Updated Southbridge service up and running

The first day of the updated trial bus service for Southbridge commuters started bright and early. On Monday 26 July, 20 customers travelled into Lincoln on the updated Southbridge timetable.

The first commuters on the updated Southbridge to Lincoln trial bus service were thanked for their ongoing support and involvement in shaping the new timetable in a way that better meets the needs of the community, with a Metro voucher.  

“The challenge for the community is to get behind the service, so it continues beyond when the trial finishes in June next year,” said customer experience and marketing manager Thomas McNaughton.

“We need bus patronage to increase to an average of 40 passengers total per day for the service to continue past then. The new service provides some new opportunities for travel, so we encourage people to explore their options.”

Lincoln – City connection

people in room

Second Leeston meeting

The updated Southbridge service now connects with the two Lincoln services travelling into the city, at Lincoln University – the 80 Lincoln - Parklands and the 81 Lincoln - City direct.

In the afternoon there are now two options for customers travelling from Christchurch to Southbridge, catering for both school students and workers.

These changes are a result of a survey in which we received a great response from 149 people. Of the respondents, 79% preferred the Southbridge to Lincoln option, and 90% of those respondents said that they would use the service more if it connected with Lincoln services.

A community meeting was held in Leeston before the updated service started. This gave the community a chance to hear the survey results and understand how the new connections worked.

The Ellesmere Community Vehicle Trust also attended to talk about the transport options they offer that can fill the gap for transport during the day and weekends.

Advantages of the updated service

Added advantages for the updated 87 Southbridge – Lincoln service includes zone-based fares. This means that commuters will also be able to transfer onto other bus services for free, within two hours of their first bus.

Zone-based fares also give a saving for commuters, especially when they use a Metrocard. A return fare for an adult will now be $9.40 instead of $12 on the previous Southbridge – City trial service.

Metrocards can be purchased online and the “automatic top-up” system is simple and saves you having to watch your balance on the card.

Next steps

Metro is committed to supporting and encouraging the community to make this service successful.

Reports will be published every two months to ensure that the community is informed about how the service is tracking.

Find out more

Previous updates

7 July 2021

Selwyn community survey shows support for Southbridge – Lincoln connection bus service

More than 140 people shared their thoughts on the future of the 87 Southbridge – City trial bus service, with a clear preference for the service to continue as a connection with Lincoln bus services to the city.

Metro ran a community survey in May to understand the community’s preference for continuing a connection between Southbridge and the city, as the existing service was no longer sustainable.

This option will offer customers two options for traveling from the city to Southbridge in the afternoon, also servicing those travelling between Lincoln to Southbridge.

Metro spokesperson Thomas McNaughton was pleased with the community’s response.

“Eighty per cent of the feedback showed Lincoln connection as the preferred option. The responses were evenly split between those commuting from Leeston and Southbridge, which gives us confidence in the local support for the preferred option,” he said.

The new route is planned to be implemented from Monday 26 July and will run Monday to Friday including school holidays on a trial basis until mid-2022.

“It’s encouraging that ninety per cent of those who chose the Lincoln connection said the change would mean they used the bus service more. It’s up to the community to show their support for the service and increase patronage, so it can continue it beyond its trial period,” McNaughton said.

Staff will continue working out the finer details of the changes, including scheduling.

Another community meeting is taking place on Tuesday 20 July from 7.30pm in the Leeston Consolidated School Hall.

Schedule Monday - Friday

Change to route

The service will depart Southbridge slightly earlier than currently, to connect with the Lincoln buses.

The full schedule will be available on the Metro website soon.

Change to route

There is a slight difference to the current 87 route, where the connecting Lincoln 80 and express 81 do not travel through Hornby or Church Corner (see map).


  • Zone three transfers, $4.70 adult, and $2.60 with Metrocard.
  • Includes transfers.

Find out more

26 May 2021

Options for the community

We are running a survey with the Springston to Southbridge community to explore options to continue a bus service to connect to the city. This trial of the 87 Southbridge – City service started in 2019 and after many extensions is due to expire due to low patronage unless a solution is found.

“The survey will gather community feedback on three different options, to help us shape some potential solutions,” Metro’s Customer Experience  Manager Thomas McNaughton said.

“It’s a balancing act, providing services that fits wider community wants and what we are able to provide – it can be challenging,” he said.

Community meeting saw collaboration

On 27 April Environment Canterbury held a community meeting in Leeson to discuss the future of the trial 87 Southbridge – City bus service. This was a well-attended meeting with constructive discussions and plenty of suggestions from the floor.

With morning patronage being reasonable, but afternoon patronage being too low, it was found that many parents travel to Lincoln to pick their children up after taking a connecting bus from the City to Lincoln. Also, the current special fare does not allow transfers to other buses – something the community shared they would find beneficial.  

It was strongly suggested to have trips from Lincoln to Southbridge to connect with the Lincoln buses which would then include city transfers as a preferred option. This approach would also allow for two afternoon departure options from the city.

Other points raised included lack of heating on the bus, no transfers on the present fare system, the return trip time does not suit school students and is too early for some workers and the desire for more bus runs during the day and in weekends to local towns.

Proposed options for feedback

Public transport is funded by local targeted rates, government grants to match the local rates, and fares.

Current patronage is too low to sustain the service, so as a result of the community meeting in April, Environment Canterbury is proposing some options that fit within the existing funding make-up of the service.

All options will continue the pick-up and drop-offs from Southbridge, Leeston, Doyleston, Irwell and Springston.

Option 1 – Lincoln connection

This would allow customers to catch the bus in Southbridge and travel to Lincoln in the morning, then return via a connecting service in the afternoon. It includes one morning and two afternoon trips Monday to Friday. There is a slightly different route with the connecting Lincoln 80 and express 81 not traveling through Hornby or Church Corner.

Schedule Monday – Friday:

Depart Southbridge 6.55am arrive Bus Interchange 8.25 - 8.29am
First afternoon bus 80 depart Bus Interchange 3.09pm, arrive Southbridge 4.44pm
Second buses 80 and 81 depart Bus Interchange 5.09pm and 5.18pm, arrive Southbridge 6.43pm


Zone three fares, $4.70 adult, and $2.60 child with Metrocard.
Includes transfers.

Option 2 – Rolleston connection

This would allow customers to catch the bus from Southbridge and travel to Rolleston in the morning, then return via a connection service in the evening Monday to Friday. Timetables would be aligned so customers can catch the 5 Rolleston – New Brighton, which travels the same route into Christchurch as the current 87 Southbridge – City.

Schedule Monday - Friday:

Depart Southbridge 6.45am, arrive Bus Interchange 8.22am
Depart Bus Interchange 5.27pm, arrive Southbridge 7.25pm


Zone three fares, $4.70 adult, and $2.60 child with Metrocard.
Includes transfers.

Option 3 – existing service continues with Annual Pass

A potential prepaid annual pass costing $400 for an adult and $250 for a child would require 90 passes to be purchased before the service would be continued. The timetable for the service would continue as it currently stands.

The current special fare of $6 adult and $3.50 child does not include transfers.


7 May 2021

Community meeting sees collaboration and discussion around the future of trial bus service.

Leeston and Southbridge residents recently met with Councillors Scott, Sunckell and Mackenzie, and staff, to discuss the future of the trial 87 Southbridge – City bus service.

The trial service started in January 2019 and has continually been extended with modifications to scheduling and fares. Patronage levels are currently too low to sustain the service, which is at risk of discontinuing in June this year if a solution cannot be found.

Community meeting held in Leeston

We were keen to meet with residents, which saw a community meeting attended by more than 50 residents, users and interested parties.

“The meeting was successful in that everyone who attended was able to voice their thoughts and understand the challenging position we are in,” general manager public transport Stewart Gibbon said.

“It’s tough deciding whether or not to continue a trial service that isn’t financially viable but provides public transport for the needs of many people, including youth.

“It was great to see such constructive discussion,” he said.

Suggested solutions

As in all public transport, funding includes targeted rates which Environment Canterbury must make a call about continuation prior to the Long-Term Plan being finalised for 1 July.

With morning patronage being high, but afternoon patronage being too low, it was found that many parents travel to Lincoln to pick their children up after taking a connecting bus from the City to Lincoln. Also, the current special fare does not allow transfers to other buses – something the community shared they would find beneficial.

It was strongly suggested to have trips from Lincoln to Southbridge to connect with the Lincoln buses which would then include city transfers as a preferred option.

“We’ve taken this information back, and staff will be looking in how this option might work from a scheduling, financial and patronage point of view. Although we can’t promise anything, it’s great to have a suggestion to investigate,” Gibbon said.

We also suggested an Annual Pass concept for the existing direct service as an option to ensure sufficient funding from fares which was very economic for bus users.

15 March 2021

Southbridge to City commuters wanted

Your 87 Southbridge – City trial bus service needs more regular use if it is to continue.

The trial bus service is for residents commuting to Christchurch city from Leeston, Doyleston, Irwell and Springston. It operates as an express service, running city-bound in the morning, and then City-Southbridge in the afternoon.

In a 2019 Southbridge/Leeston community survey of 200 people, almost all respondents supported the service. Currently, average patronage is sitting at about 28 boardings in total per day – significantly less than expected from the community survey.

General manager public transport Stewart Gibbon said with appropriate community support, the trial service has potential to provide a valuable, sustainable transport option for people working in the city. But, to keep the service viable, customer numbers needed to increase.

“Having enough customers while keeping the service affordable for both users and rate payers is challenging,” he said.

Making the service viable

Public transport is funded through three sources:

  • targeted rates from the local community,
  • Government grants to match local rates, and
  • user fares.

Government funding policy for public transport sets an expectation that in order to get government funding, an appropriate level of usage is required.

Numbers need to increase

With an average of 28 boardings a day, combined across the inbound and outbound service, this is insufficient to sustain the continuation of the service

Currently, the trial service is primarily made up of school children. There needs to be around an additional 15 boardings per day on average to sustain the service.

“Because there is a targeted rate for Leeston and Southbridge to cover this service, we need to make a call about continuation prior to Environment Canterbury’s Long-Term Plan being finalised,” Gibbon said.

School children make up almost 60 per cent of patronage, with most people boarding in Southbridge, Leeston and Doyleston, and being dropped off at central city locations between Hornby and the Bus Interchange.

“Children are the main users of the service and we are aware that those students may rely on the service to get to and from school, but the service needs to be sustainable to justify a community charge through rates to continue it,” Gibbon said.

19 June 2020

Commuter bus services from Darfield and Southbridge to Christchurch city will continue operating after funding was confirmed as part of Environment Canterbury’s Annual Plan 2020/21.

The 86 Darfield-City service will remain on a permanent basis, while the 87 Southbridge-City service will continue for the 2020/21 financial year at this stage.

Senior manager public transport Stewart Gibbon says that he is pleased to be able to provide further certainty to Selwyn residents on the future of these two services.

“The Darfield service has been well supported by the community since the trial started, with consistent and sustained usage,” said Gibbon.

“Prior to COVID-19, we had been seeing some improvement in the viability of the service from Southbridge and Leeston. This has been helped by the special fare that was introduced at the start of 2020.

“We hope to see usage increase as people return to normal work and school routines.”

Timetables and fares for each service will remain the same. See details for each service on the Metro website:

18 December 2019

Trial commuter bus services to the city from Southbridge, Leeston, Doyleston, Irwell and Springston will continue until at least April 2020.

The express service trial has been running since January 2019 to determine levels of customer demand, bringing passengers into Christchurch city in the morning and returning in the afternoon.

Senior manager public transport Stewart Gibbon said that while there has been some support of the service from the community, the overall number of people using it is lower than hoped, with nearly 60% of the users are school children.

“The lower fares contribution from children may affect the viability of this service, and to meet the cap we needed to address the fares,” he said.

“For this service to be viable, we are unable to keep the fares at the Zone 3 rate and have instead introduced special fares.“

The intention is to encourage the use of this service so that it might become viable in the future. Fares have been set as low as is practical, and at a level which is less than the current Zone 3 cash fare.

How much will it cost?

  • Adults will pay a flat fare of $6
  • Child fares will be $3.50 for all locations along the route

Metrocards can still be used on this service, but there will be no discount for Metrocard holders as there is on other services.

Tickets (both cash and Metrocard) will be non-transferable to other Metro services.

Holiday timetable

The service will pause on Friday 20 December for the holiday period, resuming on Monday 27 January for the new school term. It will be initially offered until the end of Term 1, with the option to continue if it is well supported.

25 October 2019

Trial commuter bus services running in Selwyn are set to continue beyond the end of October.

In July, Environment Canterbury confirmed that the trial commuter bus services in Darfield and Leeston would continue through until the end of October 2019, after funding was made available through the Annual Plan process.

It has now been confirmed that the Darfield service will continue until at least June 2020, however options for the Leeston service beyond the end of the calendar year are being considered.

86 Darfield-City

The Darfield service has continued to be well supported by the community with consistent usage and will continue until at least June 2020. As part of the next Annual Plan process, funding of the service longer-term will be considered to allow it to remain, provided the sustained usage continues.

87 Leeston-City

Usage of the Leeston service remains below where it needs to be to continue it in its current form long-term. It will continue operating as is until December 20, 2019 and, over the coming months, Environment Canterbury will consider options for the service for the new year.

This will include looking at introducing a different fare structure to increase viability and assessing whether the extension from Leeston to Southbridge remains viable.

If a suitable solution can be found, the service will take a break during the holiday period, recommencing for the new school year in late January or early February 2020.

15 July 2019

Trial commuter bus services in Darfield and Leeston will continue for a further four months, with the Leeston service being extended to include Southbridge from Monday 22 July.

Environment Canterbury senior manager public transport Stewart Gibbon confirmed that funding has been made available through the Environment Canterbury Annual Plan process to allow the trial services until the end of October.

“It’s encouraging to see the strong level of support from the Selwyn community to continue these services. We’re happy to confirm they will continue to be provided on a trial basis, meaning that we are likely to test out different options to see further growth in patronage, particularly for the Leeston service,” he said.

In the first instance, this will involve extending the 87 Leeston-City service to include Southbridge, starting from Monday 22 July. Trips to the city will depart from High Street opposite the Southbridge Hotel at 6.50am on weekdays. Departure times from other locations will remain unchanged. A map and fare information is available at metroinfo.co.nz.

Boarding numbers for both services remained relatively steady over recent months, with an average of around 45 boardings per day on the Darfield service and around 30 per day on the Leeston service.

Selwyn District Council Mayor Sam Broughton says the council is pleased with the result, which it supported through a submission to the Annual Plan.

“As a Council, we advocated for these buses on behalf of our community. It’s great to see such a good uptake of the service, allowing Environment Canterbury to continue the trial, to look at areas for improvement and hopefully to the services being implemented permanently.”

Environment Canterbury will continue to closely monitor these services over the four-month period and will work with partners to consider long-term options should these services continue to be well-supported.

Service timetables

The available funding still only allows for one trip in each direction Monday-Friday for each service.

Before the trial services started, the Darfield and Leeston communities were surveyed to determine the most suitable trip times.

“As the funding only allows for one trip daily in each direction, it is a difficult balancing act to set trip times that work for everyone who may use the service. The recent steady boarding numbers suggest that the current times are working well for a number of people, so if we were to alter them we would need to make sure that they still worked well for current users,” said Gibbon.

“A survey we ran with the Darfield passengers in March, regarding the time of the afternoon service, showed that we were unable to find an alternative that would not reduce the number of current passengers who would use it.”