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Published: 2010-04-07 00:00:00

Environment Waikato and its partners on the Regional Passenger Transport Committee are working on solutions to overcrowding on the increasingly popular Orbiter bus service in Hamilton.

The committee heard yesterday that growing school rolls - due to new students and more young people staying in education - and increased demand generally had all contributed to fuller buses on the clockwise and anti-clockwise Orbiter routes which circle Hamilton.

Overcrowding problems with frustrated passengers unable to be picked up were particularly evident on the morning anti-clockwise route, the committee heard.

Another example of the problems was that it was taking up to an hour for Orbiter buses to clear passengers from Hamilton Boys High School in the afternoon.

EW’s land transport operations manager Bevan Dale told the committee potential solutions included diverting buses from another route to take pressure off the Orbiter and using extra and bigger buses.

The committee passed a resolution supporting EW’s efforts to find solutions, including the seeking of additional funding. Mr Dale said it was possible EW’s CEO may need to make a special submission to the 2010-11 draft annual plan process if more funding was required.

Committee chairman Norm Barker, of EW, said afterwards he was keen to see urgent solutions worked out between the regional council, Hamilton City Council and other stakeholders.

"It’s not acceptable that people are having to wait too long for an available bus. We will be working as quickly as we can to fix things up."

Meanwhile, Mr Dale reported to the committee on a project initiated by the Minister of Transport to examine increased commercialisation of public transport, with subsidy support for only those routes that are non-profitable.

Committee members raised a range of concerns about this, including a feeling that passenger bus services would never be fully commercial in New Zealand.

There was also concern from committee deputy chair Paula Southgate, of EW, that greater commercialisation might let companies "cherry pick" easier to run peak routes, thereby reducing an effective cross-subsidy they might provide for other services.