Palmerston bus route improvements stall

Planned improvements to a bus service between Dunedin and Palmerston could be scaled back due to a funding problem.

The NZ Transport Agency declined to help fund the project, leaving the Otago Regional Council with a shortfall of $57,000 this financial year if councillors decide to press on regardless.

The service is the council’s longest route, at 63km one way, and operates three return trips each weekday.

Patronage has increased since the introduction of a $2 fare trial, but lack of a weekend service is a sore point in East Otago.

The community has pushed for the bus to operate on weekends and for more weekday services.

The regional council budgeted $110,000 for improvements to start in 2022 and $220,000 for the next financial year.

It was hoped this would be offset by money from NZTA, starting with $57,000 and then $114,000, but this had not come through.

Options for regional councillors at a meeting today include the council paying the full cost of an improved service.

Alternatively, they could limit the extent of improvements, or drop them entirely.

Council staff recommended implementing a limited service improvement to match the amount the council had already expected to chip in.

This could result in either a Saturday or Sunday operation, or two more weekday runs.

NZTA approved funding for improvements to Mosgiel services.

That should lock in a change to get buses departing every 15 minutes at peak periods on weekdays, as well as an express service from Mosgiel into Dunedin, from next year.

Regional council transport spokesman Julian Phillips said there was high demand for public transport between Mosgiel and Dunedin and passengers were looking forward to the changes.

The planned introduction of a new service from Green Island into the city via South Dunedin may need to be delayed.

It had been forecast to start in 2022-23, but a business case is unlikely to be completed in time.

Council staff recommended pushing the project out a year.

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