There is a simmering of discontent amongst drivers with the reshuffling of bus operators and bus routes in Auckland.
The move is likely to see a reduction in hours for some local bus drivers. No jobs are likely to be lost.
Auckland Transport (AT) is being blamed for a public tendering process where the focus has been on cents and dollars instead of service.
A reader called the Times to inform that Howick & Eastern Buses (H & E) has lost the contract with AT to ferry people from East Auckland into the city. Once the present contract ends, some of their buses will not be allowed past Panmure so passengers will have to transfer to other buses or the trains, he said.
Rudd Hughes, from First Union that represents bus drivers, blames the New Zealand Transport Operating Model for a tendering process of bus routes where it is the bus drivers who have to take the ultimate hit in terms of reduced wages.
He says H & E Buses have lost the contract of some of the routes to Go Bus Transport, a major operator in Hamilton and now one of the biggest players in the business.
“There is a lot of frustration amongst bus drivers who feel they have been exploited,” says Mr Hughes.
“This affects quality of service as bus drivers who are entrusted with transporting people to work and back are working extra hours and fatigued which could be dangerous for passengers.”
James Ireland, acting media manager for Auckland Transport, clarifies saying: “By the end of 2018 all Auckland bus routes will be operated under contracts with Auckland Transport, approximately half of which have been subject to a tendering process and the remainder directly negotiated with the existing bus company.
“Six local bus routes in the Botany, Howick, Bucklands Beach, Half Moon Bay, Pakuranga, Panmure area will be operated by Go Bus Transport Ltd following the East Auckland tender round.
“In the case of East Auckland, the main trunk services along Ti Rakau Drive and Pakuranga Rd were not put out to tender, but will continue to be operated by Howick & Eastern following a contract negotiation process,” he informs.
Mr Ireland says that the H & E Buses will also continue to operate all bus services in the Botany, East Tamaki, Manukau corridor as a result of successfully bidding for two tenders, one of which has been operating since October 2016 (routes 352 and 353 through East Tamaki).
“H & E will continue to operate the all-day service from Botany to the City via Ti Rakau Drive, Panmure, Ellerslie and Newmarket, which will operate at least every 15 minutes from early morning until late evening, seven days a week.
“They will also continue to operate the Pakuranga Rd service (Botany, Cockle Bay, Howick, and Panmure). This route will continue to the City via the Motorway in peak periods, but off-peak will terminate at Panmure Interchange where customers will be able to transfer to either the Eastern Line train or the Botany to the City double-decker bus route.
“Although off-peak services (the middle of the day including weekends) along Pakuranga Rd will no longer run all the way to the City, they will operate twice as frequently as the current services – at least every 15 minutes instead of generally every 30 minutes.
Full details of the East Auckland New Network will be communicated to bus customers and households before the go-live date, starting with updated information on the Auckland Transport website in the next few weeks.
- The East Auckland New Network, which will change all bus routes east of the Tamaki River, was announced by Auckland Transport in June 2016 following public consultation in late 2015.
Q & A with Sheryll Otway, CEO Howick and Eastern Buses
Does renegotiation of the contract with AT mean that H& E Buses have lost some of the routes to Go Bus?
- These routes were tendered and in any tender process there is the likelihood of change.
Is it true that six bus routes that originally belonged to the iconic H & E buses in the area will soon be operated by Go Bus?
- We have certainly lost some iconic routes which are very disappointing
Will this affect the H & E bus service to the city?
- The tendering process does not affect the service delivery of any other routes.
Will Express buses at peak time still be operating as usual?
- Everything stays the same, but as we are all aware things are always subject to change.
Does the transfer of routes to Go Bus translate into less work for H & E drivers and less wages?
- Less work – well we have lost work, but drivers work under a 40 hour a week contract and that will not change.
Are you required to have buses painted in the AT colours and is the cost to be borne by the H & E Buses?
- Yes all buses must be painted to run within the new Public Transport Operating Model environment and vehicle specs are specific to the contract.