Patronage slumps on quake-damage trips

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 07:56 24/09/2012

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The company running bus tours inside the central city cordon says bad weather is to blame for recent low patronage.

Red Bus won a tender in June to operate red zone tours and high demand initially prompted the company to add extra instalments of the $15-a-head service.

However, numbers had fallen in recent weeks.

Red Bus chief executive Paul McNoe said the bad weather was likely to have kept people away.

"That's the poor weather floating through. We're putting it down to that for now. [It's] not surprising really. There's less people out and about." Four tours run each weekday and six on weekends.

Red Bus added more tours in July to cope with high early numbers but they were cut in August when demand eased.

More than 3000 people have taken the tour since then, an average of about 17 passengers per 40-seat bus. "There's a degree of irregularity about who's around on the day and who's interested," McNoe said.

Business had been generally good. "It's more successful than we've hoped for to be honest. It's about right, notwithstanding the last couple of weeks."

The tours would continue as demand dictated, McNoe said.

"I'm expecting we'll run through to the new year at this stage. Clearly that's up for review if the situation changes."

The tourist season should boost numbers from about November, he said.

The idea of commercial red- zone tours received mixed reactions when the plan was announced earlier this year.

Some questioned whether it was right to use the earthquake- ravaged central city to make a profit and how much residents should be charged to see it.

"We tried to settle on a fair position between what would generate good income for us and be a fair price," McNoe said.

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- The Press

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