'You will put us out of business' - bus plan slammed

A bus operator has slammed an Otago Regional Council transport plan, saying it would put his company out of business and result in drastic fare increases.

Passenger Transport Citibus director Kayne Baas told a council panel hearing submissions on its draft regional public transport plan that a requirement to replace buses after 15 years of services and stricter emissions standards would push fares up by as much as 100%.

"We believe that any policy that increases the cost of public transport and, subsequently, fares penalises the people that can least afford it. These are also the people who rely on public transport the most."

The plan would make it no longer viable for the company to operate in Dunedin, he said.

"If this plan goes through you will be less one tenderer ... here in Dunedin. It's not sustainable for us. You will put us out of business.

"I guarantee you that in five years time that you will only have Ritchies operating in Otago."

The stricter emission standards in the plan would mean all buses would have to meet Euro 4 or equivalent from mid-2019.

This meant the company would be forced to replace buses as young as 11 years old and require an investment of "at least $19 million" in new buses, he said.

He said the company had already made a large investment in more environmentally friendly buses and all new buses it had purchased in the last 12 months exceeded Euro 4 emissions standards. At the moment its fleet of 47 buses had an average of age of 7.1 years.

Mr Baas also said in his written submission that the plan did not meet the conditions set out in the Government's "requirement for urban buses" parameters, requiring bus services provide "value for money".

Council staff responded to this saying they were seeking approval from NZTA for the introduction of a maximum age of 15 years and stricter emissions standards.

Cr Michael Deaker thanked Mr Baas for his submission, but said it was "unlikely" the council was going to completely "back off" on its plans for stricter emission standards.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead asked Mr Baas about an investigation the ORC carried out as a result of his written submission, which found their plans made economic sense and that running a a smaller, newer fleet would result in cost savings to the operator.

Mr Baas replied by saying the report was based on skewed figures.

Ritchies director Glenn Ritchie, which operates several Dunedin bus routes, said the changes were not out of the ordinary, compared to what other councils in the country were doing.

Having seven years to replace buses with buses that met Euro 4 standards was a reasonable amount of time and any fare increase as a result of that and other changes would be "minimal", Mr Ritchie said.

A total of 53 organisations and individuals made submissions on the plan. Among the submitters were Dunedin City Council, Central Otago District Council, the University of Otago and Queenstown Lakes District Council.



It's obvious from the initial article that large sums of money need to be spent by someone to get the buses up to standard to meet the new emissions target. It should not be lumped on the ratepayers as the majority of them do not use the service. If the companies providing the service need to upgrade buses to continue, the cost should be passed on to the users.

In these times, with less people using the service, it's just not economic sense to spend up large on a dying service. That's just akin to flogging a dead horse.

Like in any business, if the service is not operating at a profit, it does not survive. There are plenty of other alternatives to get around. If the buses were gone, the taxi services would get a much-needed boost, and as for the elderly/ disabled, well they would get a better service from a taxi and if costs were problematic to them, a discount chit would be available to them through WINZ.

Bus system a vital lifeline

Many people use the bus system daily. Are you suggesting that our elderly should walk into town to make their appointments? Are you suggesting that sickness beneficiaries who are quite unable to walk or drive can afford to take a taxi to the places they may need to go?
Are you suggesting that all students, who only yesterday were told they must pay another 4% towards their fees next year (meaning their fees have risen by 10% in the last two years) can afford to maintain a car in order to get to university each day?
The bus system in Dunedin (despite its ever increasing fares) is a vital lifeline to the city for a huge number of people. Maybe you should get on one some day and see for yourself how many people would be disadvantaged without the buses.


A threat or a promise?

I think that the city would be significantly better off without a bunch of old empty buses charging around polluting the city at ratepayers' expense.  Bring it on.

Get the buses off the road

I'm all for it. There's nothing that grates my gears more than being stuck behind a stinking 40-foot bus all the way up Pine Hill Rd at 20kmh. I haven't used one in 30 years and won't be in the next 30.
In fact, I would be happy to see them all gone for good. If the companies operating them cannot stay afloat without being propped up by the ratepayers it's time they shut up shop. User pays in this day and age, after all.
There are alternatives - driving, walking and taxis.


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