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Trial Whangarei Heads transport service to end late January

9 Dec 2021, 2:17 PM

Very low passenger numbers, made worse by the ongoing Covid epidemic, are behind a ‘reluctant’ decision to end a trial year-long Whangarei Heads public transport service from early next year.

Chair of the Northland Regional Transport Committee Rick Stolwerk says the Northland Regional Council – which administers both services – began separate trials for the Whangarei Heads and Hikurangi areas late last year.

Cr Rick Stolwerk.Rick Stolwerk, Chair, Northland Regional Transport Committee.“Unfortunately, in the case of ‘Whangarei Heads Link’ the public support – and associated passenger numbers – just wasn’t high enough to make this weekly service viable.”

Matters hadn’t been helped by a variety of Covid-related restrictions over the past year, including lockdowns.

Faced with ongoing low numbers – including more than one occasion when the 25-seater bus had made the trip with no passengers at all – the council had effectively been left with no practical alternative to the planned 27 January 2022 closure.

The service – with a fare of $5 each way – leaves at 9am from the corner of Reotahi and Whangarei Heads Rd travelling to Whangarei’s Rose St bus terminus (with several stops along the way) on a Thursday. Its return trip leaves the terminus at 1.30pm the same day.

Councillor Stolwerk says while the council had reluctantly made the decision to end Whangarei Heads Link, at this stage a decision had been made to continue with the ‘Hikurangi Link’ service for at least another six months.

However, he urged those keen to see the latter continue longer term to patronise it as much as possible.

“As with all trials, Hikurangi Link is very much a case of ‘use it or lose it’. We need to see a roughly 35% percent increase in use to make it viable longer term.”

While passenger numbers were not as high as the council would like, at this point they were just high enough to continue the service for another few months. A final decision on Hikurangi Link would likely be made in July 2022.

Hikurangi Link leaves Whangarei’s inner city Rose St bus terminus at 9.15am on Thursdays bound for Hikurangi Town Centre arriving about 9.50am and stopping opposite The Miners Rest. (It then travels back to Rose St.)

En route for Hikurangi the bus stops at 509 Kamo Road and at 410 Kamo Rd on its return trip to Whangarei Central, where it usually arrived at the terminus about 10.25am.

After feedback from some passengers and the Hikurangi Business Association, the regional council will look at diverting to the Hub and Okara Park Shopping Centre on request.

Councillor Stolwerk says the roughly 35-to-40-minute trips on Hikurangi Link with a fare of $3 each way and were designed to cater largely to people heading to the city wanting to shop and/or meet medical and other appointments.

Timetables and wider information about both services can be found at online at www.buslink.co.nz