretty disturbing. We are in the industry of carrying passengers and companies need to take that really seriously".
CBS managing director Clive Peter would not comment on figures. "We have had some disruption of service as a result of the inspections, but anticipate being back to full service . We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience but will have 26 brand new buses in service in just over a week."
The operation was conducted with support from the New Zealand Transport Agency, which will consider further action.
ECan commissioner with responsibility for public passenger transport, Rex Williams, would not discuss the issue and said The Press was looking for "an easy story".