Troubled Art Deco buses on the road to recovery

By Doug Laing

Napier's troubled Art Deco buses were expected to be on the move to a workshop in Tauranga today - but their wheels weren't expected to roll in the Bay until after Christmas.

Numerous problems were identified in testing after the second-hand remodelled buses arrived in New Zealand and Napier City Council chief executive Neil Taylor said he was aware of rumours that their condition was even worse.

He said he could see how rumours could have developed, because many people will have seen the buses on roads from Wellington to Hawke's Bay.

One rumour was the buses struggled to climb Wellington's Ngauranga Gorge, but he believed that at the time they were being driven to according to "express" instructions that with "brand new motors" and the engines were not to be "over-revved".

It was the only time they've been allowed to be driven on the road in New Zealand so far, under exemption to travel between the Port in Wellington and a Vehicle Testing station in Porirua.

There'd also been rumour of a breakdown on the way to Hawke's Bay, but Mr Taylor said that once a VTNZ inspector determined the buses were not yet roadworthy, they were transported to Hawke's Bay aboard trailers, from Mana Transport in Porirua to the Whakatu depot of Nimon, the firm contracted to operate the buses once they're in service.

Mr Taylor was unaware of any suggestion the buses do not meet width and length specifications for New Zealand roads.

The compiling of a complete "list" of what has to be done to get the buses operating is being left to Tauranga company Kiwi Bus Builders, who Mr Taylor was making space and resources available under urgency, to get the work completed as soon as possible.

Safety issues include faulty indicators, seating and belts, and a missing spare wheel.

It had been intended to have the buses available for the whole summer, and Mr Taylor said: "I'm starting to feel more comfortable that they will be in use sometime during the summer."

Commenting on calls for "heads to roll," apparently among people who'd opposed the purchase and service from the outset, Mr Taylor maintained his ultimate responsibility to get the buses on the road within the budget.

"If the council want to talk to me about it as an employment issue, they can," he said. "But I haven't heard any talk of it."

He said he's responsible for numerous contracts for work being done currently for the council, and added: "Have I got a contract with as many problems as with these buses? No."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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