Bus concerns aired at meeting

Michelle Ashbury, of Macandrew Bay, shares her concerns about the Otago Peninsula school bus...
Michelle Ashbury, of Macandrew Bay, shares her concerns about the Otago Peninsula school bus service at a public meeting last night. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Cool heads prevailed during a public meeting at Macandrew Bay Hall last night aimed at sharing concerns and finding solutions to the closure of the Otago Peninsula's school bus route.

The community is angry about changes to the bus services, and before the meeting, Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope said he hoped those attending would "put the pitchforks and burning torches to one side" and have a proactive conversation with the Otago Regional Council "in a joint and concerted way" to find solutions to the issue.

The meeting was called by Dunedin South MP Clare Curran after many Dunedin school communities expressed outrage at the loss of school bus services on the peninsula.

It began in term four last year when new Otago Regional Council bus services took effect.

Because many of the new routes duplicated existing school bus routes, contractor Go Bus announced it would be discontinuing the school routes, without consultation with schools or the community.

The level of complaints resulted in the Otago Regional Council stepping in and saving the school bus services until the end of last year.

Since then, King's High School, Queen's High School and Tahuna Intermediate have joined together to establish a charter service for their pupils living on the peninsula.

But many at the meeting said the charter service was more expensive than the public service.

They believed it would be cheaper for pupils to use the public service, but some changes to capacity and time-tabling would be needed to make it more usable for pupils.

Many at the meeting complained the new public services were geared around adults going to and from work, and not around pupils going to and from school.

It meant children had to catch buses to school about 7am and would not arrive home until 5pm.

Another issue was that the service left from Portobello, so it did not reach pupils living at Harington Point, and Tahuna Intermediate pupils had to walk 3km from Andersons Bay Rd to school and back, crossing Andersons Bay Rd and Queens Dr every day, and that included a wait for a second bus to get them to their destination.

The main bone of contention was the bus stops near the boat sheds at the city end.

Many said they were in a dangerous location because pupils had to cross the road on a blind corner to walk on the footpath on the other side of Portobello Rd.

Bayfield High School principal Judith Forbes said two senior pupils had nearly been hit by vehicles at the bus stops in two separate instances already this year.

She called for the bus stops to be moved to a safer location, such as near the Rongo Stone on Portsmouth Dr.

It was met with wide support at the meeting, but not everyone agreed it was the safest alternative.

ORC corporate services director Nick Donnelly said the council recognised the bus stops were dangerous and was working with the Dunedin City Council on an alternative.

"We're 100% committed to the safety of all our commuters - not just schoolchildren."

ORC councillor Sam Neill thanked community members for sharing their concerns and assured them they would be taken "very seriously".

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