Double decker bus protest Susi Newborn and Stephanie Honeychurch. Photo Rose Davis

Fullers says it is listening to local concerns about double-decker buses and will reduce their use on the island over winter.

However, the big buses will still be plying narrow roads on weekends and decisions on their long-term future have yet to be made.
From 1 May, double-deckers will be replaced by smaller, 35-seat coach buses “where possible”.

CEO Douglas Hudson says the move follows discussions with the local board and other feedback – but he stresses it is temporary.

“We do intend to continue using the double-deckers on weekends and when we need to but we will be prudent in using smaller vehicles where we can,” Mr Hudson says. “We will do our very best to minimise their use.”

The company will review options for its Hop On Hop Off service over the winter, he says. “At the end of the day the product has been a huge success. Hop On, Hop Off services around the world rely on high-capacity vehicles because of fluctuating numbers. We have had 500 people a day using the product and that can mean up to 2000 boardings. It comes down to how we actually manage that.

“We have had feedback from various people and not all of it has been negative. We want to better understand the concerns and work through them.”
He says alternatives such as using smaller, higher frequency coaches would increase the number of vehicles on Waiheke roads.

The latest in a series of incidents involving the double-deckers came at the weekend, when a cyclist complained on social media of being forced off the road.
“Around 3.15pm on the blind corner at the end of Onetangi straight [the bus] overtook so close that I had to ditch my bike and jump onto the grass verge,” Matty Bell posted.
Earlier in the month, a double-decker slipped off the road edge above a steep bluff near Batch Vineyard on Carsons Road and 12 passengers and crew had to gingerly disembark.

In January, a bus slid into a ditch near Mudbrick.

A group which wants the double-deckers permanently banished from Waiheke roads still plans to march in front of one, from Matiatia to Oneroa, on Sunday 9 April at 11am.
Co-organiser Susi Newborn says the march is “not a protest, but a protect”. She dismisses the reduction in the double-deckers’ use over winter as a PR stunt.
“People have had a gutsful of these buses and we don’t want them back on the island at all.”

Fellow organiser Stephanie Honeychurch says the company’s move is not enough. “Temporarily stopping the double-deckers over the quieter part of the year and re-introducing them in summer was probably Fullers’ plan regardless of community concerns,” she says. “It would seem rather insulting to our collective intelligence, and the local board’s, to only stop them temporarily and say it’s because they have been listening to this community.” • Geoff Cumming

Subscribe and read Gulf News and Waiheke Weekender Online