New bus interchange 'compromised'

The effectiveness of Christchurch's new $57 million bus interchange will be compromised unless the city council makes urgent changes to Riccarton Rd, Environment Canterbury (ECan) says.

It has been pushing the council to build an off-street suburban bus interchange in Riccarton to cater for the 3000 passengers who board buses there every day, but the council has struggled to decide on an acceptable site.

Last year council staff recommended a site at 119 Riccarton Rd, between Division and Rotherham streets, for the interchange but faced opposition from local businesses. Councillors decided they wanted to explore other options.

Those options, which include putting the interchange in the Westfield Riccarton Shopping Centre car park or on the old Riccarton library site in Clarence St, have been analysed in the past couple of months but council staff have again concluded that a mid-block Riccarton Rd location for the interchange would be best.

Yesterday the council's environment committee voted unanimously to recommend the council pursue the Westfield option.

It wants staff to bring attractive concept designs for extending the bus stops and improving the bus shelters in front of the Westfield mall to the council within three months, as an interim measure, while longer term options for a waiting lounge are investigated.

It also wants staff to investigate bus priority measures along Riccarton Rd.

"ECan has been pushing for a very long time for a solution and this is a good step forward," Cr David East said.

ECan commissioner Rex Williams told the committee it could not afford to waste any more time and needed to push on with the project urgently.

"We are trying to run a good public transport system in this city and we've been pushing and pushing these issues," Williams said.

It was critical that by December safe pedestrian crossing points, better passenger facilities, wider footpaths, and bus priority measures were in place along Riccarton Rd.

"All these issues are the city council's responsibility," Williams said. "I understand the funding is available for the infrastructure - it's just a matter of getting on and doing it."

Riccarton-Wigram Community Board deputy chairwoman Helen Broughton urged councillors not to proceed with a mid-block interchange, saying the idea was "crazy".

"It is the most congested part of the road, it's where the small businesses are, which we should be supporting. I don't see why we are even considering it," she said.

Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck said she had thought the council had made it clear late last year that the option it wanted to progress was using the Westfield Riccarton car park for the interchange.

"I was incredibly clear that was happening so I feel like we've just gone back three months," Buck said.

The Press