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Demand for alternative: An Arrowtown-bound bus setting off from Queenstown the long way this week

By PHILIP CHANDLER

A short-cut bus service between Arrowtown and Queenstown — starting on a trial basis — could be on the cards.

Since Otago Regional Council’s (ORC) Orbus service started four years ago, the only route’s been the long way via Lake Hayes, Quail Rise and the Frankton hub.

Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association (APBA) lobbied for a direct service, via Malaghans Road, earlier this year.

ORC refused, on the grounds of pre-Covid patronage levels and ‘‘recovery forecasts’’.

It estimated the service would cost between $280,000 and $640,000 a year, depending on frequency, and said it’s not considering any new Whakatipu routes for three years.

APBA manager Nicky Busst says the response ‘‘dumbfounded’’ them.

Her group argues the current ‘‘circuitous’’ route discourages commuters and also visitors, to the detriment of Arrowtown businesses.

Enter Arrowtowner Sharon Fifield, one of those who drive to Queenstown for work as it’s more convenient.

A bus along Malaghans Rd ‘‘just seems like commonsense to me’’, she says.

‘‘I know heaps of people that would get on a bus that would go direct from Arrowtown to Queenstown but just can’t afford the almost-an-hour it takes [via Frankton].

‘‘You’re only going to drive behaviour change if there’s convenient options for people.’’

Fifield’s shared her views with local ORC councillor Alexa Forbes, and suggested a trial to start with.

Last week she also surveyed ‘Arrowtown Community’ Facebook page users and got a phenomenal response.

Based on the results, she believes Arrowtowners could potentially fill direct services at 7.30am and 8.30am, and even one service returning at 5pm would be ‘‘a great start’’.

Forbes says her first response to requests for new routes was to encourage people to use existing ones.

‘‘But I heard Sharon out and looked at that [Facebook] page.

‘‘I kind of changed my view and thought, ‘well, if they really believe they will use a service around that back road, then probably it’s our job to figure out how to provide it’.’’

There’s nothing in the regional public transport plan preventing a trial — ‘‘that doesn’t mean to say it’s easy or it will happen quickly, but it’s definitely possible’’ — but she admits there’s no budget for it, ‘‘which is highly problematic’’.

‘‘I’ve got to work those things out, but work them out, I will try,’’ Forbes says.

scoop@scene.co.nz