After backlash from parents and schools about the proposed bus route changes and the loss of most of the dedicated school bus services, the ACT Government has adjusted its plans for the new network, releasing the adjusted plans on Tuesday morning (16 October).
After receiving 13,000 pieces of feedback regarding the proposed bus service, the new network, which is set to remain in place for the next five years, includes 37 changes across 58 routes and an additional 78 school services.
ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the ACT Government has already committed $43 million for the addition of 80 new buses to the network, and will also invest in new infrastructure and more customer service officers to make the public transport network more convenient for Canberrans.
“This was genuine consultation, and as a result, we have made changes to a number of routes. I acknowledge the new network will involve changes for some users, but we need to strike a balance which makes public transport as attractive as possible to all people, including both new and existing passengers,” she said.
“The new network of buses and light rail will make it easier for Canberrans to get where they want to go, offering a genuine alternative to driving, seven days a week.
“This is all about making Canberra better connected and getting more people on public transport so we can secure Canberra’s status as one of the world’s most liveable cities as our population continues to grow.”
The new network includes an extended Rapid service from Tuggeranong to Belconnen, instead of just the City to ensure people travelling from Tuggeranong to Belconnen don’t need to change buses. It will also include direct local connections to Woden from Weston Creek, provide better coverage in south-west Belconnen, and add new peak bus routes from the south of Tuggeranong.
Ms Fitzharirs said that under the updated network, almost six out of 10 Canberrans will live within walking distance of a rapid bus stop and there will be services at least every 15 minutes along 10 Rapid transport corridors from 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday.
Approximately 50 schools will still have no dedicated school bus service and will instead rely on expanded local or nearby rapid services but Ms Fitzharris said there will be new Customer Service Officers to familiarise school children with using interchanges and improve signage.
“We’ve heard what parents, teachers and students have said and we will also recruit a specialist schools liaison to ensure buses continue to meet schools’ needs,” Minister Fitzharris said.
“Currently the overwhelming majority of students don’t use the bus at all to get to school, so we hope this combination of the improved regular network and school-only services will encourage more young people to start using the bus and continue to be bus users after they graduate.”
The ACT Government has also committed to providing free travel for one month on the new network, installing new electronic ticket machines at interchanges, more school crossing supervisors, improved infrastructure around schools and better information to help people navigate the new network.
A full timetable will be finalised by Transport Canberra and will be published later in the year before the network starts in early 2019.