Passengers using the Cambridge and Te Awamutu/Kihikihi bus services to Hamilton may notice a few changes in the New Year as the first stage to bring electric buses and increased services to the Waikato begins.
Waikato Regional Council and Waipā District Council are working with new operator Tranzit to roll out new buses in three stages.
In this first stage, which begins 1 January 2024, the Cambridge and Te Awawmutu/Kihikihi bus services will have new-look, smaller, diesel-fuelled buses, with an assist bus for peak times to ensure carrying capacity.
Six single and two double electric buses will be introduced during stages two and three, along with an increased frequency of trips – from eight to 20 return trips each weekday – for both services.
Waikato Regional Council anticipates that the eight electric buses and the increase in services will be fully operational by mid-2024.
The increase in services is due to demand, with both the Cambridge and Te Awamutu services carrying more passengers in 2023 than 2022. Passengers numbers on the Te Awamutu service were up 30.2 per cent (8504 passengers per month from January to November 2023 compared to 6531 for the same period in 2022), while Cambridge increased 35 per cent (7690 in 2023 compared to 5684 in 2022).
Waikato Regional Councillor and Deputy Chair of the Future Proof Public Transport Subcommittee Angela Strange says the council can’t wait to see these improvements in action and is confident they will further increase patronage.
“We are seeing some trends at the moment. Increased frequency has led to noticebly higher passenger numbers in Hamilton and we hope these improvements have similar effects for Waipā. More people are finding that the bus really works for them.”
Sandra Sesto-Dekic, Waikato Regional Council Team Leader of Customer Focus for Public Transport, says the electric buses are highly anticpated.
“We have feedback that a lot of people were hoping these buses would be here straight away, and while we love the enthusiasm, we need a few months to get things ready.”
Electric buses are a critical component of the regional council’s work to make the public transport network net carbon neutral from 2025 to 2050. Preparations for Waipā include establishing two new charging facilities on Waipā District Council land in Kihikihi and Leamington to ensure the buses are charged and ready each day.
Waipā District Council Transport Manager Bryan Hudson says both councils are confident the electric buses will be worth the wait, bringing cleaner, quieter and emission free travel for years to come