Group manages to catch last bus

This MAN minibus, pictured in the 1990s, is being safeguarded as part of the city's bus heritage. Photo supplied.
This MAN minibus, pictured in the 1990s, is being safeguarded as part of the city's bus heritage. Photo supplied.
The Otago Heritage Bus Society has bought the last of 10 former Dunedin public transport minibuses after 18 months of fundraising.

The MAN minibuses were introduced on the Normanby-St Clair route in 1990, running every 10 minutes during the day and marking a ''turning point'' in the fortunes of the city's public transport.

''It sparked renewed interest in public transport in Dunedin,'' former Citibus general manager Gary Williams said yesterday.

And it showed that the Dunedin City Council, through Citibus, which was then its own company, had been prepared to invest $1.7 million in the buses to try to encourage people to leave their cars and try a modern transport system.

The 10 new buses, mostly 21-seaters, ran from 1990 until the early 2000s.

The smaller buses later became partly the victim of their own success, lacking the capacity to keep up with the growing public demand, he said.

Society operations manager Andrew Robinson said many Dunedin buses had previously been ''showing their age or poorly patronised''.

The minibuses were ''more agile in traffic'' and featured modern seating and a ''unique colour scheme''.

And the initiative, with its emphasis on good timekeeping, immediately became popular with passengers, he said.

The bus was bought recently for an undisclosed sum. Seller Passenger Transport Citibus provided a ''significant discount'' and Dunedin City Council Community Grants, Bendigo Valley Sport and Charity Foundation, and Otago Community Trust also provided support, society officials said.

The last bus will be repainted in its original colours and it is hoped to have it back in operation by next Easter as one of the society's vehicles offering the Suburban Rambler public-holiday bus service on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, on two major routes.

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