Customers keen to use night bus, operator says

Andrew Rutherford.
Andrew Rutherford.
The operator of a new Dunedin night bus says customers were ''clambering'' to get on board at the weekend, but the Otago Regional Council is standing in the way of a regular service.

Andrew Rutherford, of Night Bus Dunedin, said he had experienced a ''very busy'' weekend, ferrying late-night revellers home after Saturday night's All Blacks test in the city.

Mr Rutherford said his night was trouble-free, despite earlier hostility from some city taxi drivers, who incorrectly insisted his service was illegal.

Instead, passengers were ''clambering'' to get on board, and he took ''about 50'' people home between midnight and 6am on Sunday.

''It was much busier than normal ... There were people clambering to get on the bus, and not taking no for an answer, pretty much.''

The service included taking his almost full 20-seater bus to Mosgiel and back early on Sunday, at $10 a person, which demonstrated demand for a regular, scheduled night bus service, he believed.

It was something Mr Rutherford said he wanted to consider, but could not, because of legislative changes and the ORC's planning processes.

New rules introduced last year meant any regular service, running routes to a timetable, had to be registered with the ORC, but it was not accepting registrations until it completed a new regional public transport plan.

''No-one can register a bus service right now in Dunedin ... it doesn't matter where it's to, or where it's from, or how useful it is for the public. It's not allowed until the regional council gets its act together.

''I think that's an issue,'' Mr Rutherford said.

ORC manager support services Gerard Collings confirmed the council could not accept new registrations until its work on a new regional public transport plan was complete.

A draft was expected to be considered by regional councillors next month, then released for public consultation, before being adopted later this year.

''Once it's adopted, we'll be able to consider registrations,'' he said.

The proposed transfer of public transport responsibilities from the ORC to the Dunedin City Council was not expected to delay that process, as the DCC would assume responsibility for implementing it, he said.

City councillors earlier this year backed the proposed transfer subject to a detailed report later this year, followed by further council deliberations and public consultation.

Meanwhile, Mr Rutherford said public support for his service had been ''heartening'', and he would continue operating it, at least through the winter, while it was ''profitable and safe enough to do so''.

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