Wellington.Scoop » Regional Council welcomes support for public ownership of transport assets

Press release – Greater Wellington Regional Council
The Regional Council warmly welcomes the announcement by Transport Minister Michael Wood of the new sustainable public transport framework.

The announcement comes just over a year after the council called in its Public Transport Operating Model (OCT) submission for a significant change to place transport assets under the control of regional councils to create greater flexibility in the provision of quality public transport services.

“We strongly argued then, and still do, that for regional councils to be truly strategic in planning and delivering world-class public transport, we need to have stronger control of critical infrastructure such as buses, depots and charging infrastructure,” says Greater Wellington. Cr Daran Ponter chair.

Owning, or at least controlling, these assets is key to minimizing risk in the delivery of public transport, which has been hit hard in the Wellington region by driver shortages that have hampered service delivery.

“We are pleased to see a strong signal from the government that they will support regional council ownership and enable the sector to reset public transport.

“Building the trust and pride of our communities in our public transport is key to increasing ridership and generating mode change, which will only come if we change some of the underlying frameworks.

Initially, Greater Wellington will focus on prioritizing strategic assets needed for ownership and provision by the regional council – which will initially include bus parking and charging infrastructure.

Cr Ponter also agreed with Minister Wood that the change would lead to more stable services supported by better terms and conditions for drivers and more innovation in service delivery.

“As a regional council, we have had to operate under OCTs, but have gradually moved from its strictly commercial and low-cost principles to a more practical approach to supporting bus driver terms and conditions to support a sustainable service.”

Greater Wellington’s decision to back driver wages at $27 an hour was key to driver retention and managing – as much as possible under current conditions – cancellation rates. Within the new framework, there may be the flexibility to make driving an attractive career.

Innovation in service development is also vital and has also occurred outside the OCTs. The new on-demand service trial in Tawa, for example, has the potential to take public transport to the next level. It is hoped that the new sustainable public transport framework will give regional councils the tools to be more innovative in developing the transport network that communities want.

Greater Wellington Transport Committee Chairman Cr Roger Blakeley says eventual ownership of the bus fleet, either directly or through a council-controlled organisation, could provide benefits such as greater great flexibility and agility in the distribution of the bus fleet to meet demand.

“It’s a long-term aspiration, but ownership will enable a more strategic and cost-effective approach to sourcing and financing fleet purchases, reduce private profit margins, and ensure security and continued availability of the floats in our area.

“We look forward to building a model based on more active ownership by the councils of major public transport infrastructure, which will better balance the risk profile for the public good. The overall result will be a stronger, more reliable and more resilient fleet and service,” says Cr. Blakeley.

Content sourced from scoop.co.nz
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Elna M. Lemons