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Published: 2007-09-17 00:00:00

The proposed new bus network for Hamilton has been given the thumbs up after a hearings committee heard public submissions on Environment Waikato’s Draft Regional Passenger Transport Plan.

The plan – which outlined more buses, to more places, more often to help commuters get about the city easier and relieve traffic congestion – was largely left intact by the committee.

However, as a result of public submissions, the committee has recommended to Environment Waikato that buses continue to service five Hamilton streets that the draft plan did not include.

The streets which will see bus services retained, as a result of public submissions, are: Claude St, Claudelands; Wellington St, Hamilton East; Knighton Rd, Hillcrest; Pelorus St, Glenview; Lloyd St, Nawton.

“We’ve decided these streets should stay on their respective routes due to submissions arguing their removal would make it much harder for people to get the bus,” said the hearings committee chairman, Environment Waikato councillor Angus Macdonald.

“We were impressed by submissions saying how much people valued having bus stops close by so that they could easily access services.

“It had been suggested buses should no longer go down the five Hamilton streets so that bus routes would be straighter and therefore quicker. But the committee felt it was important that, for the areas concerned, convenience needed to be balanced with the importance of journey time.”

However, the committee decided to stick with taking Enderley Ave in Enderley out of the bus network in order to shorten the route to ensure timetable reliability, and service timeliness. The committee felt the street’s residents would not face any major disadvantage as the Fifth Ave stop was within walking distance.

Meanwhile, a proposal to run buses down Rutherford Tce in Hukanui, has been shelved after the committee heard submitters’ concerns on buses navigating this narrow street.

The amended plan has been endorsed by the multi-agency Regional Land Transport Committee and will go to the full Environment Waikato council for adoption.

Once implemented, the plan will result in Hamilton’s bus network being significantly expanded over two years, with extended hours of operation and Sunday services. New routes planned for implementation between 2008 and 2013 include a loop service for eastern suburbs and a new Rhode Park service, and there will be investigations into a service to the airport. There will also be new quick Direct services from the city to Western Heights, Glenview, Hillcrest, Silverdale, The Base, Pukete ,Te Rapa and Flagstaff.

“We are confident the new services will help make it easier for people to move around the city and they will help ease traffic congestion,” said Cr Macdonald.

Cr Macdonald said Environment Waikato would keep the passenger transport needs of growing Hamilton and the wider region under close scrutiny.

“We’ll continue to work cooperatively with our partners – especially Hamilton City Council and other local authorities – on meeting the Waikato’s passenger transport needs.

“In light of a number of submissions to the committee suggesting a greater user pays approach to passenger transport, one of the issues we will clearly have to consider is what happens to fares over the longer-term. We need to be careful not to set fares so high they are a disincentive to bus use, but we need to be mindful of trying to keep passenger transport rate rises down.”

The hearings committee comprised Crs Angus Macdonald and Paula Southgate of Environment Waikato, Cr John Gower of Hamilton City Council and Cr Andrew Welch of Taupo District Council.