Public transport nightmare: Families left stranded in freezing conditions after New Brighton fireworks

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Jul 01, 2023 |

Samuel Hishon’s three children waiting for the public bus in freezing conditions in Christchurch on Saturday night / photo: Supplied

Families who attended last nights New Brighton fireworks display have expressed their anger after the free council buses, which were supposed to transport them back to Eastgate mall, failed to arrive they claim.

The Christchurch City Council advertised the free ‘park and ride’ service from the mall to New Brighton. According to the schedule, the buses were set to depart from Oram Avenue by the pier between 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM.

However, numerous families reported that the promised buses never showed leaving them stranded in the freezing weather conditions. Among those affected was Samuel Hishon, who had taken the bus to the venue along with his wife and three young children.

“When it came time to leave, myself and around 100 to 150 people including children were left stranded as the buses for the return trip never showed up.

“The coordinators who were there assuring us the buses were coming eventually ended up leaving us all stranded there with no warning – they all left without telling us anything. This is an outrage, and the council should be held accountable.”

Roshanne Annan, accompanied by her partner and two young children, faced the same ordeal.

“At 8:30 PM, we went to catch the bus back to Eastgate. As the rain and high winds set in, we were repeatedly informed by Red Badge security staff that they had been in contact with the Council and the buses were delayed due to traffic, but were on their way,” she explained. “We waited and waited in the extreme weather while trying to shield our children as much as we could.”

However, as time passed, there was still no sign of the buses, and the security personnel vanished.

“By this stage, our children and other families’ children were crying, freezing, and really upset. We all pulled together and fed them and tried at least to keep them warm.

“Although a few regular Metro buses arrived and departed around 9:20 PM, we had been assured that the chartered buses were coming, so all of us waited.”

The situation escalated as people, including families, braved the freezing rain for over an hour. With no cash on hand and the Metro buses already overcrowded, their options were limited.

Roshanne and her family eventually boarded another public bus, but encountered difficulties due to the lack of payment options.

“I could barely communicate with the driver. Little did he understand that we had been abandoned by the Christchurch City Council, in freezing conditions with young children,” she said.

Fortunately, a compassionate lady offered to pay for their fare so they could return to Eastgate.

“The health and safety of my family and I were put at risk, and I am not exaggerating. It was a traumatic event for all of us, not just our kids. We put our safety in the hands of the Christchurch City Council and were completely let down.”

“It was such a horrible experience after a really fun night, with the best fireworks ever.”

Another attendee, who didn’t want to be named, criticised the public transport planning.

“There were plenty of free Eastgate buses, but they weren’t able to leave promptly due to the heavy traffic jams,” she explained.

“The real problem was the absence of actual public paid buses, and a large crowd waiting for the number 60 bus back into the city that never showed up. Even if it had arrived, it wouldn’t have accommodated the waiting crowd.

“Security didn’t know what was going on and sent the crowd further down the road to the next bus stop, and then security at that end sent everyone back to where they had just walked from. 

“It was insanely busy which was to expected, but very poorly managed. My young sons raced over to catch the first public bus missed that one.” When the woman and her sons did get on a bus at 8.30PM the driver told her it was the last one.

Park and Ride service great experience for others

However, the night was a better experience for others.

Kyle Rump said “the free bus to the fireworks from Eastgate was fantastic” but said the traffic was terrible. “But apart from that it was great . Traffic management should give priority to buses next time.”

Mell Ball said her family used the free bus service from Eastgate to and from New Brighton with her two young children.

“It work out perfect for us and we got home faster than expected. The only downfall was the last minute change to the pick up point near Eastgate, an extra walk but we will use this again for sure next year. It was a great display too” Mell said.

Bus company said Ecan didn’t provide additional buses

Liam Bentley from Bentley Transport was in New Brighton on Saturday night running the special event buses.

“The Eastgate Park and Ride Buses had sufficient capacity – no one was left behind.  We had 20 buses in operation, which was plenty. 

If more capacity was required then we had the option of sending the first few buses back to run another trip. This was not required.”

Liam echoed similar concerns made by fireworks attendees.

“I suspect the issue was with the Metro routes – 5 and 60. Environment Canterbury did not provide additional buses for those routes this year” he said. 

“We noticed a massive queue for route 5 so we offered spare space on our buses to take some those passengers to Eastgate.

Those passengers could then transfer to other routes such as the orbiter, 80 or 140” Liam said.

A Christchurch City Council spokeswoman said “the buses got stuck in traffic which meant there was a delay, but they made it back and no one was left behind.

More people attended the event in cars than anticipated, so staff will need to review the plan for next year.”

Environment Canterbury, which operates the regular public bus service was approached for comment.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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