A heavily discounted new weekly bus service trialled between Kaiwaka and Whangārei attracted a good response on its first run on a miserable day.
The Northland Regional Council has contracted Wellsford-based Leabourn Passenger Service to run the 12-month trial which started with 27 passengers on the first leg of the trip on Thursday last week.
A similar number utilised the service on the return trip, paying just $10 each way.
Leabourn general manager Lyndon Leabourn is "over the moon" with the initial response and expects the number of passengers to increase during school holidays and in summer.
His company is contracted to provide the service on a 35-seater bus but Leabourn said a 49-seater was used last week just in case there was a bigger demand.
"It was a cold, wet, and horrible day but the demand exceeded our expectation. No doubt, word will get out there and people will start using the service, which is critical if we are to maintain the service."
Leabourn was one of the passengers on the maiden trip and said the feedback he received from passengers, mostly senior citizens and a tourist from Kaikoura, was very positive.
"It's a good offer by NRC in that they will trial the service for one year, which is ample time to gauge the response, as opposed to a three-month trial. I think there'll be quite a bit of usage in the coming months.
"The service enables locals in Kaiwaka to attend to important business like going to their bank, hairdressers, or shopping in Whangārei during the day and catch the same bus back home that afternoon," he said.
It's the first of three rural services NRC is looking to trial in Whangārei and it is appealing for public support to make them viable.
Whangārei Heads and Hikurangi are the other routes being looked into.
The new service leaves Kaiwaka Hall at 9am on Thursdays via Mangawhai, Mangawhai Heads, Langs Beach, Waipu and Ruakaka and arrives into Whangārei at 10.50am.
The bus will return to Kaiwaka at 3pm, arriving at 4.50pm.
Last October, NRC introduced the gold coin fare of $2 adults and $1 children on CityLink routes in Whangārei and passenger numbers over the past six months went up between 4000 and 5000 compared with the same period last year. About 30,000 people use the public bus service in Whangārei every month.