2 May 2024

ACT Greens' 'Big Bus Plan' promises to deliver 100 more buses, 200 extra drivers, in two years

| Claire Fenwicke
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ACT Greens candidates at bus stop

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, transport spokesperson Jo Clay and Murrumbidgee candidate Harini Rangarajan have announced the party’s grand plans for Canberra’s bus system. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

The ACT Greens have promised to do what the current government hasn’t been able to achieve: a bus every 20 minutes during the week and every 30 minutes on the weekend by 2026.

The party unveiled its ‘Big Bus Plan’, which includes 100 more buses for our roads and 200 more drivers behind the wheel to make a more reliable bus service a reality.

This would be supported by improved infrastructure such as more bus lanes (starting with the Belconnen, Civic and Molonglo corridors), upgrading Canberra’s bus shelters, and building two new bus depots to house more vehicles as the city grows.

Everyone under the age of 18, seniors and concession card holders would also be able to access free public transport across the system.

ACT Greens transport spokesperson Jo Clay said the election policy was about making Canberra a truly liveable city.

“At the moment, too many people are locked into the expense of having a car because there isn’t an easy alternative,” she said.

“With extra buses, extra drivers, extra depots and dedicated bus lanes for our busiest corridors, we can create a public transport system that genuinely serves our whole city.”

To achieve their 2026 vision, one-off spends of $100 million would be needed for the 100 new buses and $105 million for accompanying infrastructure. It’s expected this would be sourced through Federal funding.

Recurrent spending would include $50 million for the extra 200 drivers, $5 million to improve bus stops and $6 million for the waived fares.

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Public transport has become a bone of contention for the ACT Government.

Four Custom Denning battery electric buses, announced last October, went missing from our roads, and the delivery date for the rest of the promised 26 low-emission diesel buses is still up in the air.

Saturday services have recently received a boost following negotiations with bus drivers, but the Sunday timetable still hasn’t been improved.

When questioned how the ACT Greens could avoid these same issues, Ms Clay said it was about spending the money, signalling that buses were a priority, and being more organised with procurement.

“What we’ve seen is we’re having really slow procurement. We’re not starting our projects early enough. We’re not planning ahead. This plan has all of the milestones set out. We’ve got all the steps in there,” she said.

“Part of the delay with our buses is that we haven’t been putting our orders in on time … we know exactly how many buses we need to buy and we will set about securing those as soon as possible.”

ACT Greens candidate for Murrumbidgee Harini Rangarajan said improving bus reliability would especially go a long way for students and seniors.

“I believe students should have a public transport system where they can show up and know they can get to wherever they want to on time,” she said.

“[As someone reliant on buses] invariably what ends up happening is that I plan my entire day around catching the bus, and regardless of all the preparation beforehand, I end up late to my classes because the buses are either late or they simply don’t show up.”

She was particularly keen to see rapid services reinstated to the ANU.

“It’s really hard for me to get from Weston Creek to the ANU these days. You can’t be charging students exorbitant parking fees when there’s no bus system that works hand-in-hand with that,” Ms Rangarajan said.

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The bus plan has already been welcomed by the Public Transport Association of Canberra, with chair Ryan Hemsley calling on ACT Labor to match the Greens’ bus frequency commitment.

“By announcing this policy, the ACT Greens have joined the Canberra Liberals in promising better public transport, no matter where you live in the nation’s capital,” he said.

“It’s time ACT Labor got on board with delivering more and better buses for Canberra.”

Shadow Transport Minister Mark Parton said the Canberra Liberals were “genuinely flattered” by the Greens’ announcement.

“Much of the Greens policy is a poor copy of the Canberra Liberals’ recently announced ‘People Focused Public Transport’ plan, which has created the agenda in this portfolio space,” he said.

“The Canberra Liberals’ announcements around expansion of the bus fleet, new bus depots, dedicated bus lanes, better bus stops, local improvements and more school services and free public transport for kids, concessions and seniors is a part of both our transport and cost of living policy.”

However, he questioned how the ACT Greens would avoid the frustrations the current government had been experiencing with bus and driver procurement.

“In the 12 years that members of the ACT Greens have sat around the cabinet table, ACTION and Transport Canberra have seen continual service degradation and a bus fleet that fails to keep pace with Canberra’s growing population,” he said.

“Labor and the Greens cannot be trusted with public transport.”

The Big Bus Plan is part one of the ACT Greens’ transport policy, with more announcements to be made around light rail and active travel in the coming months.

The party has already signalled that it will commit to speeding up the delivery of light rail stage 2B to Woden.

It has also supported the case for separated cycleways, which are being trialled in Kingston and calls for a separate cycle lane on Northbourne Avenue.

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Andrew Clarke12:14 pm 05 May 24

Funny the greens could.promise a 2000 new buses and 10 000 drivers. But it’s irrelevant be ause they will never control a government.

William Newby2:44 pm 03 May 24

Greens have no idea.
More large empty busses driving all around Canberra is exactly what we do NOT need. Especially when you factor in their heavily unionised $140,000 salaries.
We can not afford this, we do not need this, the current busses off peak are at about 3% capacity.
Don’t believe me, take a look at your local bus stop and/or go look at their 200 pages long employment agreement. These guys are earning double what police officers earn just for driving all over Canberra in empty busses.
The Greens, if they were in touch with the real world would know these facts.

GrumpyGrandpa9:01 pm 03 May 24

Bus drivers on a $140,000 salaries? If that were true, TC wouldn’t be having difficulty recruiting drivers.
Riotact ran a story on TC’s new EBA on 25 May 2023. Might be worth a read.

William Newby1:04 am 04 May 24

Thanks, I did just read it, and it clearly states their BASE SALARY is now $93,592 per annum or $47.21 per hour. Their base salary…
Let me tell you there are drivers here that are making $140,000 for driving empty buses all over town, yes you have to do the shifts but it is totally possible under this EA.
The recruitment issues have nothing to do with the coin, the yard is toxic, the passengers are toxic, the Labor gov are toxic, that’s why people don’t stick around here.
200 more drivers won’t happen because they just aren’t out there!
The Greens are so thick they don’t know what they are committing to, more empty buses, more pollution, more money, for buses that we will never find drivers (or passengers) for.
Not unless police officers, school teachers, and nurses wake up to how poorly paid they are – quit their jobs, and come drive empty buses!

A Canberra Liberal is not an oxymoron11:19 am 03 May 24

Loads of questions, but start with just one. “…$50 million for the extra 200 drivers”. So at $250,000 including on-costs, just how much are bus drivers paid? How is this sustainable?

William Newby8:02 am 04 May 24

If you search for articles on here in May you will see that their BASE SALARY is now $93,592 per annum or $47.21 per hour. This is their base salary which they are still unhappy with as they don’t get paid enough on weekends – hello nurses, teachers, police officers all making half of this now!
There are bus drivers here in the ACT that are making $140,000 for driving these empty buses all over town, and the Greens want 200 more of them.
Not sure they have done their homework on this, acting like we are a local small town council and ignoring critical services such as education, healthcare, law enforcement – clearly these services aren’t on the Greens radar at all. In fact they would shut down the police service entirely if they could and legalise everything just so they could report crime was down.
My guess is the $250,000 per driver per year includes on costs such as super and workers comp which is through the roof in Canberra because every time someone gets a paper cut here in the ACT they are almost guaranteed a $100,000 payout thanks to decades of soft Labor governance.

GrumpyGrandpa10:58 pm 02 May 24

“How come the Greens can copy and possibly trump the Canberra Liberals, with their Bus transport policy and yet in the Assembly, sit back quietly, and support the ALP’s substandard Bus Network?

It’s easy to promise the world, hoping to win a few seats, know you won’t get have to implement any of your commitments.

If the Greens were fair dinkum, they wouldn’t be in an Alliance with the ALP. They’d sit on the backbenches and allow the ALP to govern as a minority government. They would then be free to vote for what they believed in or with the Libs, to keep the ALP government accountable.

Well said Grumpy Grandpa!!!!

Labor and greens having it both ways. One party offers rail the others offers bus.
And yet Greens are currently in power, didnt oppose the tram or cutting back of the bus network. This is upgrades to everywhere but Tuggeranong, of which Clay had a whinge when they wanted to duplicate a road which could have included bus upgrades.

Labor and greens are the same mob but offer opposining views to stay in power.

Similar other topics. Hospital funding. Gambling reforms, education, crime and building development.

This is actually a semi reasonable policy from the Greens to improve public transport across Canberra. If they could just realise that the money wasted on Light Rail could pay for it and then some, they’d be on to a winner.

Many posts are querying implementation practicalities of the plan in no uncertain terms. The Liberals say that they are flattered by the similarity of the Greens’ to there. own, a little more comprehensive (?), plan. Logically the same queries and claimed impracticalities apply to the Liberal plan too.

That is maybe. But these plans are still putting the cart before the horse. The fundamental issue is not being addressed. Begin at the beginning.

There needs to be developed a legislated (and this enforceable) right to ‘public transport’ setting out minimum standards for distance of premises to a transport stop, frequency, spread of hours, and so on in urban Canberra. This would inform the minimum resources needed, and provide assurance to citizens buying their home, establishing a business/sporting venture, etc that they can rely on the continued provision of public transport.

Flowing from that should be reduction in private transport needs, and benefits for the environment and community liveability.

Good point Roger,
it may be difficult to create an enforceable standard but at least if one existed and could be measured and tracked. It would provide greater transparency and certainty to the public around what access to public transport should actually look like.

Great idea!

They might even be innovative enough to start new transport routes with minibuses that are less expensive to run, until patronage builds due to reliability, frequency and access to desirable locations enabling larger buses to move to those routes.

You can have so much more flexibility with buses, than with trams. You can even change the routes, as long as the new ones properly service public transport users. After the customer-centric standards are set, we can be agile in meeting those standards.

The Greeds sorry Greens are not believable. Promises only in an election year. They have been in govt for years and only contributed to the current situation where services have been cut and new buses not procured. The new Woden depot will not meet future needs either and there is a lack of infrastructure to bring on the electric buses. Kick them out with Labor they are not an alternative time for big change.

You’re so right.

The Greens know they will govern with Labor not on their own so can say any grandiose statement to feed to the believers knowing full well it won’t happen and they will be able to blame their governing partner, Labor for it not happening.

Heywood Smith3:53 pm 02 May 24

Will these bus drivers be trained in order to drive a bus correctly and safely… ? I’m always amused by the testimonials Transport ACT post on their FB page, but are yet to reply to my messages with dashcam footage of buses running blatant red lights and driving over the signposted limits. Would hate to tell anyone i drive an ACTION bus.

Tom Worthington3:52 pm 02 May 24

Some tech could help more frequent bus services. Most of the busses could be driver-less, & convoys used at peak times, on main routes, rather than articulated busses. A standard bus with a driver would be used at off peak times on main routes. At peak times, this bus would be followed by one, or more, driver-less busses, making a virtual bendy bus. At off peak times the surplus busses could be parked, slow charging their batteries from excess renewable energy. The Army successfully tested an automated convoy of trucks on public roads last year.

Even better if we had dedicated bus lanes. If you visit Brisbane catch a bus and see the difference.

Also northern beaches of Sydney transit lanes during the week…not sure about weekends. Faster to get into the city by bus than by car!

The sooner our city gets rid of Rattenbury and his pack of communists the better off we’ll be. The finances here are nothing short of a joke and this clown wants to add to the debacle.

Laughable comment. I guess you’ve never met any green MLAs or actual communists.

Good Lord, what about the debt, what are ACT politicians going to do about the unsustainable level of debt? According to Stanhope and Ahmed “Interest costs are now forecast to reach $684.4 million in 2026-27, which is 7.5 per cent of total expenditure.” “The government will need, regardless of cost-of-living pressures, to take an axe to services and expenditure, or impose an even greater tax burden or in all likelihood, both.”

Yep, that’s the Communist Greens grand plan for us all if they get any real political power anywhere. No more privately owned vehicles for individuals just public transport and only where there are designated public transport routes. A system that cannot have any weaknesses, can it? Only the ACT has elected these Communist ratbags to any political prominence and that says more about the ACT than it does about the rest of sensible Australia.

Curiously, those rabid communists in the Canberra Liberals party have a very similar policy

Hate to disappoint you Mary but Liberals aren’t communists. That and the fact they aren’t planning on bankrupting us with stage 2B.

Please spare us the hysterical nonsense. The greens arent even vaguely communist, nor anywhere near banning private cars.

I apologise if the sarcastic nature of my comment was not obvious for your

William Newby2:56 pm 03 May 24

Yes Rob how incorrect of you they are not communist! But… should they ever win more than 13% of our votes their Marxism–Leninism DNA would see them rise to power and socialise the hell out of Canberra (yes we are already half way there now), down with the wealthy, down with the hard working, free money for everyone yay. There will be rainbows and unicorns everywhere, it’s going to be amazing!

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