Buses may look empty but keep them going - ECan councillor

Thousands of people are still relying on public transport.
Thousands of people are still relying on public transport.
More than a week into the Covid-19 lockdown, public transport use in Canterbury has decreased significantly - yet thousands of people are still using it for travel to essential services.

Environment Canterbury councillor Phil Clearwater says even though the numbers appear low, these buses are still performing an important service.

Passenger numbers have decreased from 48,845 on a Tuesday in March last year to 3250 on the same day this year.

But Cr Clearwater said while the numbers may be low, they are not insignificant.

“Those 3250 people need public transport," he said. 

The buses may look empty much of the time, but every one of those people that are on board is there because they have an essential journey to make. 

"This is where much of the need is. We’re carrying nurses to hospital, chemists to the pharmacies and checkout operators to the supermarket.”

Phil Clearwater. Photo: Supplied
Phil Clearwater. Photo: Supplied
Cr Clearwater said that across the public transport service, additional measures have been put in place to keep staff and passengers safe.

“To minimise the risk of COVID-19, all high contact surfaces are regularly thoroughly wiped down with commercial-grade sanitiser, and this extra cleaning will be carried out as long as is necessary."

All passengers are also asked to register their journey on ECan's contact tracing website so that they can be contacted if required.

The Government moved quickly to ensure public transport continues to operate during the Level 4 restrictions, funding the service and enabling free fares until the end of June.

“The rationale is not only to provide public transport as an essential means of travel, but also to retain jobs and to keep vehicles operational so that we can scale the service up again as soon as is possible," Cr Clearwater said. 

"Without this funding, the impact on the public transport industry would have been drastic."

It comes as organisations involved in bus and rail network upgrades are trying to speed up planning work in Christchurch.

The agencies working on improving the bus network and planning for future mass rapid transit, possibly rail, in the city are looking to take advantage of Covid-19 recovery spending.

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