With all the events of recent months it has been easy for some news items to pass by unnoticed. One of these was the decision by Redbus to discontinue its Amberley commuter bus service. Of course, this was a trial service in the first place so the decision made was to not turn it into a permanent service and the trial simply came to an end. This is a shame, though probably not surprising given that Redbus probably has more worries right now, and that the service was their own initiative without any backing from Metro/Environment Canterbury (ECan). With this in mind it is wonderful to see that their Darfield service is still going strong, although I note that the extra shopping service has been discontinued.
It does seem rather peculiar that although public transport is administered by a regional wide authority such as ECan there are no commuter services that link the other major urban areas of Canterbury (Timaru and Ashburton) to Christchurch, nor much support for services to sizable settlements such as Amberley. You would think that this would be one of the distinct advantages of having ECan run public transport!
Until the late 1950’s Christchurch had a number of country rail services but any bus service replacements, if there were any at all, seem to have disappeared long ago. This isn’t to say I think we should have bus services to everywhere and anywhere on the Canterbury Plains, but there are distinct transport problems between some well sized towns and Christchurch. Places like Oxford and Amberley might be better served by shuttle services that connect with the Northern Star in Rangiora and Kaiapoi respectively. The fact that there are no well-timed Metro services between Ashburton and Christchurch still surprises me, and a Timaru service wouldn’t be in the realms of impossibility. Amazingly, any services such as these could all be integrated with the Metrocard fare system, which you would think would have been a strong reason to introduce them years ago. As I said given the way public transport is administered in Canterbury it is amazing its strengths have never been played to.
There are probably more important things to worry about right now, but it is something I have felt is pretty important in the grand scheme of things. Better connectivity across the Canterbury region is important, and the fact we have some great tools to do it (a central authority, the Metrocard) is something we should take advantage of yesterday.