Bus service loss angers pupils

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From Go Bus to no bus . . . Bayfield High School pupil Phoebe Whittam and King's High School pupil Daniel Penniket wait for the bus with other pupils in Broad Bay on Wednesday morning. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Peninsula high school pupils are “angry” at the loss of their daily Go Bus service.

Go Bus announced last week its Otago Peninsula and Port Chalmers school services would cease on the last day of term 3, September 29, later saying the services were no longer financially viable.

Bayfield High School pupil Phoebe Whittam (15) said she was “shocked and obviously quite frustrated” at the cancellation and was thinking about starting a petition urging Go Bus to keep the service or for a school bus service to be provided by other means.

She had contacted Go Bus and was told the services would stop for “financial reasons” and the Otago Regional Council’s bus changes would duplicate the school bus route. “Most of us feel that that’s not true.”

To catch the ORC-contracted bus, many would have to get up at 6.30am, cross busy roads, wait for another bus, face a long walk to school and get home later.

On Wednesday morning, The StarĀ met a group of pupils at a Broad Bay bus stop, who could not understand how the service was not making money.

About 30 pupils caught the bus daily, there were often two afternoon buses to get pupils home, and pupils were each paying $35 each week for tickets.

King’s High School pupil Daniel Penniket (15) wondered how pupils and commuters would “cram” into the ORC-contracted bus.

Harington Point resident Nicola McGrouther said she was “shocked and surprised that there was no consultation” before the service was cancelled.

Her son Cameron (17), who attends King’s High School, would now drive to school as the “alternative was not feasible”.

Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope said the lack of consultation was disappointing and the changes were difficult for families.

“They have to come out and explain the situation to parents and the community.”

Go Bus South Island operations director Nigel Piper said in a statement on Tuesday as the number of people in Port Chalmers and on the peninsula using the bus services had dropped, Go Bus was no longer making enough money to cover running costs and the services were “no longer viable to operate”.

The services operated on a commercial basis and did not receive a subsidy from the NZ Transport Authority, Ministry of Education or Otago Regional Council.

“The decision to cease operation of these routes was made with much regret and taken only after a thorough review and consideration,” Mr Piper said.

ORC support services manager Gerard Collings said in a statement on Tuesday the council was surprised by the “sudden and short notice” given by Go Bus and staff were working on possible options, which could include the services being subsidised by schools, the MOE or the ORC.

“We understand that Go Bus’s announcement has put communities under strain and want to work towards finding solutions to enable safe public transport options to school and back.”