Harden up Canterbury bus companies

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 10:00 08/06/2012

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. 

- The Press

17 comments
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Rose   #1   10:15 am Jun 08 2012

Dear Mr Harvie, such a negative article but then what can one expect it seems to be the way it is in Christchurch these days. Yes some of the drivers would be experienced, but at the end of the day ECAN made the call not the Bus companies so do not take the blame out on them. I am sure that if there had been an accident and people injured you would have been one of those bleeting that it did not occur earlier. Perhaps you would like to drive a bus in those conditions and see how it feels. Stop trying to cause problems and pointing fingers, and respect a little. You cannot compare the weather in ChCH to that of Canada. oh and no I do not work for any Bus Company.

j   #2   10:39 am Jun 08 2012

You sound like a whinging pom, not a canadian. Just let it be as John lennon said.

Frances   #3   11:22 am Jun 08 2012

I only agree on the giving longer notice part as some people got stranded but #1 and #2 are right that the comparison with Canada is inappropriate. I wonder sometimes how Will got a job writing blogs.

Hill Billy?   #4   11:29 am Jun 08 2012

Thank you for your ignorant and totally rascist comment #2. I'm glad I don't have to rely on the bus service.. just imagine having to walk home in that weather (don't bother trying #2.. that process requires empathy).

Ken   #5   12:24 pm Jun 08 2012

I don't know about Canadians, but Cantabrians are happy to help out a fellow employee. Once folk here at my place of work in Sockburn knew that the buses had stopped I had two unsolicited offers to be dropped off on the way home from two other staff.

ECan were right to err on the side of safety for both the sake of the passengers and drivers who also have homes to go to. The snow was heavy and was going to last well until the evening, as it did.

Mike Peters   #6   12:46 pm Jun 08 2012

ECAN pulls the buses off at the slightest hint of danger. The drivers are pissed off and yes they are there to provide a public service. How are people supposed to get home, the hospital or other places if they use buses. ECAN are sabotaging the bus services because people know they can't rely on them in a pinch. Time to put someone with some guts in charge.

Chook   #7   01:34 pm Jun 08 2012

In Dunedin years ago they simply put chains on buses servicing the hill suburbs. They then continued operating until they could no longer climb the hills. I'm not sure what the procedure is now in Dunedin. Does Chch buses not have chains available?

Bob   #8   01:35 pm Jun 08 2012

You can blame OSH because if a bus driver had hurt as much as his/her little finger there would be a full on enquiry and trouble for someone.

Too many liberal leftie sooks running government departments now. No wonder the country is going to the dogs

j   #9   02:11 pm Jun 08 2012

HillBill#4 - how is having a sense of humour - racist - no wonder the world is in the state its in because of people that think like you.

Jeremy M   #10   02:55 pm Jun 08 2012

I agree - there was not enough advance warning. I was on the way home on the bus when I heard the announcement on Newstalk ZB - "all buses to be off the road in one hour". 20 minutes later (around 10:40am) I noticed the bus had gone completely off route with no warning and was heading into the city. I went and asked the bus driver about it who confirmed they had been called back the depot already. He then offered to alter his trip back to drop me off closer to home, which I am grateful for - I imagine others travelling on the network weren't so lucky.

Next time I don't think I'll risk it - the moment it starts snowing I'll be on the first bus home.


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