Issues with the rollout of Tauranga's new bus network have left students stranded on their first days back at school.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council-led service, which launched on December 10 with new routes and a new contractor, has attracted hundreds of complaints from bus users.

This week students using the public network and a free-fare trial service for Welcome Bay schoolchildren have faced no-show and late buses, prompting complaints from parents.

The regional council has pointed to a driver shortage as the main cause of the issues. On Monday, the first day back for hundreds of students, a fifth of trips did not run as there were too few drivers.


Welcome Bay parent Karen McCabe said she had to driver her 13-year-old son to school three times after he was left stranded on Osprey Dr waiting for a bus to Bethlehem College.

"This service isn't acceptable."

Poike resident Kerry Abel said she and another parent had to drive five Aquinas College students to school on Thursday after waiting 45 minutes for a bus.

When she complained, she said she was told the contractor had forgotten to dispatch a bus to the route.

Both were using the free trial.

Regional council passenger transport programme leader Rachel Pinn said the council was working with contractor NZ Bus to resolve some issues with school services.

"We are confident that the school bus routes will settle down as drivers become familiar with the various routes and timetables."

She said timetables may have to be changed until NZ Bus had a full roster of drivers.


Anna Larsen, on the Welcome Bay Transport Forum, said the service had a few "teething issues" but she believed it would prove successful once they were ironed out.

On the plus side, the buses were full and more students were using the service than before, she said.

"This time last year, those buses were empty."

Aquinas College principal Matt Dalton said the school had received complaints about free buses not following routes, missing students' stops and not running to timetable.

The school supported the trial but he said the issues needed to be resolved "for the safety and wellbeing of our students".

Tauranga Girls' College principal Tara Kanji said some buses involved in the trial filled up so fast a second bus had been arranged.

"Other buses were well behind their schedules or had incorrect information on their website, which made the first few days of bus travel problematic for some of our girls and their families," she said. "We appreciate that new systems take time."

Delwyn Koce said she picked up her 14-year-old daughter from a Bayfair bus stop on Friday at 6.30pm after the first of her three buses to Te Puke was late and the third never arrived.

A regional council spokesman said a number of hospital link and city link trips were dropped on February 1 due to a shortage of drivers and the council was looking at better solutions for students in Te Puke.

The council's Public Transport Committee will meet on Friday. Committee chair Lyall Thurston said they would discuss the trial.

NZ Bus chief operating officer Claire Neville told the Bay of Plenty Times last week the driver shortage was a national problem, reflecting a difficult labour market and close to zero unemployment.

Free bus trial uptake
The number of Welcome Bay students who had a free ride on Monday was:
- 109 in the morning
- 121 in the afternoon
- 230 in total
Source: Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Bus complaints
December 10 – January 29 2019
- 365 complaints
- Top three issues: Late bus/bus did not run, bus did not stop, driver behaviour
- 137 requests for changes to the service and routes
- 69 complaints about infrastructure
Source: Bay of Plenty Regional Council