Auckland's unreliable buses causing 'risky' journeys for students, staff and women travelling alone

Auckland's unreliable buses causing 'risky' journeys for students, staff and women travelling alone
Photo credit: Image: Getty Images

By Checkpoint, RNZ

Some North Shore school students are getting detentions because their buses are late or do not show up at all.

Some residents in Auckland's East Coast Bays say a severe shortage of buses is leaving people waiting for hours at bus stops.

Auckland Transport (AT) says the problem is a long standing shortage of drivers.

It was a full house at Mairangi Bay bowling club Monday night with public transport users sharing their busing woes and seeking answers from AT. 

Queues were building up the aisle as people lined up to get a word in. 

Many were parents and students. 

One woman was a solo parent and heavily reliant on the bus to get her son to Northcote College. 

"The 83 is non existent during school hours, it just doesn't turn up... it's like a ghost bus... meanwhile I'm at work," she said. 

Another person who worked at Long Bay College said public buses were constantly cancelled in the morning and the school bus was always full. 

"Because there's no public bus all the kids are on that bus and it will drive by the kids. 

"I go into school and tell them they will be late because they had to walk, but they still get a detention."

Safety was also a huge concern, one person said they were on a double decker recently when it had to make an emergency stop on the harbour bridge. 

"I can tell you it's dangerous, my bruises are now easing." 

Another woman said she was scared for her safety at night time. 

"I like to get home before dark, especially if I'm alone or if I'm far from home and the bus cancellations have made that extremely risky."

Not only were students late to school, many people said they were late to work. 

"I'm having to text my manager quite a bit saying look it's happening again I'm going to be late, there's sometimes where you've gotta spend your money on getting like an Uber," one person said. 

Auckland's unreliable buses causing 'risky' journeys for students, staff and women travelling alone
Photo credit: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Auckland Transport put all that down to a shortage of 363 drivers in Auckland. 

East Coast Bays MP and National's Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford said it was an issue Immigration Minister Michael Wood needed to take responsibility for. 

"When our borders opened up after Covid we just didn't get our work visa stream opened up quickly enough to get people in the country and so last year we saw the fact that not just only bus drivers, but people in all sectors of the economy you know, were desperately short of workers." 

Standord said recent changes to improve pathways for drivers to get residency was too little too late. 

"We knew we were hundreds short across the country and yet nothing was done till the end of last year." 

Metro Services group manager Darek Koper was confident new changes to immigration settings and a $61 million investment from the government to boost wages, would fill the gaps.  

He said the North Shore was a tricky area to attract local drivers to and to find accommodation for those coming from overseas. 

When asked about school children being left on the road and late for school, Koper admitted it was concerning. 

"I was disappointed to hear that reported we'll follow up on that and we will look at how we can prioritise school children to services even more."

Auckland Transport was pinning its hopes on September to be back at full capacity with drivers on the road.