Standing student passengers on SH2

Rural based parents are concerned about students standing in aisles while travelling along SH2 into the city. Photo: John Borren.

Students are standing up on buses for more than an hour on State Highway 2 while travelling to and from school due to overcrowding issues, according to concerned parents.

Whakamarama parent Tracy Scott says multiple teenagers are being “forced to stand” on rural school buses travelling into the city along SH2, where the journey is about 15km.

“I just find it ironic that we require seat belts in vehicles, but we won’t even make sure that all kids on buses have a seat,” says Tracy.

“The lack of seating only puts more cars on the road as parents drive to ensure their kids safely arrive at school.

“We need to make sure that kids are prioritised safety-wise getting to school.

"It just seems crazy to me that we can have kids standing up on buses possibly going 80 km/hr.”

Another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, says the only lucky thing is that the bus travels slowly in the morning due to the SH2 traffic.

“But still, if something happens when they’ve got 10 to 20 kids standing in the aisle – it’s not great.

"Our kids are one of the last [lots] to get on the bus and they were struggling to even get in the door because it was so full.”

Variable numbers 

Tauranga Transport Network Group manager Greg Neilson says school buses range from 32 seats to a maximum of about 53 seats.

“I definitely don’t have any concerns about overcrowding,” says Greg.

“The numbers are quite variable.

There are some days when there are empty seats and some days when there are standing passengers, but the buses aren’t actually close to full, according to the data.”

The Weekend Sun asked for this passenger data, but Greg stated this information could not be released.

Tracy says communication with Tauranga Transport Network group hasn’t been easy.

“They’ve [TTNG] actually been hard to deal with throughout the years… that’s part of the problem – the response is very poor,” says Tracy.

“I respond to everybody that emails me with a concern or that sends me a complaint,” says Greg.

In regards to the bus routes in question – Route 17 and Route 18, Greg says:

“I think I’ve heard from two parents this year with respect to R17.

"I haven’t heard from any parents about Route 18 at all”.

Standing passengers permitted

The Ministry of Education’s group manager for school transport James Meffan says school transport services carry about 100,000 students daily and have an excellent safety record.

“Our providers are able to carry standing passengers to allow for a necessary degree of operational flexibility to manage fluctuating demand and to ensure that no eligible student is left behind,” says James.

“Our transport service providers must not exceed the loading limit specified in a vehicle’s Certificate of Loading.

"NZTA Waka Kotahi is responsible for setting loading limits, including the number of standing passengers allowed.

“We are assured that as long as the Certificate of Loading is observed then it is safe to transport children who are standing on a school bus.”

An NZTA Waka Kotahi spokesperson says there is no standing loading limit for 32 or 53 seater school buses.

“Individual buses have a loading limit that takes into account the number and size of seats and type (deemed mass) of passengers,” says the spokesperson.

“The number of passengers carried depends on the type (all primary or say a mix of primary and secondary).

“The formula also accounts for standees.

"Provided buses are loaded as per the certificate of loading, they are not overloaded.

“Passenger comfort may start to become a factor if the bus is cramped but that doesn’t mean it’s overloaded in the sense of exceeding its certificate of loading or beyond its safe structural and braking limits.”

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