The chief executive of ManaBus.com is full of praise for Tauranga City Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's services in getting the company's new return route to Auckland up and running.
The two organisations were "very helpful", said Geoff Norman in an on-board interview during Friday's inaugural trip.
In contrast to some councils around the country, the process for registering the service and securing access to local bus-stops had been "fast and seamless" in Tauranga, he said.
The first Tauranga-Auckland return trip saw about 20 passengers travelling on each leg of the journey on one of the six new 79-seat luxury double-decker buses built by Tauriko-based Kiwi Bus Builders for ManaBus's new North Island express services.
Most of the passengers paid about $4 for their trip, said Mr Norman.
ManaBus.com operates a demand-driven online booking model in which seat prices go up as the buses fill. The company says it is committed to remaining competitive with other bus companies offering national services, including Naked Bus and Inter City.
The buses, which are built on a Volvo chassis, feature Italian-built reclinable leather seats, and provide access to WiFi and 230-volt power at each seat. The buses seat 18 downstairs, including two four-seater positions with tables, and 71 upstairs. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
By early next year ManaBus.com would be making a decision on whether to commission more of the purpose-built coaches from Kiwi Bus Builders, he said, depending on demand. Mr Norman said the company was encouraged by the fact that its Auckland to Wellington service hit 60 per cent capacity on Saturday after only two weeks of operations. That reflected passenger numbers of close to 50 for the double-deckers, comparable to a full load for most of the buses operated by its competitors, he said.
"We have greater economies of scale," he said. "We can make money on volume because we can take 30 more passengers than our competitors."
Bill Rae, chairman of ManaBus.com's owner Souter Holdings New Zealand, said that the company was focused on the massive market for getting people out of their cars and into public transport, rather than on competing with rival business companies.
The ManaBus.com model had succeeded in several countries, including Poland and Finland, developed by transport entrepreneur Sir Brian Souter.
"Everyone gets sidetracked by the fact that there's already another bus operator, or two operators, but that's missing the point. The market for moving people out of their cars and on to public transport is huge, absolutely enormous. There's room for more than one operator," said Mr Rae.