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Roading and Transport

Thames-Coromandel Connector Bus

Many people may not be aware that TCDC has been granted recovery funding from the Ministry of Social Development to trial a Connector service between Thames and Coromandel Town. The aim is to reconnect our communities with healthcare, education, appointments, work opportunities and reconnect families/ whānau.
 |  Michelle Dellabarca  | 
Riding on the Coromandel Connector Bus

The trial service began on Monday, 18 December, and is running for 13 weeks until Monday, 18 March 2024. Provided by Thames Taxi’s and Coromandel Taxi service, it is available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are free and the shuttles hold up to 11 people so booking is essential.

• COROMANDEL TOWN BUS STOP: Woollams Avenue carpark

• THAMES BUS STOP: 200 Mary Street, outside the Civic Centre

TCDC Community Partnerships Coordinator Helen Flynn, says, “As people have told us, being able to access appointments, key services and work is so important.  It also helps reduce isolation by supporting friends and whānau to spend time together over the holiday season. We are asking our locals to get behind this trial, spread the word and use the service.”

We are now six weeks into the trial and The Informer asked key stakeholders about how the Connector Bus is going.

TCDC report the response from the public has been positive, with passengers commenting favourably on it. Numbers for the service are picking up with 130 passengers having used it in total over the first four weeks of operation. Sixty-four passengers used the service from Coromandel Town in the first two weeks of this year, with a total of 89 using it from Coromandel Town in the first month.  Up to Friday, 19 January a total of 41 passengers have used it from Thames in the first month of operation.

TCDC, when asked if there is a possibility of other stops being made available en – route, replied, “The free Connector Bus trial service between Coromandel Town and Thames is looking to add up to five pick-up stops at main coastal settlements en-route by the beginning of February.” February is well on the way but as this goes to print, these pick-ups have not been sorted.

There are various comments on Social Media (Facebook) from people who live on the Thames Coast Road wanting to use the service.  Some en-route pick-ups were instigated as a trial but  were abruptly stopped (Te Puru for example – see article in Valley Profile 31 January).

TCDC announcement Monday 5 February

Five  new en-route stops have been approved from 7 February

1) Te Puru: Corner of Thames Coast Road and Aputa Avenue. 2) Waiomu Reserve; 3) Tapu Reserve 4) Te Mata Point Reserve; 5) Manaia: parking bays at Te Wharekura o Manaia (off Goldfields Road). It took time for NZTA to assure pedestrian safety, level of disruption to other traffic and visibility distances.”  That investigation by Waka Kotahi (NZTA) was not done prior to the trial being started.

Q: The service is currently free and TCDC was asked, “Looking to the future, how do you think a service such as the Connector will be financed? Are you expecting it to be subsidised in some way and by who?”

Communications Office, Kate O’Malley replied, “This is a temporary service being facilitated and funded by the Ministry of Social Development as a Thames-Coromandel District recovery project due to the social impacts of the 2023 weather events. The Waikato Region Council (WRC) is the entity responsible for the planning, management and provision of public transport in the region. WRT is currently considering the regions transport options for inclusion in the 2024-2034 Long Term Plan which includes the consideration of potential bus transport options for the Coromandel Peninsula.

Medical appointments, visiting shops, pharmacies and banks, and connecting with family/whānau were the main reasons given for using the service. The focus of this trial has been to support these social needs.”

Q: At present there is no charge. Do you think this will give you a true indication of uptake in the future, if there is a charge for the service?

In response, TCDC supplied the following statistics from a survey undertaken by them – 170 responses: – 86 % of respondents said they would use a Connector service between Coromandel Town and Thames if it was available; – 91% of respondents were prepared to pay between $2 and $10 for a one-way trip.

The Waikato Regional Public Transport Plan 2022-2032 by WRT outlines the public transport mission and key objectives and includes an objective to – “Provide public transport services that are affordable for passengers and funders. (Warren Maher refers to this in his WRC Column page 25) Fare structures include a fare concession policy for children under five, SuperGold Cardholders, accessibility concessions and the option to introduce additional fare concessions for specific user groups.”