Better buses on the way, ORC says

Commuters will ride on better buses and use a uniform ticketing system after new transport laws come into effect, a regional council director says.

ORC policy and resource planning director Fraser McRae, of Dunedin, said the Government's Public Transport Management Act would enable the council to ensure commercial bus companies and operators contracted to the council provided better, standardised, services in Otago.

"It's a major change which enables council to control standards on contracted services.

"It will mean fewer older buses on the roads, which have been a problem in Dunedin over the years. It's certainly designed to stop operators with poorer quality buses undercutting operators who provide a better level of service," he said.

Under the Act, councils would be able to stipulate buses operating under contract to a regional authority, and commercially operated vehicles, had low floors and were accessible to the elderly and disabled, he said.

The public would notice greater "uniformity" with ticketing between contracted and commercial services within two years.

Council access to bus company information, such as detailed patronage statistics, would increase.

In a statement, the Ministry of Transport said the Act would enable councils "to require any or all public transport services in a region [to be] provided as contracted services".

Regional councils will be able to set longer notice periods for commercial public transport providers starting, varying, or withdrawing services and establish tighter operational control rules for bus companies.

The Act passed its third reading in Parliament last month and will become law in the next few weeks, after gaining royal assent.

The legislation will take effect in 2010.

The Act would simplify the Regional Public Transport Plan process, which was being used to develop an extended public transport scheme in the Wakatipu basin, to be implemented from March 2009, Mr McRae said.


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