Hundreds of complaints and other forms of feedback have been received by the regional council since the launch of the new Tauranga and Western Bay bus network – with late buses and route changes two of the common criticisms.

It comes as real-time monitoring data shows almost 20 per cent of the buses have been late, and new operator NZ Bus is still looking to fill 40 permanent driver positions in the city.

Figures released by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council show there has been a total of 541 "pieces of feedback" since the launch of the new network on December 10.

The council said 241 complaints had been received through the call centre and website, with the three most common grievances being late buses, bus route changes and bus stops "i.e. no shelters".

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There were also about 300 texts from people received through a feedback platform.

Of the 541 pieces of feedback, 105 were about buses not running on time, nine were complaints about drivers, and 83 were regarding the changes to services and routes.

"The majority of requests have been focused on reinstating service from Maungatapu to the CBD and from Pāpāmoa residents travelling to the CBD and the transfers required," Rachel Pinn, the regional council's programme leader of passenger transport, said.

She said there had been a lot of positive feedback about the comfort and air conditioning in the buses.

"There has also been positive feedback from passengers whose routes are now more direct like the 70 in Matua."

Regular bus user Debs Turner, who is in her 50s and lives in Papamoa Beach, told the Bay of Plenty Times that she had not heard any positive feedback about the new network from fellow passengers.

On one occasion she said she got to the bus stop 10 minutes early, but her bus never arrived.

On another occasion, Turner said she waited for more than 45 minutes for a bus.

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She said she had heard similar stories from others as well - about buses being late, not turning up or about drivers not knowing where they're going.

"Hopefully things improve," Turner said.

Another bus user, Maisie O'Rafferty, said she was a bit confused by the new network at first.

"But I say it's fine. I mean, you still drop off in the same areas, so it's fine; it's good," the 18-year-old from Greerton said.

"The buses all look the same; they seem the same. I don't have anything to complain about."

Maisie O'Rafferty, 18, says she was a bit confused by the new bus network at first, but overall has no complaints. Photo / Andrew Warner
Maisie O'Rafferty, 18, says she was a bit confused by the new bus network at first, but overall has no complaints. Photo / Andrew Warner

The council has monitored the reliability of the buses using real-time monitoring, and that shows 53.5 per cent have been on time, 19.5 per cent have been late and 27 per cent have been early.

"We have cross-checked this with manual monitoring which shows around 80 per cent on time," Pinn said.

"It is likely the buses starting early are doing so to try and keep on schedule for the remainder of the journey. Tolerance is one minute on early and five minutes on late. Our manual monitoring had a tolerance of nine minutes."

Pinn also noted that the bus services operated in the same congestion as other vehicles and as a result, could experience delays "beyond our control".

She said the three best performing routes, in order, were Matua, Ōtumoetai and The Boulevard.

Since December 10, the BayBus call centre has taken more than 2000 calls.

The busiest day was the day the new bus network launched, when 321 calls were answered.

The majority of queries were answered by the call centre, Pinn said, and feedback from 219 callers was forwarded to the council.

"This feedback was wide ranging including asking for more information about school buses, shelters and transferring," she said.

Meanwhile, NZ Bus still has 40 permanent positions available of the 156 required.

Pinn said those positions were being filled and there were 30 drivers starting training school on January 7.

There were also 17 drivers from NZ Bus' other operations in town while "this recruitment gap is addressed".

The Bay of Plenty Times attempted to contact NZ Bus for comment yesterday.

Just how many people are taking the bus?

There were 45,327 boardings between December 10 and December 19, according to Bay of Plenty Regional Council figures.

That is an increase of 624 boardings when compared to the 10 days before the launch of the new bus network.

The regional council has said it will continue to monitor performance and expects patronage to increase gradually.

"Although early indications are positive with such a short timeframe it is not possible to identify long-term trends," Rachel Pinn, programme leader of passenger transport, said.