Standing room only on school buses

Overcrowding on Oakura school buses means some children are left standing through entire trips and the problem has prompted a revamp of bus services in the town.

Taranaki Regional Council transport service manager Chris Clarke said Citylink's school bus services between Oakura and New Plymouth had recently struggled with an "increase in overcrowding".

Mr Clarke told the Kaitake Community Board this week that "four buses with 50-odd seats were transporting up to 250 kids per day" and some children were being forced to stand in the aisle for entire trips.

Susan Henderson, whose three children catch the school bus during the week, said their safety had become a concern.

"As parents we all want to see our kids arrive at school safely."

She said her children had commented that the buses were getting too full.

"It is possibly time for one more (bus on the route)."

Mr Clarke said to help improve the situation two midday services would be scrapped and an extra bus would be added to the morning and afternoon runs to coincide with the start and end of the school day.

That would still be one public bus service in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Mr Clarke said the general public was also welcome to ride on the school buses.

Kaitake Community Board chairman Doug Hislop welcomed the changes set out by Mr Clarke because previous indications from the TRC had been that Oakura may lose the bus service altogether.

"I'm pleased that the TRC has recognised the necessity of retaining the public bus," he said.

The Oakura to New Plymouth public service, or route 40, which has run since 2010, has been under review since September 2013 because of low patronage.

Bus services are provided on a "use it or lose it" basis and advertising to increase its usage outside the school run times had not been effective.

The TRC, which contracts Tranzit Coachlines to provide the Citylink service, plans to put together a new timetable for the bus service in April, in time for the beginning of the new school term in May.

Taranaki Daily News