Councils join forces to approach minister for cash to upgrade Christchurch buses

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, pictured, will be joined by Environment Canterbury chair Jenny Hughey when she approaches Transport Minister Michael Wood to discuss fast-tracking a $108m upgrade to the city's bus services.
Joseph Johnson/Stuff
Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, pictured, will be joined by Environment Canterbury chair Jenny Hughey when she approaches Transport Minister Michael Wood to discuss fast-tracking a $108m upgrade to the city's bus services.

Christchurch’s mayor and the chairwoman of Environment Canterbury (ECan) will join forces to ask the Government to fast-track a major upgrade to Christchurch's bus services.

The Christchurch City Council and ECan have endorsed allowing mayor Lianne Dalziel and regional council chairwoman Jenny Hughey to approach Transport Minister Michael Wood about securing additional funding to speed up the work.

The upgrade, expected to cost at least $108 million, has already been planned out and funded by the region's councils – but the money is spread over more than a decade.

It is hoped that with more funding, it can be done in five years.

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STUFF
Environment Canterbury unveiled a new look for Christchurch's buses in September 2020.

The plan includes 100 extra buses and 22 kilometres of new bus lanes.

It would also convert Christchurch's five core bus routes to a “turn-up-and-go” model where a bus arrives every 7.5 minutes between 7am and 7pm on weekdays.

Currently, Christchurch’s bus services have been reduced to weekend timetables during the week due to a driver shortage.

Christchurch city councillors Mike Davidson and Sara Templeton, and ECan councillors Vicky Southworth and Lan Pham have led the charge to fast-track work on the bus upgrades.

Davidson said during a recent public meeting that co-investment with central government would allow the council “to deliver more for our communities and quicker”.

Jenny Hughey, pictured, will join Lianne Dalziel in approaching the transport minister.
PAUL GORMAN/Stuff
Jenny Hughey, pictured, will join Lianne Dalziel in approaching the transport minister.

Councillor Pauline Cotter said Christchurch needed a good public transport system and accelerating the $108m upgrade would get it there.

“We have heard the saying, 'build it and they will come’ – fix up our public transport system, make the buses attractive, reliable, frequent and desirable to use, and people will use it,” she said.

Councillor Sam MacDonald said it was not often he agreed with Davidson on public transport issues but he was happy to support the mayor having a conversation in Wellington.

“I wouldn't stop the mayor from talking to anybody,” he said.

Christchurch’s buses are currently running on less-frequent weekend timetables during the week, because of a driver shortage.
CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff
Christchurch’s buses are currently running on less-frequent weekend timetables during the week, because of a driver shortage.

Councillor Jimmy Chen said the approach to Government was a good initiative and he fully supported it.

But some city councillors were against making an approach to the transport minister.

Councillor Aaron Keown said he did not think a 21st century city would have transport based around buses and Christchurch was not dense enough for a bus or train system.

“We need to think of other ways to do transport. Just putting buses on does not get people on buses.”

Councillor Phil Mauger said the upgrade would disrupt roads “all over the place” and building more bus lanes would probably ruin businesses.

Fewer people used the bus in the last financial year compared with the year before, according to the city council.

About 9.7 million people used the bus throughout the 2020-21 financial year, down from 10.5 million in the 2019-20 financial year.

The original business case outlining the proposed $108m upgrade described Christchurch’s existing public transport system as unreliable and uncompetitive.