Stoke bus route cut leaves passengers frustrated

The Stoke bus loop deemed not viable by Nelson City Council will be cut next week.
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The Stoke bus loop deemed not viable by Nelson City Council will be cut next week.

The axing of a Stoke bus route has angered users who say the loop enables them to stay socially connected and is used by a wide range of people.

The council is stopping the Stoke Bus Loop due to a "lack of support".  The "hail and ride" service will cease on Friday, June 30.

Stoke bus passenger Jenny Page uses the bus at leat 16 times a week and shared the loop with people of all ages from mothers with children to pensioners.

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She said the bus had become its own village. She said a number of passengers were distraught after news of the council's decision. She decided to speak out in the hope raise awareness and change the looming outcome.

"It is really great having the Stoke loop bus service. It works well and enables users in so many ways."

She said reactions to the news of the service cancellation were various forms anger, worry, sorrow and confusion.

"I'm not leading a crusade. I just wanted everyone to start talking about this because it's about the people, not commerce.

"I don't think the council knows how beneficial it is and I don't think they care."

The loop bus travelled in a continuous figure eight, heading north from Stoke along the Ridgeway to Enner Glyn, then back to Stoke via Nayland Road and Putaitai St before heading south along Suffolk Road to Saxton Road, across to Nayland Road and back to Stoke.

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The cut has sparked major concerns from frequent users of the service who say the connection is part of their welfare. The decision to remove the $80,000 budget was passed by Nelson City councillors last month as part of the 2017/18 annual plan deliberations.

Page said the bus service was crucial, always appreciated and valued in an email to councillors, the loop's bus drivers, Age Concern Nelson and Grey Power.

It enabled people to stay independent in their own homes and gave outing options for non-drivers.

"[It's] crucial transport to chemist and doctors. It also ends isolation for many and allows social, human connections."

As a compromise to the decision Page suggested a route revamp via the Stoke tennis courts, through to Broadgreen House, the Nayland pool, airport, World of Wearable Art Museum and Nayland School.

She said the length was similar and would immediately open the route up to a larger demographic.

"I don't think they ever advertised it properly."

Nelson City Council media liaison Paul Shattock said the route was introduced in December 2015 but did not receive enough passengers to make it viable.

From April 2016 to 2017 16,210 passenger trips were taken on the bus loop which cost $171,000 per year, 48 per cent of which was subsidised by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

The bus ran hourly, starting and finishing by the tennis courts on Main Rd Stoke, and was priced as a separate single zone fare from the existing arterial routes.

The bus was a small kneeling bus equipped to take wheelchair users.

Shattock said the service was introduced to provide a link throughout the wider Stoke area but struggled to gain support. Only four submissions were made to the council on the decision to axe the loop through the draft annual plan process.

However, the potential for different routes for a Stoke service will be included in a wider review of the regional public transport plan at Nelson City Council later this year. It was acknowledged that the loop may resume if a more feasible option could be provided.

 - Stuff

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