Public transport operators rush to be ready for half-price fares

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Commuters around the country are gearing up to make the most of half-price fares on public transport from today.

Auckland North Shore Metro buses.

Auckland North Shore Metro buses Photo: Supplied/Auckland Council

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the nationwide discount two weeks ago as part of relief measures to address rising living costs.

The scheme will last for three months, but the government has signalled moves on more public transport investment in the upcoming Budget.

With just two weeks between the initial announcement and rollout, regional councils have rushed to organise logistics.

All regional buses, ferries and trains have been included, notably the Capital Connection train running from Wellington to Palmerston North, and Te Huia, running from Auckland to Hamilton.

The discount is largely being added on to pre-existing concessions and fare types.

In Auckland, monthly public transport passes are half price, and in both Auckland and Christchurch, daily fare caps have been halved.

In Wellington, people with partly used 30-day passes will be reimbursed 50 percent of the fare.

A new double decker bus

A new double decker bus Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher is excited to have the opportunity to make public transport more accessible.

“We’ve been sharing with communities and customers how we’re approaching the half-price fares and we’re very excited, we’re getting great feedback,” he said.

But it was a difficult time to be dealing with an influx of passengers, with Covid-19 cases still sweeping through Wellington.

“We still have a number of our frontline staff affected by Omicron,” Gallacher said.

“We’re running all our regular timetables but there are some cancellations.”

At the Christchurch Bus Interchange, second-year teaching student Dallas said the discount would make an immediate difference to his budget, and would free him up to explore more of the region.

“Only getting loan living costs, most of what I get goes towards paying rent and food and stuff.

“The fact that this proposal will give me a bit more flexibility with money is definitely going to help.”

The Christchurch bus interchange.

The Christchurch Bus Interchange Photo: Southbase

Film student Noah is looking forward to putting less strain on his family as they support him through study.

“Right now my grandma’s paying for my bus money, and it’s like $20 a week or something so it’s quite a lot.”

The fare reduction period lasts until the end of June. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said public transport would be a key feature of this year’s Budget.

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