by Peter Dowden, Rudie Verhoef and Liz Abbott
Welcome back Graeme
Rumours of Graeme McDonald's retirement were greatly exaggerated:
Graeme re-appeared behind the wheel of Passenger Transport's shiny new
Palmerston bus as a wage-earning driver. He certainly kept that quiet,
but his passengers must be pleased to have him back.
Coast Road bus service: a short history
The NZ Railways Road Services Coast Road bus via Seacliff and
Warrington began in 1976 as a replacement for the Palmerston railcar,
following the coastal rail route as closely as possible as far as
Doctors Point, then back-tracking to Waitati to go over Mount Cargill
Rd. (The service was cut back from Palmerston to Waikouaiti shortly
afterwards, while another short-lived bus service linked Purakaunui to
replace the same railcar.)
The National government elected in 1990 decided to privatise NZ
Railways Road Services. Newton's Coachways Ltd purchased the Dunedin
local business (long distance, called 'Intercity', went to Richies
Coachlines), and the Otago Regional Council took on the responsibility
of organising the services and routes.
In 1991 a contract was let to Newton's for a two-year term expiring in
June 1993. Under this contract there was a 6.30am service from
Waikouaiti to Dunedin (arriving 7.40am) that travelled via Karitane,
the Coast Rd, and Mount Cargill. There was a return trip departing
Dunedin at 5.15pm that travelled the reverse of above arriving at
Waikouaiti at 6.30pm.
Meanwhile, the hospital board had been running staff transfer services
for many years between Dunedin hospitals and Cherry Farm Hospital,
which was due to close. The hospital's transport manager, Bill Ross,
soon to be himself made redundant, noticed a business opportunity in
the many Cherry Farm staff, living locally, who would need transport
to work in Dunedin. In November 1992, Bill Ross advised the Regional
Council that he wished to register a commercial service between
Waikouaiti and Dunedin, travelling via SH1 to Dunedin and extending up
to Wakari Hospital.
Loading on Newton's Coast Road service did not meet expectations and
by midway through the contract it was looking unlikely that it would
be renewed. At the time their Waikouaiti-based driver's family was
shifting. Newton's consequently sub-contracted Catch-a-Bus to operate
the services for the remaining six months of the contract, till June
1993, when Coast Road service ceased.
Ross Mini Services then provided a service on a commercial basis (ie
without subsidy and not under contract) via SH1, but branching to
Karitane and Warrington as required, through till his retirement in
May 2003. Bill Ross on-sold the business to Palmerston Minibus
Services who extended service to and from Palmerston. In June 2005,
Palmerston Minibus Services announced they were going to withdraw the
service. ORC agreed to a six month trial which was converted into a
three year contract from 1 April 2006. This expired in June 2009 and
the service is now provided by Passenger Transport Ltd.
In 1999, commercial operator Ross Mini Services undertook a trial
routing the service along the Coast Road to assess demand. Despite
advance publicity to the community, Bill Ross stopped the trial after
four days as he had carried a total of only four additional passengers
in these four days.
(The writers thank Bruce Ramsay and Bill Campbell for their help in
providing additional historical information.)
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