Little problem for bus interchange

FUNCTIONAL: The design of the $53 million Christchurch Bus Interchange doesn't allow for the use of smaller buses.

A design issue has been discovered in the $53 million bus interchange, meaning smaller buses cannot use it.

Environment Canterbury senior public transport senior manager Stewart Gibbon said when the bus interchange on Colombo, Lichfield and Tuam Sts was designed in 2013, use of the smaller buses was not anticipated.

“At the time the bus interchange was designed and built, smaller public transport vehicles were not operating within the fleet, therefore these were not contemplated within the design,” Mr Gibbon said.

However, a newly-established route from Westmorland to the central city would see the smaller buses use the interchange during non-peak hours.

The small Mercedes-Benz buses were the first of their kind in the country when they were introduced in 2016.

Mr Gibbon said the issue with smaller buses related to the bus door not aligning with the entry gates, the gate door activation and bus detection, as well as passenger safety.

It is not the first time the interchange has encountered design issues. After it opened, there were 13 bus crashes in less than a month, which involved bus-to-bus collisions and hitting fences.

ECan blamed driver error, while the drivers said there were blind spots in the interchange.

When it opened in 2015, then Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said it was a “great moment” for the city.

Yesterday he said: “When the thing was designed, there was massive input saying public transport was the way of the future for Christchurch
. . . they expected full buses, the smaller ones shouldn’t even need to be used,” Mr Brownlee said.

“If the city does grow as it should, the next thing will be we need bigger buses. You can’t please everyone.” But New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams said too often ratepayers in Canterbury are “pushed under the bus.”

“It seems extraordinary that a purpose-built bus facility isn’t built for purpose.”

Mr Gibbon said the city council, Ōtākaro and ECan were investigating potential solutions, but he could not give a timeframe or budget.

“Solution implementation timeframes will be dependent on any potential option chosen. The revised Westmorland service is not due to commence until October this year,” Mr Gibbon said.

He said if a solution was not found before then, full buses would service the route.

Mr Williams said there needed to be transparency as to how much a solution would cost.

Bus interchange designer Architectus did not return calls from The Star.

Issues with the bus interchange

•Door alignment: The bus door does not align with the main bay entry door.

•Door activation: The front bay door is the primary door that must be activated to enable boarding and alighting activities. The rear door cannot currently be auto-activated without the front bay door being triggered.

•Bus detection: The smaller vehicles do not trigger the bus detection system to enable and support door operation.

•Safety: Safe passenger boarding and alighting cannot be achieved and the wheelchair ramp cannot be deployed.