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Go bus or no bus?

Go Bus has apologised to schools and families for its miscommunications and errors at the start of the school year. PHOTO/FILE

Go Bus turns out to be a no show

Story by Tom Taylor

Wairarapa’s new school bus provider has been caught playing truant on the first days of the school year, failing to communicate new routes with schools and leaving many students waiting to get picked up.

Last year, Australian-owned company Go Bus won a Ministry of Education contract to take over Wairarapa’s school bus routes from longstanding local company Tranzit.

However, with some schools kicking back into action on Monday, the company was caught off guard.

“I assumed it would be all up and running, ready on day one, and it wasn’t,” Hadlow Preparatory School principal Andrew Osmond said.

Hadlow Preparatory School pupils waiting for a bus that would never show up. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

The Masterton school was among the first in New Zealand to resume classes, opting to start on Monday. Schools had the option to start at any time from January 31 until February 8, after the long weekend.

The Ministry of Education [MOE] said that Go Bus had misinterpreted the variable start date.

“We understand that in Wairarapa, the new transport service provider misunderstood the day that some schools began for the year and no school bus service was provided to those schools on Monday or Tuesday, MOE group manager of school transport James Meffan said.

He said that Go Bus had assured the ministry that all Wairarapa school bus services would run as scheduled on Wednesday.

MOE said that Go Bus would not receive payment for any incomplete school bus route.

However, on Wednesday morning, Hadlow parents were still forced to drop their children off by car.

“Because we were first off the rank, I think it escalated Go Bus’s lack of organisation and communication,” Osmond said.

“But the first things they should have understood were the dates from the Ministry; January 31 being the first day that schools go back in New Zealand. That’s a pretty simple thing to have sorted.”

This year, Hadlow pupils would use three different school bus services: a Tranzit charter bus, a Metlink bus, or the Go Bus route.

“The Go Bus has basically been a no-show,” Osmond said.

In the weeks leading up to Term 1, he had not received any information about new school bus routes, and Go Bus had not responded to any communications.

At about 11.30am on Wednesday, Osmond received confirmation from Go Bus that school bus services would be running that afternoon.

However, by 3.20pm, the bus had not arrived.

Four pupils waited patiently for their ride home – a handful of the usual number, with many parents opting to avoid confusion and pick their children up on Wednesday afternoon.

Down the road in Carterton District, country school Gladstone was similarly affected by bus disruptions on its first day on Wednesday.

Gladstone parent Nicole Halliday had her first misgivings about the new service at the end of last year when she heard that some routes might be changing.

“When you’re trying to juggle other kids that have to go to day-care, and your work start and finish times, it becomes a bit of a concern,” she said.

“Everything hinges on the school bus time.”

Halliday lived about 13km from Gladstone School but said her situation was not as bad as some other families, who lived up to 45km away on the coast.

She ended up carpooling with neighbours to get their children to school on Wednesday morning.

Gladstone School principal Belinda Bunny said she had attempted to get information from Go Bus throughout the summer holidays.

“It’s just a wall of silence. You try to phone; the phones just ring or go straight to voicemail; you try to email, and no one replies. There is no communication back to us, and from what I understand, it’s not just our school – it’s all schools.”

After some children were missed by drivers on Wednesday morning, Gladstone teachers had ridden alongside Go Bus drivers in the afternoon to show them the correct routes and stops.

“I’m sure it will sort itself out eventually, but it’s not an ideal situation,” Bunny said.

On Wednesday evening, Go Bus issued a statement apologising to children, parents, and schools.

Chief operating officer Nigel Piper said he appreciated the frustration of the families affected.

“The first days of the new school year are special for everyone involved, and as school bus operators, we know even small errors on our part can weigh heavily on anyone affected,” Piper said.

“Those affected have our assurance that we are working hard to ensure there is no repeat of the issues experienced.”

Piper said that Go Bus had worked with its drivers and MOE to identify potential issues in the weeks before the new school year.

“Despite this, we have let some people down, and we apologise for this.

“We are communicating directly with schools to iron out any issues and encourage parents to contact their school directly, first, for any school route or timetable information, questions or problems,” Piper said.

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