Canberra’s long awaited timetable for the new bus network was released on 14 March, amid some community concern. Services are scheduled to begin on Monday 29 April.
Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said the network offers “more buses, more customer service officers and more frequent services”.
But feedback on the new network shows a level of community concern about the axing of some services and travel times.
Shadow Minister for Transport Candice Burch MLA said while the Canberra Liberals welcome more frequent services along rapid transport routes, they remain concerned about the loss of some services and longer door-to-door travel times after receiving some preliminary community feedback.
“Parents and schools are concerned about children having to catch public buses, as many school services have been cancelled. This means many students, including primary school children, will be forced to wait longer after school, change and wait at interchanges, and have to navigate busy main roads and intersections to get to the public bus services. Many Canberra families feel let down and disappointed by this decision.”
Public consultation last year saw the Government inundated with feedback about the proposed changes to dedicated school services.
“We are also hearing from a lot of upset commuters whose bus trips will now take longer to get to and from work,” Ms Burch said.
She said longer travel times would discourage Canberrans from using public transport, and that a “transport spine” also requires suburb routes with adequate coverage and frequency.
“While it [a transport spine] may result in increased patronage between town centres, it will likely be at the expense of patronage on suburban services.”
Feedback on social media has also highlighted these issues. Comments on a Transport Canberra Facebook post about the new network attracted numerous complaints about longer travel times, more bus connections and school children changing buses and waiting at interchanges.
Minister Fitzharris said there will be additional transport officers, customer service assistants and Transport Canberra representatives at major interchanges to assist passengers with the network changes.
“We know this will be a big change for many people, but we hope having a more frequent, faster network every day of the week will encourage more people to catch public transport.”
She said community consultation last year indicated people wanted more direct routes, more frequent and reliable services and increased service on weekends and off-peak times.
“There will be services at least every 15 minutes along rapid transport routes from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday, continuing into the evening with less frequency. Weekend and public holiday service times will also be extended to 10pm.”
She also said there would be increased safety along the network, with CCTV cameras on every bus and at interchanges, and school crossing supervisors at 25 sites.
The new bus network has been designed to integrate with the light rail network, for which Minister Fitzharris has announced a planned operation start date of Saturday 20 April, subject to Canberra Metro obtaining third party rail accreditation from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator.
The new bus timetable can be viewed via transport.act.gov.au