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Discount bus company Naked Bus has refunded all 37 passengers who endured two breakdowns on a nightmare ride through the central North Island in the early hours of yesterday.
The passengers on the Wellington-to-Auckland service had to wait on the side of the road when their bus lost oil pressure 13km north of Taihape at 12.40am.
The driver's efforts to restart the vehicle caused a burst of fumes, forcing everyone outside.
A southbound Naked Bus took them back to the BP petrol station in Taihape about 45 minutes later, but they had to try to sleep on the floor there until a bus hired from the rival Tranzit company arrived from Palmerston North to resume the trip north.
That bus, in turn, got a flat tyre at Tirau at 7.30am, causing a further hour's delay before finally reaching Auckland at 11.25am, five hours late.
Passenger Jonah Park, a postgraduate student at the University of Auckland, told the Herald from the bus that many passengers were workers who were late to work.
"There are mechanics and nurses and a lot of other people," he said
"Quite a few passengers have been sending emails overnight but there has been no contact, no replies.
"Naked Bus as a company isn't taking care of the situation at all," Mr Park said.
"Many of us here are saying we won't travel Naked Bus again. Mechanical failures and things like that are one thing, but having no respect for passengers, that's kind of appalling."
But another passenger, Ashley Hooker, said on the Herald's Facebook page that Mr Park's account "sounds like a bigger deal than it actually was. I bet it's not easy getting a second bus to [the] Desert Rd, and the fumes were from the driver trying out the engine after we had stopped. The driver did handle the situation like a champ," he wrote.
The company emailed all passengers at 11.13am apologising and offering a full refund plus a free trip in the future.
Naked Bus owner Hamish Nuttall said the company could not respond earlier because its call centre was closed between 9.30pm and 6.30am.
"We only have two buses on the road at that time."
He said the company operated 30 buses with about 100 drivers but did not employ the drivers directly.
"The drivers are employed by a number of different companies. When the bus broke down, the company that was responsible for that bus organised the replacement bus."
The cut-rate bus company Mr Nuttall founded in 2006 has had a succession of problems.
A driver was sacked last year after allegedly refusing to stop to let a young woman go to the toilet, forcing her to urinate on the bus. In April, another Wellington-to-Auckland bus ran out of fuel in Cambridge because the driver had slept in that morning.
Mr Park said he paid $20.50 for his ticket and others paid as little as $12. Mr Nuttall said fares varied according to the number of seats available at the time of booking, ranging from $1 up to a top price for the Wellington-Auckland service of $49.
He said the company used "a mix of older and newer buses" and did not skimp by using old buses because they were not actually cheaper to run.
"Reliability is very important to us."
- Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald