Hamilton welcomes 'kneeling' buses

Brand spanking: Veteran bus driver Dick Zinsli in one of the new low-floor Man diesels.
Brand spanking: Veteran bus driver Dick Zinsli in one of the new low-floor Man diesels.

Ten of the most advanced vehicles in the country were welcomed to Hamilton's bus fleet yesterday in a move intended to provide greater ease of access to people with special needs.

The automatic diesel-powered models can carry up to 42 adults seated and 17 standing and are equipped with low floors, fold-out ramps and "kneeling" capacity designed for ease of access for people with wheelchairs and prams.

Transport company Go Bus bought the buses in a deal costing more than $4 million.

Veteran driver Dick Zinsli started driving for the former Hamilton Blue Buses firm more than 30 years ago and said the latest models were a far-cry from the old 5-speed manual Bedfords and Hinos used back in the early 1980s.

Chief executive Craig Worth said the new vehicles used German Man chassis and running gear and bodies made in Egypt.

"It's been a significant investment but one which we felt was worth making to enhance the positive experience for BUSIT passengers."

The company covers 26 routes and has about 90 vehicles on the road at peak times.

The buses were welcomed by CCS Disability Action Waikato spokesperson Gerri Pomeroy.

"We're really excited that all the buses will be wheelchair accessible. It makes journeys better and easier for people with a disability, especially if they don't have independent access to a car."

The new buses have been built to meet New Zealand's common standard for bus quality, which aim to improve the accessibility, comfort and usability of buses used in urban services.

The Waikato has the fourth-largest contracted public transport system in New Zealand, with more than five million passenger trips recorded in 2012-13. The majority of the passenger trips are on Hamilton's bus network, which is contracted by the regional council to Go Bus and Pavlovich. Pavlovich operates the city's Orbiter services.

The Hamilton and regional public transport service costs about $23 million a year to run of which 37 per cent is funded from fare revenue, the remainder is split between funding from NZTA and the regional transport levy which comes from ratepayers.