First Wakatipu passengers to board St John 12-seater today

St John Wakatipu Health Shuttle drivers (from left) Rod Sullivan, Evan Paterson, Claudia Faichney...
St John Wakatipu Health Shuttle drivers (from left) Rod Sullivan, Evan Paterson, Claudia Faichney, John Stephens, Kussy Gomez and Dave McNay, with area executive officer Jessica Patch and booking co-ordinator Maxine Murdoch outside the ambulance station in Frankton on Friday. The service transports its first passengers from the Wakatipu to Southland Hospital and back today. Photo by James Beech.
A new lifeline for Wakatipu residents and visitors needing to keep their medical appointments in Southland Hospital begins today.

The $80,000 St John Wakatipu Health Shuttle rolls out with its first passengers - two from Queenstown and one from Arrowtown - with a pair of first-aid trained and uniformed drivers rostered on duty from a pool of 26 volunteers.

The 12-seat, 2012 Ford Transit, sponsored by Four Square Supermarkets, will be the fourth to hit the road in the South Island.

St John Wakatipu area executive officer Jessica Patch said on Friday there had been many inquiries from residents about the service since the first call for volunteer drivers and the shuttle's ceremonial dedication last month.

At least two more people were booked for this week and two more next week.

The service picks up passengers at the corner of Ramshaw Ln and Wiltshire St, Arrowtown, then outside the Queenstown Ice Arena in the Queenstown Gardens, and from the St John ambulance station, Frankton, before stopping at townships as requested on the way to Invercargill.

The shuttle was scheduled to arrive in Invercargill every week day at 11.15am and depart the city at 3pm, depending on the number of passengers.

The shuttle would also collect people who had been treated in Invercargill and wanted to return to the Wakatipu.

Miss Patch said St John Wakatipu was "very appreciative" of Four Square for paying for the vehicle and start-up costs.

The charitable emergency service would look to the community to help keep the service on the road as operating costs for the first year were expected to be $35,000.

Passengers were invited to give on average $30 for the service, or any donation, but those who could not afford to give would not be turned away.

A single ticket from Queenstown to Invercargill on a commercial coach can cost up to $50.

For more information about the St John Wakatipu Health Shuttle and to make a booking, call (03) 441-4555 ext 4.


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