Whenever a debate appears on here around the benefits of one particular mode or another, inevitably someone will complain about the way buses can be driven. Having customers feel comfortable on a bus is incredibly important so it was pleasing to see that steps are being taken to improve that. The Herald reports:
Operator hopes feedback system will improve passengers’ safety and comfort.
Auckland’s largest bus operator is promising passengers smoother rides from “black boxes” to monitor drivers’ performance.
NZ Bus says the equipment being rolled out initially on its North Shore fleet is primarily for drivers to keep an eye on their own performance.
It will allow them to correct their driving if any of five lights on a vertical console to the right of their steering wheels turns from green to amber or – in extreme cases such as emergency braking or lurching too fast around corners – to red.
The five factors measured by the lights are rider comfort in terms of cornering, engine idling, braking, acceleration and speeding.
But the company can also download data for driver training and fuel efficiency purposes from the telematic machines it expects to install on most of its 1000 or so buses in Auckland, Whangarei and Wellington by the end of the year.
This sounds like a wonderful idea as a way to improve the passenger comfort levels as it allows drivers to actively change their behaviour as they drive. As I started reading the article though my first thought was a concern that drivers union might oppose the idea but I was pleasantly surprised to see them getting right in behind this initiative too.
Although black box cockpit voice recorders in aircraft became controversial among pilots in the 1990s after their use in court action, bus union leaders are giving the project qualified approval, after being assured the company will have a “conversation” with any staff needing to mend their ways before it resorts to any disciplinary action.
Auckland Tramways Union president Gary Froggatt believes most drivers will welcome the innovation, which the company says will complement its “Pathways to Safer Driving” programme – in which it is in the midst of providing 18 hours of refresher training across four modules including customer service, and driving and personal safety.
“I don’t think the disciplinary process will be invoked at all – the drivers in most cases will listen to what they are being told,” Mr Froggatt said.
“It will improve the performance of the drivers and hopefully cut down on the amount of speeding tickets they are getting.”
He said monitoring lights coupled with beeps when buses are travelling too fast would help to make up for an absence of a 50km/h mark on speedometers in the company’s predominantly European-made fleet.
I really love the part slightly later in the article where it is mentioned that some drivers are now actively competing with each other to see how long they can keep the various lights green. There’s nothing like a good bit of healthy competition to make things better for passengers. All up it seems like a really positive step so well done NZ Bus and hopefully we will see other bus companies roll out the same, or similar technology to help improve the experience for passengers.
Yay some good news at last in the long running pay dispute between NZ Bus and their drivers. The two parties have finally come to an arrangement which means no more threats of strikes or industrial action.
NZ Bus making progress in culture change
NZ Bus has been in negotiations with representatives of the Auckland Tramways Union and First Union for the past 6 months to agree a new Collective Agreement (CA) for their members.
“NZ Bus continues to make great progress as it moves forward with its investment programme in Health and Safety, Training, new and upgraded facilities and new fleet” says Shane McMahon COO NZ Bus
NZ Bus is pleased to announce that at ratification meetings held last week, Tramways and First Union members voted to accept the new Collective Agreement.
“ A significant effort has been underway in this business over the last few years to reshape the Values and deliver on our commitment to “RELIABILITY” to our customers, staff, partners and shareholders and this will continue at speed with a new collective agreement in place in Auckland” Mr. McMahon concluded.
NZ bus is delighted that the offer to staff has been supported and would like to thank customers for their patience and understanding.
One thing that came out on the weekend was that the bus drivers once again rejected the latest offer from NZ Bus. Here is the recent press release issued today by the company.
Mediation Confirms Final Offer
NZ Bus has been involved in negotiations with Tramways and First Union since May this year to agree a new Collective Agreement.
At Mediation today the Company confirmed its final offer. It has now reached agreement with the unions twice on what terms of the new collective should be. Both those agreements have been accepted by the unions and recommended by them to the members. The CTU have also been involved and Helen Kelly has recommended acceptance.
The latest recommendation for a settlement was accepted by about half the unions’ members in a ballot last week. Unfortunately, because the unions require a 60% vote the deal was not ratified.
The unions and the company returned to mediation today to discuss how to get past the problem that the on two occasions now deals which have been struck at the table, and recommended and endorsed by the unions, have not been supported by enough of their members. There comes a point where we cannot continue to increase the offer because we become uncompetitive.
It appears that some drivers will simply not accept that a fair or final deal has been struck until they have tested the company by taking industrial action. This is frustrating for both the company and the unions.
At mediation today the company again re-affirmed that it has made its best offer. Unfortunately, it appears that industrial action may now follow.
NZ Bus appreciates the work that the unions, and the CTU have been doing. They have achieved a position for their members where they will be the highest paid in bus drivers in Auckland. The company has already said that if there is any other collective agreement offered by a major operator in Auckland, then the company would consider it instead. In fact, the company and the unions know that this is the best deal available for drivers.
“Unfortunately there is an element within the unions that sees strike action as a key element in any negotiation. They seem hell bent on following that formula again this time around, which is a real shame because it’s our customers that pay the price” says Shane McMahon, COO NZ Bus
“It is time for the members to support their unions and bring these negotiations to a conclusion without inconveniencing the public or the half of the union membership that voted to accept the deal” concluded Mr. McMahon.
Average Annual Income for bus drivers = $46,000
Average hours worked per driver = 43 per week
Drivers are paid overtime rates for hours worked above 40 hours per week
Almost all drivers employed in full time roles, and over half (525) work straight shifts
Under the agreement reached between company and unions drivers pay rate would rise to $20 per hour plus allowances – making them the highest paid drivers in Auckland
In addition to hourly rate, drivers also get allowances for broken shifts, meals and certain additional duties
Total wage bill for drivers per annum = $46million
At this stage we don’t know what industrial action is planned by the union but reports in the Herald the other day suggested that it could possibly include running services but not collecting fares. While that might boost patronage for those days, I just really want to see this issue resolved.
Strike averted as NZ Bus and Unions reach agreement
NZ Bus, the Tramways Union and First Union are very pleased to announce that following a last ditch meeting this morning they have reached a proposed settlement for the Collective Employment Agreement covering bus drivers and service staff in Auckland.
All planned Industrial action including the strike on Monday 24th September has been called off and all Metrolink, North Star, Go West, Waka Pacific and LINK bus services including school bus services will now operate as normal.
“This agreement will see NZ Bus drivers amongst the highest paid in the industry” said Shane McMahon, Chief Operating Officer, NZ Bus.
“We are delighted that agreement has been reached and changes to the ratification process agreed. NZ Bus is committed to continue to invest in our people and resources to see public transport in Auckland grow” continued Mr. McMahon.
“We welcome this development and are pleased that the buses will be on the road to carry the travelling public this Monday” said Gary Froggatt from Tramways Union.
“Today’s meeting was positive, and we can see a way forward with some unity between the bus unions and the CTU, and NZ Bus,” said Karl Andersen from First Union
Well done to all parties for being able to come to an agreement.
So unless there’s a miraculous fix to the ongoing labour dispute between NZ Bus and its drivers, it seems as though all NZ Bus services will not run this coming Monday and every subsequent Monday for the next eight weeks. That means no buses at all – including school buses – if your service is operated by any of the following:
- Waka Pacific
- North Star
- Link (City, Inner or Outer)
All up NZ Bus services account for just over half of all public transport journeys in Auckland, which I guess gives us the opportunity to look at things from a “glass half full” approach and note that half of Auckland’s public transport will still be running. So by part of Auckland, here’s a bit of advice about how you can still catch public transport:
Ritchies and Birkenhead Transport buses will still be operating, as will the ferries. Birkenhead buses serve the Onewa Road catchment, both to Beachhaven and up Glenfield Road. If you’re on the western side of the North Shore perhaps try to get to somewhere on a route operated by Birkenhead Transport. The 966 bus travels via Ponsonby to Newmarket – a useful replacement for some Inner Link journeys.
Ritchies operate the Northern Express, which will still run. They also operate a number of other routes to areas like Northcote, Bayswater and a number of other routes around Albany. The park and ride stations at Albany and Constellation are likely to be pretty packed so perhaps look at finding a different route operated by Ritchies and parking on a street somewhere along its course.
Ferries operate from Devonport, Stanley Bay, Bayswater, Northcote Point and Birkenhead Point.
Two main options out here: a Ritchies bus from places like Henderson and further to the northwest – or catch the train. Ritchies buses from the west also run along Great North Road between Pt Chevalier and the city centre, which makes them a good option for people in the western part of the isthmus trying to get to work/uni.
If you’re catching the train, expect it to be pretty busy. Western Line trains only run once every 15 minutes at peak times, but this service level also runs for most of the time during the day (aside from a few hours around midday). Urban Express also run services from Green Bay and Blockhouse Bay along Blockhouse Bay Road and then Great North Road into the city – another good option for people in the western part of the isthmus.
Options here are relatively limited in many places outside the catchment of the rail system, but some replacement buses will be operating along Dominion and Sandringham Road (check with Auckland Transport for confirmation about times over the next day or two). Otherwise try to perhaps get to the Great South Road or Great North Road corridors where you can benefit from Ritchies or Howick and Eastern Buses coming from the far southeast or far west areas. Some Howick and Eastern express buses pass through the Eastern Suburbs although I’m not sure whether they stop there.
Rail for the south and Howick and Eastern in the southeast are you two main options here. The 380 bus between the Airport and Manukau, via Papatoetoe train station, is generally frequent and reliable and could be useful in getting you to the rail network. Otherwise it’s fairly lean pickings unfortunately.
I’ll probably be walking. Further ideas are most welcome!
Now this is just getting silly. Last week the bus drivers unions agreed to a deal with NZ Bus which saw their planned strikes called off but interestingly the bus drivers who met today decided to reject that offer. I don’t know what they are now demanding but it is very odd for the union leaders themselves to agree to a deal and recommend it but then have the members turn it down. This of course leaves commuters in the lurch once again and happens at a pretty critical time for PT in this city with things like the new bus network about to be consulted on which will also mean new contracts for the bus operators. Here is the press release from NZ Bus and understandably they seem frustrated:
Bus Drivers Vote Down Offer to be Highest Paid in Auckland
In a bizarre twist today drivers voted against the wage offer from NZ Bus, which was recommended by Tramways and First Union leadership and supported by Helen Kelly at the Council of Trade Unions.
Today’s ratification meeting was attended by only 517 of the 818 union drivers with more than one third not attending the meeting.
The parties met last Wednesday in mediation where NZ Bus, Tramways and First Union leaders agreed financial terms for ratification at today’s meeting. Both Tramways and First Union leadership agreed the offer was a good one and that they would positively recommend the offer at today’s ratification meeting.
Tramways and First Union had been engaged in industrial action ‘working to rule’ and NZ Bus had worked hard to minimise the impact on customers.
“ We managed to have the unions lift full blown strike action by giving them what they asked for in order to prevent impact on customers and today they turn around and reject an offer the union executive endorsed” Shane McMahon concluded.
“Negotiating with this group is a bit like Groundhog Day, it’s hugely frustrating – we worked very hard to see their point of view, worked constructively with them and reached agreement which they endorsed and then they vote it down”, said Shane McMahon COO NZ Bus.
NZ Bus operates Metrolink, City Link, Inner Link, Outer Link, North Star, Waka Pacific and Go West brands in Auckland. NZ Bus would like to apologise to customers in advance should the unions choose to escalate industrial action.
Some great news has just come out that NZ Bus and the Tramways Union have come to an agreement over their industrial dispute which means that there won’t be any strikes, something that would have severely dented the reputation of public transport right at a time when we are about to start talking the most positive change in for buses in decades. Here is the NZ Bus press release:
NZ Bus wage talks reaches agreement at negotiations
NZ Bus, the Tramways Union and First Union are very pleased to announce that they have reached a proposed settlement for the Collective Employment Agreement covering bus drivers and service staff in Auckland today which will be put to union members on Monday for ratification.
Helen Kelly, the President of the CTU, who has been assisting the parties, said she is very pleased an agreement has been reached and is committed to seeing through all opportunities this settlement provides.
Both parties have been involved in constructive dialogue since May and acknowledge the significant progress made in the agreement, which will be recommended to members.
Shane McMahon COO NZ Bus said “we have built a strong relationship with the unions and we will continue to invest in the business to see public transport in Auckland grow”.
The settlement includes a commitment for the parties to work together to use the agreement to build the best bus company in New Zealand.
All industrial action has now been lifted and members will meet on Monday between 11am and 1pm for the ratification meeting.
I’ve been catching Inner Link buses this week – rather unusually for me but that’s how things are at the moment. Generally I have found them to be pretty fantastic: incredibly frequent, pretty fast (especially now that there’s no longer the enormous detour down into the city between K Road and Grafton Bridge) and quite consistent with their timing. The buses themselves are also really nice and flash – although like most of the new NZ Bus buses the aisle seems to be just a little too narrow for comfort.
But what’s really driven me crazy is this advertisement for Unitec, which plays an inane, kind of hip-hop piece of ‘music’, while showing bits of construction going on around Auckland. And the bus plays this over and over and over and over and over and over again. On my journey home this evening I counted 9 plays of this one advertisement – and that’s on a trip of little over 10 minutes in duration!
I don’t mind the silent advertisements on the bus screens. I like the information maps showing me where the bus is, the cameras showing what’s going on from different points of view. The little snippets from the Herald website. But please, noisy advertisements on a bus is like torture – there’s no escape, there’s no way of blocking it out and it’s just a really really horrible way to treat one’s customers.
Really there’s absolutely no need for bus advertisements with sound. It’s just plain rude and shows no respect for the passengers. You can do better Auckland Transport and NZ Bus.
I first noticed this yesterday when looking on the MAXX site for something but the NZ Herald today has a bit more information.
Auckland commuters could be in for trying times as bus drivers respond to a pay offer that has failed to win approval from union negotiators.
NZ Bus is urging passengers to make alternative travel arrangements between 9am and 2.30pm on Thursday, when all its Auckland buses, apart from those on the Inner Link route, will be off the road. More than 800 drivers are stopping work to vote on the offer.
According to a notice to the drivers of a paid stop-work meeting at Alexandra Park Raceway, issued by the Tramways Union and the First Union, eight days of pay talks with the company have ended without agreement for a new employment deal.
To completely kill all PT to large parts of Auckland for 5.5 hours is going to be pretty disruptive for a lot of people. Even if the two parties can come to an agreement on Thursday I am also amazed at the amount of time that is allocated for this meeting. I fully understand that drivers have to get their buses back to their depots etc. but why do they all have to go to Alexandra Park. Is it not possible in this day and age to set up some video links at the depots to reduce the amount of time that buses need to be off the road. Another big concern I have is why there is simply no plan to perhaps have some other bus companies at least run a skeleton service, even if it was just at a lower frequency on key routes.
I really really hope that the two parties can sort out their differences as we don’t want to be heading for a repeat of the October 2009 industrial action between NZ Bus and its drivers. Back then it really dented the image of public transport which saw patronage drop quite a bit and it took about 6 months to recover just to back to where it was. Since that time patronage has increased by about 20% which means that if it were to happen again then a lot more people will be affected.
Some interesting insight into the thinking of NZ Bus is in the latest issue of Infratil’s investor update which came out last week.
NZ Bus was acquired by infratil in 2005 at a price which was a discount to the value of the assets of the business. A transaction at such a price is saying “if you were starting again with these assets, you wouldn’t put them together in this way”. the subsequent six years has involved changing the way the company operates so that capital invested in new systems, staff, buses and depots does not represent $0.90 coming out for $1.00 going in.
This has meant developing stronger relations with the regional transport agencies and a more efficient business. Government has also done its bit by developing a regulatory and contracting regime based on commercial incentives and clearly differentiated roles for transport agencies and private operators.
2012 will be a watershed year for bus public transport, especially in Auckland, as new contracts are offered to operators through a mixture of tenders and private negotiations. The contracts will provide operators with the certainty necessary for investment in services, and with the opportunity to position for longer term growth.
NZ Bus currently provides about half of all Auckland’s public transport passenger trips. It aims to win its share of the new contracts, but achieving this will depend on NZ Bus being both relatively efficient and able to earn a fair return on the capital required. If a normal contract entailing 20 new buses means investing up to $10 million the returns have to justify the allocation of funds.
At the time of its acquisition in 2005 it was hoped that NZ Bus would be able to expand by competing on a level playing field with private cars and trains. It was believed that if Government (central and local) allocated funding to where it would create the greatest urban transport benefit for Auckland and Wellington, then that funding would favour an expansion of bus public transport. The cost of additional roadways or rail services was an order of magnitude greater than expanding and improving bus public transport. In fact transport decisions were made on political rather than economic grounds and the bus share of the urban transport funding pie shrank. The more open contracting regime, greater government focus on value-formoney, and high fuel prices all auger well for bus public transport in the future.
I certainly get the feeling from that last part that they aren’t happy about the investment that has happened in rail over the last decade, regardless of how justified it might be but I guess that is understandable as they would want more money invested with them.
In 2012 NZ Bus expects to agree new long-term contracts with Auckland Transport. These contracts have evolved through a prolonged consultation between regulators and service operators and they should result in better public transport at a lower cost. In anticipation NZ Bus has been improving its efficiency and its ability to deliver services people want to use.
There is also a series of graphs which are probably the most interesting bit of the update. The first graph shows just how poor patronage is compared to a number of other cities but it isn’t something we didn’t already now. The targets set by the council as part of the Auckland plan should have us at about 70 trips per person per year in a decade which would put us near where Wellington is today and the long term goal is to have 100 trips per person in 30 years. The second graph is probably the most concerning for NZ Bus, over the last 7 or 8 years their share of PT trips has continued to drop, this is largely due to growth on the rail network and on the North Shore with the NEX which is run by Ritchies.
Over the last five years NZ Bus’s costs per passenger have been almost flat which has allowed a 12% fall in the real level of contract subsidies and a less than 3% increase in real passenger charges.
In this second series of graphs, the first one is quite interesting as it focuses on patronage on Mt Eden which is one of the ‘B Line’ routes. They were introduced in early 2010 and you can see that since then there has been almost consistently solid growth, as they say, this has come largely from increased frequencies and reliability which are two critical factors for customers. It will also be really interesting to see what happens to that last graph once PTOM comes in fully.