Transport plan tackles bus network

Patronage of Invercargill's bus service has declined since service changes were introduced in 2012. Photo: File

A PROPOSED Southland public transport plan aims to tackle declining passenger numbers, environmental goals and accessibility while improving value for money.

The draft Southland Regional Public Transport Plan is now open for consultation and, when implemented, will set the future direction of public transport in the region for the next decade.

It included short and medium-term actions to address priorities.

These included simplifying the Invercargill bus network, improving travel times and giving more people access to key destinations, implementing an Invercargill BusSmart terminus and investigating low-emission vehicles, alternative fuels and other technologies.

The Invercargill bus contract would also be re-tendered before it ran out in 2022.

Prepared by Invercargill City Council (ICC), under delegation from Environment Southland (ES), the proposal includes contributions from councils across the region.

They partnered with Southland’s public transport operator and small passenger vehicle companies to determine a collective approach which responded to changing public transport needs and priorities.

The plan notes the region has a high percentage of older people, children and people with disabilities for whom public transport provides vital access to work, education, shops, social and health facilities.

“Outside the Invercargill urban area, communities are dispersed, leaving many physically isolated from basic community services and vulnerable to changing circumstances.”

It says patronage of Invercargill’s bus service had declined since service changes were introduced in 2012.

“This plan aims to reverse that trend by implementing network and timetable changes in Invercargill that will make services more convenient for more people more of the time.”

Invercargill’s bus service carried 183,000 passengers in the 2018-19 financial year, a decline of 32% over the 2013-14 financial year.

The new network was made up of three through-routes, all running via the CBD.

One route would run from Waikiwi to Newfield, another from Hargest to Strathern and the last between Glengarry and Kingswell.

The service would run on weekdays from 7.45am to 5.20pm, with a 30-minute weekday peak frequency.

Off-peak frequency would be 60 minutes, the same as on Saturdays.

With the national aim to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, the plan notes there are challenges and opportunities.

ICC aimed to work with operators to start a conversation about sustainable transport.

Submissions could be sent to Environment Southland before Monday, April 12.