Tahuna staff dispute bus route's 'declining patronage'

Staff at Tahuna Intermediate are fuming after Go Bus suggested their packed bus service to and from Otago Peninsula was canned because of declining patronage.

Yesterday, Go Bus South Island operations director Nigel Piper said Go Bus had operated school services in Port Chalmers and the Otago Peninsula since 2014, on a ''privately run, stand-alone, user-pays'' basis.

However, the services had experienced ''declining patronage'' over recent years, and were ''no longer viable to operate''.

Tahuna Intermediate deputy principal Roddy Scoles was angry about the statement because the Otago Peninsula bus that Tahuna Intermediate shared with King's and Queen's High Schools was bulging.

''Every day the bus is full and there are students who have to stand in the aisle all the way to and from Portobello.

''We have had a dramatic increase of students from the peninsula attending our school over the past five years, and at present we have 53 of our students utilising the bus that travels to and from Portobello.

''How many other buses are that full around the city at the moment? I would suggest none.''

Tahuna Intermediate School pupils queue to board the Go Bus service to Portobello. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Tahuna Intermediate School pupils queue to board the Go Bus service to Portobello. Photo: Peter McIntosh

Mr Piper said the discontinued services were once treated by Go Bus as part of a wider contract for services in the area, but they were never subsidised.

''Go Bus has since lost that contract, and the full cost of the service fell to the company without the opportunity to offset the benefits of having a wider service,'' Mr Piper said.

It made the services unviable.

''We would not cancel services if they were making money - we are not in the business of turning away passengers.

''These services have not received any subsidy from the New Zealand Transport Authority, the Ministry of Education, or Otago Regional Council, and have been privately run by Go Bus on a stand-alone, user-pays commercial basis.''

He said while there appeared to be a large number of passengers on the King's/Queen's/Tahuna afternoon service, the money received in fares did not cover the cost of owning the bus or running the service, so the company had to subsidise covering driver wages, fuel and other running costs.

''A fare increase was applied in 2016. However, this wasn't sufficient to arrest the falls in revenue.

''The reality is, Go Bus cannot continue to run these services as they are creating a significant financial loss for the company's Dunedin operation.''

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

Comments

Go Bus South Island operations director Nigel Piper- what you say is rubbish. You just want a tax-funded subsidy like you get for all the other buses. You could not exist without them. Why not put on a special bus for school times only?