Bus failures pushing Queenstowners back into their cars

by Lauren Pattemore - Feb 26, 2024

Cancelled and delayed bus services have ramped up in number in the past few weeks causing Queenstown residents to revert to using their personal vehicles to get around town.

Otago Regional Councillor Alexa Forbes says she's received emails from locals telling her they've lost trust in the bus system and are going back to their cars.

"It's very difficult for me to ask people to stay with it when it's unreliable - an unreliable bus service is almost as bad as no bus service."

Crux understands there have been multiple 30-minute delays in the past two weeks.

Ms Forbes says bus service contractor Ritchies is trying its best to employ more staff, but there's nowhere to house them - even temporarily. 

"I know they have another six drivers that they want to bring in but there's nowhere to put them...(even) the hotels are full because it's peak season.

"Queenstown has been absolutely slammed with this really, really busy Lunar New Year time."

She says this popular tourist time has put a lot of pressure on Queenstown's services, and on roads, where the network is already impacted by multiple roadworks. 

And it's bus drivers who have to bear the brunt of people's frustrations at the service, or lack of it.

"Things are very difficult for the drivers, and they're not particularly happy. There's a lot of stress and a lot of pressure because of the staff shortages.

"That makes life really hard for them and, of course, they face the stress of everybody who is angry. It's tough."

Ms Forbes says she's not privy to individual employment matters, and if there's been any resignations recently.

She understands why locals are increasingly opting for private transport over public, and she empathises with their frustrations.

"It can be disastrous for people when busses don't show up."

However, she notes that the service hasn't been as impacted as much as it was this time last year, when Queenstown was seeing as many as 50 cancellations a day.

Otago Regional Council transport manager Lorraine Cheyne says, "We are expecting to see our usual service reliability resumed very soon."

She says that bus cancellations will always be notified on the council's website.

Today, the website has four cancellations listed for Queenstown.

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