Bus run uncertainty 'bad' for Raglan

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013
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Raglan business leaders are hoping to attract funding for a new Sunday bus service to Hamilton - saying uncertainty over the seven-day-a-week service is damaging the town's reputation.

Waikato District Council's roading and transport committee will decide today whether to provide $3000 to the Raglan Chamber of Commerce to administer the service. The plan is for the chamber to provide a private return Sunday service through a local operator using an 11-seater minibus.

Waikato Regional Council has run a Hamilton-to-Raglan Sunday bus service during the summer, but it is due to end the run on Easter weekend.

Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Stephanie Philp said the Sunday service was essential for the town's growth. "Ideally what we'd like is a seven-day-a-week service with two trips from Raglan to Hamilton on Sunday, but the regional council have told us that's not going to happen," she said.

"So the next best option is for the chamber to administer a bus service funded by the district council. It's urgent that this happens because visitors like to come to Raglan on a Friday or Saturday and leave on a Sunday.

"Traditionally these people don't spend much on accommodation but they do spend money in our community. However, if they don't come, they can't spend their money anywhere."

Ms Philp said many businesses were unhappy with the regional council's management of the Sunday bus service during Christmas-New Year. Would-be visitors had arrived at the Hamilton Transport Centre on the weekend only to be told there was no Sunday bus to Raglan.

In an email to regional council staff, Suz Hall, of Raglan Backpackers, said Raglan was getting a "bad reputation" as a place difficult to get to.

"Not good when we are a tourist town. We have had weekend after weekend of people unable to get in or out on the Sunday service because of misinformation. We have driven in at least 20 people ourselves to Hamilton in the last month . . ."

Regional councillor Paula Southgate accepted some travellers may have been misinformed on the service but said the council did not staff its BUSIT desk at the transport centre during weekends.

Last May, the council introduced a Whatawhata service on school days to alleviate overcrowding on the Raglan-Hamilton service and discontinued the Sunday service during the school term.

"We understand Raglan residents' frustrations and their desire for more passenger transport .... It's frustrating for me as an advocate of passenger transport knowing there is no further money for more services."

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Council figures for 2011-12 show just under 65,000 passenger trips on the Raglan service, with 5000 travelling on the weekends.

Regional council policy and transport group manager Vaughan Payne said patronage numbers on the Raglan Sunday service were comparable to last summer, with the service achieving less than 10 per cent farebox recovery.

Raglan Community Board chairman Rodger Gallagher said having a Sunday bus administered through the chamber was the only feasible option available.

"I have no confidence in the regional council, particularly with buses and particularly with Raglan buses; they've let the community down."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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