Watch: Orbiter route change: ‘It’s a terrible thing to impose on elderly people’


VIDEO: Geoff Sloan

Elderly Mairehau retirees are horrified planned changes to their local bus route will mean they have to walk nearly a kilometre to the nearest stop.

They fear they will lose their independence if Environment Canterbury plans to change the Orbiter route go ahead later this year.

Eighty Diana Isaac Retirement Village residents and Christchurch Central Labour MP Duncan Webb presented a 500 signature petition to ECan pleading it reconsider.

“It’s a terrible thing to impose on elderly people,” retiree Graham Tate said.

“As they get older loneliness can be a factor, they need to get out and go to the movies, or to the mall for that interaction. I think that this is going to impose on these residents who otherwise rely on the Orbiter both mentally and physically.”

The 83-year-old said although he still drove, he had a “vested interest” because at some stage he would need to take the Orbiter.

The Orbiter currently runs along QEII Drive, right into Philpotts Rd and onto Innes Rd.

But the Northern Corridor work will restrict right hand turning in and out of Philpotts Rd.

ECan plans to change the route so the bus would use Cranford St then Innes Rd, skipping out the QEII Drive and Philpotts Rd section altogether.

Said ECan chairman Steve Lowndes: “The change to the road use does impact the Orbiter route. In looking at how we respond to this, the only viable option we have for the Orbiter is to re-route via Cranford St. In making this decision, we had to balance overall coverage, directness, accessibility and cost.”

The current bus stop outside the village’s entrance on Philpotts Rd would move 900m away to Innes Rd.

ECan plans to implement the changes later this year, though a date has not been confirmed.

Mr Tate said elderly residents could not walk a couple of kilometres to and from the bus – some with shopping bags.

They had come up with an alternate route that added 3mins just onto the journey, which they wanted ECan to consider even if it was just between 9am-5pm, he said.

It involved the bus going up to the next roundabout to turn around.

But Mr Lowndes said that would delay passengers and cost about $350,000 a year.

“The extra 3km per bus trip amounts to over 300 extra kilometres per day,” Mr Lowndes said.

The news comes after ECan announced last month it was considering cutting six of its lowest performing bus routes to plug a funding shortfall.

Journeys on the Orbiter account for 17 per cent of the 13.4 million journeys on greater Christchurch buses each year.

Environment Canterbury and Ryman Healthcare staff will meet regarding the petition.

In a letter to ECan, Ryman Healthcare chief executive Gordon MacLeod said the village was home to more than 600 residents and 200 staff, and the Orbiter was a “crucial” form of transport for them.

St Bede’s College deputy rector Gerry Davidson has also written a letter of support for the petition saying the route serviced its students and parents. He urged ECan to look at alternate routes.

Dr Webb said he hoped ECan would reconsider.

“They [retirees] might not be happy driving themselves. They want to be independent and public transport is the only way they can do that.”

He said there had been minimal engagement with residents about the change.

Mr Lowndes said ECan is still looking at other means of continuing the coverage and accessibility in the area, and welcomed the opportunity to hear from the Diana Isaac Retirement Village residents.

He said one option could include the possibility of “one in five, or one in ten” Orbiter buses going via the village.