Public transport woes as commuters head back to work

Heading back to work could cause more headaches for commuters this week as the country grapples with an ongoing bus driver shortage.

People have been cramming onto buses in the capital, leaving some travellers stranded at stops as they reach capacity.

"It's been completely packed," one traveller told 1News.

Another said he has had to sit out in the rain waiting for his bus to come and has been late to work almost every day this year.

Wellington buses have been operating on a reduced schedule this month to give drivers a break over the summer period.

But, there is some good news for those returning to work this week - Metlink is adding more services to its temporary January timetable ahead of the reintroduction of its full timetable on January 28.

It comes after 180 routes were temporarily suspended in October last year to provide certainty to commuters.

"We're essentially cutting out cloth to be able to provide the services that the size of the driver workforce at the moment can provide," Chair of Greater Wellington's Transport Committee Thomas Nash told 1News.

He says the suspended services won't be fully restored until more drivers are recruited and fully trained.

Auckland, Tauranga, Christchurch and Otago are all short of drivers too.

"Essentially, NZ is still 800 drivers short nationwide, and Queenstown, with its challenging accommodation, and high living costs, has proven particularly difficult for recruitment of drivers locally," said Otago Regional Council Interim Chief Executive Pim Borren

A recent recruitment drive, along with most regions increasing driver wages to $28 an hour, is hoped to plug the gaps.

NZBus said Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin should soon see new drivers behind the wheel of their local buses.

Owner of NZ Bus and Go Bus, Kinetic, said there are 200 applicants for Auckland, 100 for Wellington, 30 for Tauranga, and 30 for Christchurch.

However, the Head of Kinetic in NZ, Calum Haslop, said not all our successful applicants can start immediately.

"Unfortunately, delays can occur at many stages of the process. For those coming from overseas, getting immigration approval can sometimes take more time than we would like, and police approvals often do not come quickly either."


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