Auckland Transport has defended its attempts to axe school buses, saying it can cost an extra $50,000 to $100,000 a year to operate an extra bus often only needed on a single school route.

AT says more than 70 per cent of students catch regular public transport to school and the council body provides school buses where there is no suitable public option.

The Herald has learned of parents pulling their children off buses and driving them to school as part of a new central city bus network that came into effect on July 8.

Many routes operated either morning or afternoon only, with no equivalent service at other times of days

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This drew a raft of complaints from the loss of school buses and other changes from the rollout of new bus networks across the city.

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Among the complaints are the loss of school buses to the cluster of public and private schools in Epsom, loss of school buses and changes to bus routes affecting students at Sacred Heart and Glendowie colleges, and the axing of a bus service used by the elderly to attend the Green Lane Clinical Centre.

It follows a similar outrage in East Auckland last year that forced AT to reinstate some school buses and improve other bus services after more than 1400 parents signed a petition. AT admitted it "could have done a better job" in engaging with parents earlier.

An AT spokesman said as part of the new bus network, AT had to assess whether or not school bus services should continue or change.

MacLeans College students(from left) Angela Zhang, Justin Hu and Cole Stranaghan have complained about overcrowding on fewer school buses.
MacLeans College students(from left) Angela Zhang, Justin Hu and Cole Stranaghan have complained about overcrowding on fewer school buses.

In some cases, public routes were found to be better for schools, some of which had been increased to cater for higher demand around school times. In other cases, more school bus services had been provided.

"The previous school bus network had not been comprehensively reviewed in a long time.

"Many routes operated either morning or afternoon only, with no equivalent service at other times of days. This resulted in a complex system that was not easy for students or parents to understand," the spokesman said.

He gave the example of MacLeans College at Bucklands Beach where students have complained of afternoon services being axed.

MacLeans had two school buses in the morning and four in the afternoon. Now they have three in the morning and three in the afternoon, the spokesman said.

"All public transport is paid for from the same budget. There is demand for more spending in all areas of Auckland. An extra bus for MacLeans College would mean a bus being taken from somewhere else."

Clyde St traffic at the end of school day for Diocesan School for Girls in Epsom, Auckland. 8 August 2018 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Michael Craig.
Clyde St traffic at the end of school day for Diocesan School for Girls in Epsom, Auckland. 8 August 2018 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Michael Craig.

The AT spokesman said that some schools only learned of the changes after they had been planned, saying AT has acknowledged that better consultation with schools could have been undertaken before changes were made.

Reuben Barclay, who has been working with AT on changes affecting Glendowie and Sacred Heart colleges, said the changes were published as a fait accompli on May 15, only weeks before being implemented on July 8.