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Old route, new school of thought

Tranzit’s school bus runs will be run by new operator, Go Bus. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

Story by Tom Taylor

The end of the school year marks the end of an era for Wairarapa school bus drivers.

At the end of Term 4, longstanding bus company Tranzit ends its contract with the Ministry of Education to provide school bus routes in Wairarapa, having held the routes since 1948.

Australian-owned company Go Bus was now preparing to take over the routes.

At a farewell lunch for school bus drivers on December 12, Tranzit managing director Paul Snelgrove said that it was a bittersweet day.

“Today is sweet because we made it through 2021 – a year that has been challenging on multiple fronts, including dealing with the ongoing impacts of covid-19. And it is sweet because we have an amazing team here that has pulled together, and I’m so proud of everyone,” he said.

“However, it is also bitter as earlier in the year we were told we lost the Ministry of Education school bus contract here in our home region Wairarapa whilst picking up new areas in the North Island, including Hawke’s Bay, Ohakune, and Taumarunui. This news was hard for our family because, as you know, our journey began here 97 years ago.”

Tranzit would continue to run school charter and urban services in Wairarapa and expected its new MOE contracts in Hawke’s Bay to offset the loss of the Wairarapa school routes.

Tranzit had almost 50 school bus drivers in its Wairarapa team, some of whom would remain with the company in different roles, some who had retired, and some who would go to the new bus operator.

Dave [Gordie] Gordon, Go Bus’s new Wairarapa manager, says the company is on track to secure a full team of drivers for next year. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Go Bus’s new Wairarapa manager, Dave [Gordie] Gordon, said the company was on course to start the 2022 school year with a full driving team.

He said there had been interest from Tranzit staff looking to secure roles from Term 1, 2022.

Go Bus needed 52 drivers for its Wairarapa school bus routes.

“We are well on track to meeting driver requirements,” Gordon said.

“We will be using a number of drivers who want to work on a casual contract only to start with, so we are still welcoming anyone who wants permanent part-time work.”

He said Go Bus had attempted to contact each Tranzit school bus driver personally.

“This involved us introducing ourselves to them at the schools as they dropped off or picked up their school passengers.”

The company had depots in Masterton and Pahiatua, with a temporary depot set up in Featherston while it awaited the development of a new depot in Greytown.

“We would have liked to have been in Greytown earlier, but development is taking longer than hoped,” Gordon said.

“The Featherston depot location is not inconvenient, though.”

He said Tranzit drivers were already familiar with the school bus routes.

The [H]end[erson] of an era
Ian Henderson has driven Tranzit school bus routes for 23 years. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

Ian Henderson, a Tranzit school bus driver of 23 years, has made the call to retire at the end of this school year.

Henderson started driving for Tranzit in Eketahuna in 1998 after a career managing petrol stations in Wellington and Rotorua.

When he moved to Eketahuna, he took on jobs milking cows and spent a few months sanding and painting the chairs and desks at Eketahuna Primary School.

A relative of Henderson’s wife had driven the local school bus and put Henderson on to the job.

The schedule – just four hours a day – suited Henderson, who had many hobbies such as woodturning to focus on.

Moving to Masterton, he continued to drive for Tranzit for about 11 years.

He drove students from a mix of primary and secondary schools in the mornings, while he drove Solway Primary students home in the afternoons.

“They tend to be quieter when there are high school students around, but in the afternoon, they’re letting off a bit of steam,” Henderson said.

“I don’t mind the noise – I’m half deaf anyway.”

When he found out about Tranzit’s loss of the routes, Henderson said it felt like the right time to retire.

“It was a bit of a shock, but even so, I’m 77, and I thought it was better to retire while it’s all going good.”

Henderson said some Tranzit drivers had contacted Go Bus about securing jobs at the incoming company.

“I don’t know how they’re going to find drivers, though, because everywhere is short of drivers. Not just bus drivers – truck drivers, grader drivers, any type of drivers.”

He said about eight other Tranzit drivers that he knew of were retiring at the end of the school year.

In his retirement, Henderson planned to spend more time fishing and flying his model airplanes.

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