The Canberra Liberals have promised to spend $12.5 million on school road safety measures and re-establish dedicated school bus services should they win October’s election.
Upgrading safety infrastructure at school drop off and pick up areas, installing flashing lights on school zone road signage, and providing dedicated crossing supervisors at “every school that needs one” are a few of the measures announced.
Shadow minister for education Elizabeth Lee MLA said $7.5 million will go toward school zone flashing lights and road markings, with $5 million going toward pick-up and drop-off zone safety infrastructure.
“Evidence has proven that flashing lights at school zones act as a friendly reminder to motorists that they are entering a school zone,” she said.
“Canberra drivers want to do the right thing, but they don’t always know when they’re entering a school zone.”
Labor spokesperson for transport Chris Steel said a study commissioned by Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) on the use of flashing lights at school zones said the prompts wouldn’t be effective in the ACT.
“Canberra schools are generally located away from arterial roads which differs from other jurisdictions such as NSW and Queensland where schools often front arterial roads or major highways which have higher traffic volumes and posted speeds.
“ACT school zones also operate all day from 8am to 4pm which means the rules are simpler and motorists generally do not require prompts such as flashing lights,” he said.
Ms Lee said the pick-up and drop-off zone infrastructure would specifically relate to improving visibility due to anecdotal evidence parents encounter “a lot of blind spots” around schools.
Mr Steel said the Canberra Liberals announcement ignores the work the ACT Government has undertaken to improve safety around schools.
He pointed to a few campaigns and programs the government has introduced relating to school safety.
“The ACT Labor Government introduced the ‘Active Streets for Schools’ program and the School Crossing Supervisors Program as effective means to improve children’s safety.”
Canberra Liberals shadow minister for transport Candice Burch MLA also promised to reinstate dedicated school buses “for schools that need them” in collaboration with school communities.
Without costings for the dedicated school bus services policy as “yet”, Ms Burch said routes would be reinstated for schools where demand for such services exist.
“Before the government made those cuts, we were constantly hearing from school communities who did want more dedicated school services, not less.”
Ms Burch said currently there are “around 50 primary schools” across Canberra without any dedicated school buses.
In response to the Liberals school bus announcement, Mr Steel said pre-COVID 19 patronage showed school student numbers were unchanged as a result of the network change and that reverting to dedicated school services would require a 25% cut in “all existing regular peak services”.
“The current network uses the whole Transport Canberra fleet through the peak, including school drop-off and pickup times.
“The Canberra Liberals need to be honest with the community about these cuts to the bus network, or explain how else they will deliver these services,” he said.