Canberra’s public transport network has received a welcome boost in services, with an additional 692 daily bus rides including 10 ‘Rapid routes’ and an increase in light rail frequency.
The network update was originally scheduled for April but was delayed due to the coronavirus and will now be rolled out from 18 July as more Canberrans return to their workplaces.
The additional services have been planned using feedback from a community survey and analysis of ACT Government road data.
ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said the additional services would support “the safe use” of public transport by reducing crowding and enabling social distancing as the ACT implements phase three of the roadmap to recovery.
“The advice is still to look for alternative travel options,” Mr Steel said. “But for people who need to use public transport, avoid peak hour and maintain 1. 5 metres distance.”
He said the significant increase in services would give Canberrans a sense of the “new world” post-pandemic, but it could be two years before public transport would return to its previous patronage level and for the full benefits to be realised.
“Patronage on public transport is down 52% today from this time last year,” he said. “People are heeding the advice and staying away.”
The update to network 19 is expected to reduce travel times by up to 30 minutes for commuters in Tuggeranong and address critical shortfalls in direct bus routes from Northside suburbs.
Gungahlin resident Jenny McManus said the removal of a direct bus route from Crace to Belconnen had frustrated for Gungahlin residents, especially seniors, for more than two years.
“It’s turned a 20-minute bus journey into a 90-minute journey,” she said.
Mr Steel said the government had ‘listened to the people’ and the new timetable reflected that.
“We hope to create a community of lifelong public transport users,” he said.
The ACT Government has recruited and trained 803 bus drivers ahead of the rollout and has enough to ‘make it work’ for term three, but still needs an additional 24 drivers for term four to fully implement the new weekend schedule.
The network will be subject to future changes as the Government remains in commercial negotiations for a ticketing system and procurement of real-time passenger data – both of which are expected to aid commuters in social distancing.
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