Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Bus companies looking at new inter-city bus sites

InterCity bus parked at the SkyCity bus terminal.
InterCity bus parked at the SkyCity bus terminal.

Private bus companies have ideas for a new inter-city bus terminal in central Auckland, but the boss of one company wants to stay at SkyCity.

InterCity Bus chief executive John Thorburn said SkyCity works well for passengers, many of whom are elderly and unaccompanied children.

"The idea of having to switch modes with luggage and find your way into the city with a stop is really challenging," he said.

Almost every city in New Zealand and around the world has recognised there needs to be some kind of option of getting people in and out of the CBD
John Thorburn, InterCity chief executive

Thorburn was responding to a proposal from Auckland Transport to close the long-distance terminal at SkyCity and shift it 24km away to Manukau in South Auckland. Auckland Transport has ruled out seven alternative options in the CBD.

He said InterCity understands that Auckland Transport is facing challenges in the CBD with the city growing and multiple demands and appreciated the Manukau option is an attempt to find a solution.

"But from a passenger point of view we think it is critical to connect directly into the city in a seamless way. The Manukau option just doesn't achieve that."

Thorburn said there was not an obvious alternative in the central city, but there might be a couple of site ideas, which had costs attached to them.

Auckland Transport and council chief executive Stephen Town have said they had encouraged the Bus & Coach Association to find an alternative site for a bus terminal in the central city and would work with them on a proposal on the proviso little or no public money would be available to the private companies.

Thorburn would not say where the ideas for a site were, saying the companies did not have a clearly identified option and were still working on options. His preference was for InterCity to stay at SkyCity.

InterCity, which accounts for more than 300,000 of the 500,00 who use long-service bus services to and from Auckland, is based at SkyCity. Mana and Naked Bus use bus parks on Quay St.

A bus terminal at Queens Wharf or the old railway station near Vector Arena, was potentially viable, said Thorburn, but had challenges around ownership, plans for the sites and traffic and congestion constraints.

Thorburn said the bus companies were prepared to talk costs, but said long distance bus travel operated on low-cost fares and could not afford huge increases in costs.

"Almost every city in New Zealand and around the world has recognised there needs to be some kind of option of getting people in and out of the CBD. Whether that's a fully fledged terminal or just roadside stops everybody has found a solution for that," Thorburn said.

He said a condition, placed on the SkyCity site in 1992, recognised the need to ensure Auckland continued to have a long-distance bus location "and in our view that need hasn't changed".

SkyCity has to provide a long-distance bus terminal as a condition of its resource consent.

The former Auckland City Council, which owned the Hobson St casino site, did a deal with the casino developer, Brierley Investments, that swapped the Hobson St site for land Brierley owned in Symonds St after the company agreed to incorporate a long-distance bus terminal into the plans, which the land was designated for.

The condition indefinite, although SkyCity can seek a variation.

A SkyCity spokesman said it believed its building was not the best location for an inter-city bus terminal, but had not requested a variation. He did not say if it would do so this year.

Thorburn was optimistic a solution could be found to keep the inter-city buses in the central city.

"Increasingly people are becoming aware this is a really important issue and a key part of the transport infrastructure," he said.

- NZ Herald

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