Horizons Regional Council says international shipping issues have delayed Palmerston North’s new electric bus fleet arriving in Aotearoa New Zealand, with subsequent flow-on impacts to the city’s new bus network.
Palmerston North and Ashhurst residents were to get the country’s first fully electric bus fleet at the same time their new frequent, fast, direct and easy-to-understand bus network launched on 19 February.
However, the rollout of the network will now be delayed until 4 March, the Council says.
Tranzit general manager of bus and coach, Jenna Snelgrove says while two of the company’s brand-new electric buses have been operating on the existing network from 19 January, the remaining tranche of new electric buses are currently enroute to New Zealand from China.
She says a shipping delay now means that this tranche of buses will be arriving behind schedule.
“It is disappointing that our Palmerston North community has to wait a little longer for their 100% electric bus fleet to be in service, but I’d like to assure them that when all 43 electric buses are on the road it’s going to be a positive game changer,” said Ms Snelgrove.
“Our team is very excited about continuing to deliver outstanding bus services for the Palmerston North community but soon it will be in a zero-emissions bus fleet.
“Tranzit was informed by our international shipping partner that the delay was a by-product of global shipping issues caused by shipping delays at the Panama Canal which have subsequently added to congestion to the Suez Canal and congestion in other ports.
“Our New Zealand family-owned bus and coach company had been prepared to receive the final tranche of electric buses in early January, but the shipping delay has pushed this time frame out by several weeks.”
Ms Snelgrove says her team has already begun preparing to ensure the new electric buses are network-ready.
This work includes installation of the Bee Card ticketing system, onboard telematics and certification paperwork.
The preparation comes after Tranzit has already installed chargers at its Palmerston North depot and employed a full quota of drivers to deliver the new network, said Ms Snelgrove.
“Locals in Palmy may have already seen our drivers out and about completing route familiarisation training on the new network and this training will continue until the new start date.”
Horizons Regional Council’s manager transport services, Mark Read says it’s unfortunate the shipping issue means the introduction of the new network will be pushed out by two weeks until 4 March.
“Other options were considered: running the new network without 15-minute frequency at peak times, or sourcing diesel buses from around the country to cover the shortfall in vehicles.
“Both those options are not ideal. Running 30-minute frequency all day could reduce frequency at peaks for some users, while buses from elsewhere would not have correct ticketing technology and be branded with other regions’ public transport networks. Both options would likely cause confusion, difficulty and frustration for passengers.
“We believe delaying until we can launch the network on the full timetable with a fully electric fleet will avoid confusion and ensure the new network runs as it should from the beginning.
“We are grateful to Tranzit for working hard on coming up with options, and for their work getting new shipping arranged at a difficult time of year while global supply chains are so constrained.
“While delayed start is unfortunately necessary, we’re excited for the new network to start and bring a more frequent, direct, easy-to-understand network to Palmy.
“We will be running free fares for a month from 4 March to give people another incentive to try out the new network,” he said.