Harden up Canterbury bus companiesWILL HARVIE
Bus services in Christchurch and Canterbury should never have been halted so early in Wednesday's snowstorm.
Presumably the stoppages were caused by safety - the fear that buses would be in accidents and put lives in danger. Safety often quashes all counter arguments, but in this case, the danger was not extreme enough to warrant cancelling every last bus in town so early in the day.
I'm Canadian and have more than 20 years experience driving on snow and ice. No Canadian city would permit its buses to quit in the early hours of a serious blizzard. Christchurch shouldn't either.
Environment Canterbury is responsible for buses in Christchurch-Canterbury and ECan's Twitter feed tells the tale:
Snow starts falling about 8am.
8.22am: ECan announces that five buses that normally operate in the Port Hills would no longer drive the hills.
10.17am: ECan announces that ''all bus services will stop operating and be off road by 11.10am''.
2.54pm: ECan confirms that ''no buses or ferries operating for rest of day''.
(Slightly different info was posted to Metro Info's Facebook page).
I live in the Port Hills suburb of Mount Pleasant and agree that pulling buses off the hills was a good idea. But giving passengers 53 minutes notice of a full stoppage is unacceptable.
On Wednesday morning, the three bus companies operating in Christchurch managed to distribute people all across the city - and then strand them. How did these customers get home? They caught rides, were picked up by family and friends, waved down taxis and so forth.
At a time when the police, Christchurch City Council, AA and others were warning people not to drive unless absolutely necessary, bus management put more cars on the roads because buses stopped running.
Nobody expected full service, but why couldn't the buses crawl the main arterial roads - Ferry, Papanui, Riccarton, Blenheim, Lincoln etc? These roads were driveable on Wednesday.
Sure customers would have to walk into their neighbourhoods from the arteries, but that's better than being stuck at, say, Addington when home is New Brighton.
It's true that Canadian buses are better equipped for snow (winter tyres etc) and the drivers vastly more experienced in winter conditions, but here's betting that many of Christchurch bus drivers pulled off the road on Wednesday morning were annoyed or furious.
Many of them are highly experienced drivers motivated by public service. When things get rough, their job is getting people home. But when adversity hit Christchurch on Wednesday, management or ECan (it's not clear which) applied the brake.
On Wednesday, Christchurch roads got dangerous about 5.30pm - sunset - when temperatures fell and ice formed. That's when buses should have stopped operating, not 11.10am.
Harden up Canterbury bus companies.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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