Christchurch bus exchange automation being fine tuned

Last updated 17:45 22/06/2015
Dean Kozanic

There have been 13 crashes at the new Christchurch bus exchange since it opened in May

Kirk Hargreaves
Connexionz supplied the passenger and vehicle information system for the new Christchurch Bus Exchange.

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The bus tracking and management system at the new Christchurch Bus Exchange is being fine tuned.

The makers of the electronic system, Christchurch company Connexionz, said "tuning" was usual for a new complex system like this.

Connexionz designs and installs electronic information systems for buses with about 80 per cent of its business in the United States.

Its system gives passengers arrival times through websites and smartphones and interactive bus stop signs. It also helps bus operators manage and track their fleets.

Bus drivers have called the new bus exchange's automated system a flop after several buses hit bollards and other objects and two buses collided.

But, Connexionz chief executive Roger Carruthers said the system could not control whether a bus hit a stationary object.

Carruthers said the system had many components. For example It texted a bus coming to the exchange and allocated it to a bay, it presented information to passengers both audio and display, it opened the doors to the exchange for a bus, closed the doors and ran a priority mechanism for buses to reverse out. 

The control room could override the automated system if that was needed.

Carruthers said the company was working with Environment Canterbury to have the system operating as it was expected to but it would take time.

The system was affected by driver behaviour and the types of buses.

Changes were being made but they were not major.

"I would describe them as tuning the system." Carruthers said.

Any new system coping with the big volume of traffic in a limited space would have issues. 

If it had electronically cleared a bus to reverse and depart then it would not clear the two buses on either side of the bus to reverse, and then it was up to the driver to use the video camera and mirrors to check what was behind the bus.

The system was designed to place the buses in the right queue in the order they were allowed to proceed.

There was always the possibility of bus collisions because there would be buses reversing and buses coming into the exchange and into bays especially with the the concentration of traffic in the space, he said.

The cameras were not part of the system Connexions had designed but part of a separate closed-circuit system for drivers to use. 

The system was a major change and a challenge for drivers who had had training for it, Carruthers said.

Last week Amalgamated Workers Union Assistant Secretary Lindsay Chapell said the system was designed to have only one bus reverse at a time.

That is not correct. Several buses may reverse at a time, Carruthers said, otherwise the exchange would not be able to handle the volume of traffic required, about 800 bus movements a day. 

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Chapell also said issues with the automation system were occurring daily. Carruthers said he was not sure what was meant or what issues he was referring to.

Connexionz has posted a much bigger profit for the year to March just passed - $855,000 - than the previous year- $243,000.

The profit was earned from revenue that jumped 48 per cent to $5.1 million.

One of its main shareholders is the former chairman of the New Zealand Shareholders' Association,business commentator Bruce Sheppard.


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