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This section provides guidance for assessing programmes of service activities within the public transport activity class in existence at the time of adoption of each National Land Transport Programme.

The existing services activities within the public transport activity class incorporate the following work categories:

For further information on Public Transport programmes, including what qualifies, what is excluded and a definition, refer to the Public Transport programmes section.

Links to planning documents

The Transport Agency requires public transport programmes to be well linked to long-term planning documents, particularly Regional Public Transport Plans(external link) (RPTPs) and Long Term Plans (LTPs).  These documents should describe the assumptions and forecasts underpinning the programme.

The forward programme and funding plan, ongoing operational costs and any major investment proposed must be derived from the RPTP.  Approved Organisations must demonstrate how activities optimise the public transport network to ensure its effectiveness and benefit and cost appraisal.

Information provided to support public transport programmes should make reference to the relevant parts of these planning documents.

Strategic fit

Default strategic fit

By default the strategic fit rating for an existing public transport services programme is low.


Requirements for medium rating

A public transport programme may be given a medium rating for strategic fit if, in the short to medium term,  there is a positive contribution to:

  • providing access to social and economic opportunities.


Requirements for high rating

A high rating for strategic fit must only be given to a public transport programme if, in addition to meeting the criteria for medium strategic fit, the problem, issue or opportunity is:

  • severe congestion in major urban areas (evidenced in travel time and journey reliability measures on main corridors and arterials across the network).


Further information

Further information on Strategic Fit assessment is provided in the guidance on Developing an Assessment Profile

Effectiveness for public transport programmes

Criteria for effectiveness

All six criteria set out below are to be assessed for any programme or activity proposed for NLTP inclusion or funding approval. The explanations are a guide to assessment, highlighting aspects that need to be considered. If any of these aspects is not applicable to the activity then it should not form part of the assessment.

Criteria Explanation Rating
Outcomes focused
  • continues to address the problem, issue or opportunity identified in the Strategic Fit assessment to explain why the service exists
  • consistency with levels of service in an appropriate classification system where a classification system exists
  • consistency with the current network and future transport plans
  • consistency with other current and future activities
  • consistency with current and future land use planning
  • accommodates different needs across modes including the integration between public transport modes, e.g. bus to rail connections
  • support as an agreed programme across partners, including infrastructure maintenance and renewal to support existing services

Correctly scoped

  • the degree of fit as part of an agreed strategy or business case
  • has followed the intervention hierarchy to consider alternatives and options including low cost alternatives and options
  • is of an appropriate scale in relation to the issue/opportunity
  • covers and/or manages the spatial impact (upstream and downstream, network impacts)
  • mitigates any adverse impacts on other results


  • is affordable through the lifecycle for all parties
  • has understood and traded off the best whole of life cost approach
  • has understood the benefits and costs between transport users and other parties and sought contributions as possible


  • delivers enduring benefits over the timeframe identified in the justified strategy or business case
  • provides the benefits in a timely manner


  • manages current and future risk for results/outcomes
  • manages current and future risk for costs


Assessment is based on lowest rating of all components L/M/H


Further information

Further information on Effectiveness assessment is provided in the section on Developing an Assessment Profile.

Benefit and cost appraisal for public transport programmes

Mix of methodologies applied

The benefit and cost appraisal methodologies for existing public transport services programmes are cost-effectiveness, benchmarking and performance comparisons of:

  • benefit efficiency ratio
  • farebox recovery ratio
  • cost per service km, and
  • service utilisation. 

The assessment is undertaken across the programme proposed for the next NLTP and is compared to the cost effectiveness and performance of the existing programme relative to service levels provided. Benchmarking also forms part of this assessment of public transport programmes as does evaluation of the marginal contribution of programme expansions and incremental new services through benchmark and key performance measures.


Public transport programme appraisal template

The public transport programme appraisal template [XLS, 1.8 MB] can be used to support the evaluation.

Note that this Excel spreadsheet contains macros which must be enabled in order to use the template.


Service variations and new services are improvements

Any service variations and new services that result in a higher annualised cost across the programme must be separated from the public transport programme and will be assessed as improvements - refer to Assessment of Public Transport Improvements. The impact of such improvements on the programme as a whole may be assessed using the appraisal template [XLS, 1.8 MB]to ensure the programme is optimised.

Programme ratings

Public transport programmes are given a rating using Low, Medium, or High based on their relative cost effectiveness and benchmarking performance comparisons.

  • Low - when cost effectiveness and benchmarking shows below-average band efficiency
  • Medium - when cost effectiveness and benchmarking shows average band efficiency
  • High - when cost effectiveness shows above-average band efficiency


Peer review

The Transport Agency reserves the right to require a peer review of benefit and cost appraisal determinations and measures, including any non-monetised/additional benefits and adverse impacts, regardless of the scope, prior to an investment decision.


Insufficient information (1* or Low*)

An activity can be included in the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) when no benefit and cost appraisal has been made or when no robust evidence is able to be provided to support the assessment. In such cases the rating for benefit and cost appraisal will default to Low for the programme or programme component. The Transport Agency represents these activities as Low* to nominate that more information is required.

An activity will not be recommended by the Transport Agency for funding approval with a 1* or Low* status.


Further information

Further information on Benefit and Cost Appraisal is provided in the section on Developing an Assessment Profile.