Fare rise draws formal complaint

By Mathew Dearnaley

Bus commuter tells Commerce Commission it's insulting to increase fees when Hop system not working fully.

Commuter Joseph Shields' monthly fare has almost doubled. Photo / Chris Gorman
Commuter Joseph Shields' monthly fare has almost doubled. Photo / Chris Gorman

Auckland Transport faces a complaint to the Commerce Commission from a Green Bay bus passenger whose monthly fare has almost doubled.

The council body says new passes allow Joseph Shields and fellow disgruntled passengers on his Urban Express service to catch trains as well, and will ultimately let them ride on other companies' buses, anywhere between Drury and Waiwera.

That is because the $190 passes will cover unlimited bus and rail travel around two of three new regional zones on fares being progressively introduced with the electronic Hop card, although ferry trips will cost extra.

Single-zone travel on Urban Express services between central Auckland and Blockhouse Bay and on Birkenhead Transport buses on the North Shore costs $140 a month, and fares for three-zone trips to or from rural parts of the region will be $250 from the end of the year.

But Mr Shields, who previously paid $96 month to get to work as a fitter in central Auckland from west of Blockhouse Bay before rises of $4 in May and then of $90 in July, says the transport authority has jumped the gun by charging for services yet to be provided in full.

Hop has yet to be introduced to the city's main bus fleets after what Auckland Transport calls an "intermittent" problem with card readers on Birkenhead Transport services.

Already furious at the size of the increase, whatever extras may be provided, Mr Shields says his Commerce Commission complaint was triggered by being unable to use his new $190 pass for trips on NZ Bus services to and from surgery at Green Lane.

"How can this so-called council-controlled organisation rob me and others and provide nothing more than a private organisation [Urban Express] was happily doing for $100?" he asked the commission.

Reminded by the Herald that he would eventually be able to travel on other bus fleets, he said: "I have this funny little argument that says you don't charge me for a service until you provide that service."

Mr Shields has written to Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy, saying he owes him a refund on fares for which he had to pay extra cash.

Dr Levy wrote back that public transport in Auckland was in a transition, which would cause "some element of disruption" while inconsistencies in fares around the region were dealt with.

But he said a comprehensive review of fares was under way, which he hopes will be completed for more attractive prices to be introduced early next year.

Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee has accused Dr Levy of trying "to pass the blame for the recent rather savage public transport fare increases which have occurred under his leadership on to others".

That follows a comment by Dr Levy that regional planning documents had since 2006 prescribed "a unified fare product across all public transport operators".

Dr Levy insisted Auckland Transport was marching to the beat set in 2006, but it was because of his concern about fares that he had ordered a review.

Although some Aucklanders had enjoyed "historically incredibly low fares" unavailable to others, only 3 per cent, including North Shore students, faced increases.

New monthly bus and train fares

*$140 Single zone
*$190 Two-zone
*$250 Three-zone

- NZ Herald

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