Boost to school services, extra routes and faster connections in revamped bus network

Ian Bushnell 10 February 2020 20
Transport Minister Chris Steel

Transport Minister Chris Steel explains the network changes at the Calwell shops stop. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

More school services, extra direct routes and faster connections have been promised as part of sweeping changes to the new bus network, only 10 months after it was rolled out last April.

Transport Minister Chris Steel also announced $1.48 million to recruit 43 more drivers, on top of the 87 new ones already on board, to ensure the reliability of services, particularly on weekends.

Mr Steel brushed aside questions about whether the changes, due to start on 28 April, were an acknowledgement the new network had been a failure, saying he had always said the government would monitor its operation and makes changes where necessary.

“We’ve already made 136 tweaks, these changes are more substantial and address some of the key issues we’ve been hearing from the community,” Mr Steel said.

The vindicated Canberra Liberals said the changes were a concession from the minister that the new network had been a monumental failure.

“Despite over 13,000 pieces of feedback prior to the network commencing, over 7000 petition signatories, and constant calls from the Canberra Liberals to restore services, the Barr Labor-Greens Government has refused to acknowledge these issues,” shadow transport spokesperson Candice Burch said.

“While we welcome the changes announced today, these changes are simply fixing problems that the government created. The government could have foreseen every single one of the problems with the current bus network and never should have let these problems eventuate.”

Mr Steel said the government now had sufficient data from the network’s first six months of operation, together with 3000 pieces of feedback to address the key issues of communities across Canberra.

Some of the biggest complaints came from Tuggeranong and in an election year the government must hope the changes will assuage voters in the south.

Mr Steel promised faster journeys to the city from central Tuggeranong, with the removal of the Barton leg saving up to 15 minutes each way on the Rapid 5. To compensate, a new Route 59 will connect Barton and Russell from Woden and the City.

There will also be direct local services for Tuggeranong to Woden via the Canberra Hospital, and services will be restored to Longmore Crescent in Wanniassa after feedback that elderly residents could not reach a bus stop within a reasonable distance.

Tuggeranong commuters

Tuggeranong commuters will be major beneficiaries of the changes.

In the north, there will be direct local services from Palmerston, Crace, Nicholls and Casey to Belconnen, and more routes and direct services to Gungahlin from Giralang, Kaleen and McKellar, as well as faster connections from suburbs like Charnwood, Melba and Flynn to Belconnen Town Centre.

There will also be more connections to “places of interest” such as Calvary Hospital and the Alexander Maconochie Centre, and a direct stop at Canberra Railway Station.

There will also be better access to Mitchell with Route 18 extended to Dickson, reducing the need for passengers to make multiple transfers.

Mr Steel has promised better connections and time savings across the network from changes to the timetable to be released in mid-March, and a stepping up of weekend services with more local route frequency on Saturdays.

He believes the driver recruitment program together with last year’s action plan, which included standby drivers, will ensure weekend services stay reliable.

The axing of dedicated school routes sparked a backlash from schools and parents, and Mr Steel said that in Term 2 there will be changes around “timings to improve capacity, and in some cases we’ll see special service connections made with certain schools”.

These will be announced along with the new network timetable in mid-March and full details will be provided to school communities.

“The whole idea of these changes is to provide better connections and improve the timing of services so that people aren’t spending as much time commuting in the morning,” Mr Steel said.

Public Transport Association of Canberra chair Ryan Hemsley said the changes announced addressed a number of concerns raised by both its members and the wider public.

“The proposed improvements to bus routes in Tuggeranong, Gungahlin and North Belconnen are especially welcome, and will hopefully lead to more people using public transport in these areas,” Mr Hemsley said.

He acknowledged the improvement in Saturday local bus services but called on the government to ensure full weekend service frequencies were restored as soon as possible, preferably on a rolling basis.

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20 Responses to Boost to school services, extra routes and faster connections in revamped bus network
Deborah Gale Deborah Gale 8:30 pm 07 Feb 20

You would almost think there was an election coming! Oh wait...

Gary Fynmore Gary Fynmore 9:11 am 07 Feb 20

The best thing that came from the current timetable was being able to fit in a beer between buses. A pretty good trade-off I thought 😂

Racheal Green Racheal Green 9:54 pm 06 Feb 20

My workmate lives in the north and was affected by the hail. Try getting to Hume without a car! Wowsers, 4 hours and he would still be late for work. That’s just awful!

Steve Cains Steve Cains 9:33 pm 06 Feb 20

"More school services" etc... This arrogant, entrenched government once again insulting it's constituents by simply reinstating SOME of the important public transport services which IT cancelled in the first place, 6 MONTHS OUT FROM THE ELECTION.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:42 pm 06 Feb 20

Many, many more of these “boosts” (to hitherto supposedly “nothing to see here” services) to come, including today’s splash on health – it’s only 254 “sleeps” until the 2020 Territory election.

Rita Virtanen Rita Virtanen 2:32 pm 06 Feb 20

Can someone tell me if the bus going past Symonston front entrance will be reinstated. Residents now have a long way to walk to catch bus and none go late, which means residents without cars cannot go out in the evening.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 8:21 pm 05 Feb 20

Let’s hope they’ve used some better transport analysis than last time. So many commuters, so worse off.

Jim Reid Jim Reid 7:49 pm 05 Feb 20

Why did they change it in the first place ? They're meant to be a progressive government and they continue cut services to those who need public services the most.

This is merely a PR stunt for the upcoming election. The chief minister doesn't care because he uses the light rail to travel north....south side communities aren't his concern !

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:11 pm 05 Feb 20

    Jim Reid define cut? Because there were/are actually more services. Whilst I appreciate some people lost there must also be some who gained. The question is did the gains outweigh the losses.

    Social media won’t answer that as you only ever hear from those who lost out.

    Kathryn Ingram Kathryn Ingram 8:29 pm 05 Feb 20

    Non rapid buses every 2 hours on weekends is pathetic.

Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 7:33 pm 05 Feb 20

Certainly an improvement for some suburbs and routes. Kambah once again remains ignored and the biggest suburb continues to have (on average) the most indirect Bus services and the longest walks to Bus Stops in Canberra (excluding Oaks Estate).

Robert McMahon Robert McMahon 7:09 pm 05 Feb 20

Those weekend service workplace deals are a big part of the problem.

Bob Cheney Bob Cheney 6:40 pm 05 Feb 20

About time why the hell did you change something that was working oh yes it was costing you


So who. Care about the people who have to use the busses

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:18 pm 05 Feb 20

    Bob Cheney only problem with your theory about it being cost cutting is the new network saw a net gain of 30 extra buses. Those 30 buses are the 10 of the 11 blue articulated ones and 20 blue standard sized buses.

    Light rail also freed up about 20 buses which were retired.

    So in fact the new network actually cost more.

    Bob Cheney Bob Cheney 10:20 pm 05 Feb 20

    Ashley Wright ok but they made a mess of the timetable and the roes why not leave it alone it worked fine before

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:21 am 06 Feb 20

    Bob Cheney might have worked fine for you but might not have worked for others.

    And that’s the same with the new network too works for some not others.

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 3:32 pm 07 Feb 20

    Ashley Wright It's hard for us longer term Riotactors to take your comments seriously about the Bus Network. You were positively speaking on this site about the new bus network changes before it started last year. Then you were actively fending off complaints from commuters, after the new network started to much dissatisfaction. Then you have continually provided positive views going forward after each bi-monthly 'improvement?' that the ACT Government says will now fix underlying issues with the new network. When is someone involved with Canberra Transport going to admit they stuffed up bus services for over 200,000 Canberran's who don't happen to live near a Rapid route? When is someone from Canberra Transport going to admit that Kambah (and many other outer suburb residents across the city) actually have less buses and slower journeys than they had before the network changes?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 9:08 pm 07 Feb 20

    Jeff Smith I’m a long term riotact member too BTW. Been here since circa 2010.

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 1:34 pm 09 Feb 20

    Ashley Wright You have completely twisted my comments 180 degrees to suit you. I didn't say you were NOT a long term Riotactor, In fact I said the reverse. I said it was hard for those who have been on here for a while to take your Public Transport responses seriously as you were 'consistently positive' about the new bus network in your posts. (I just randomly re-read 20 of your posts over the last 18 months and every response I read you spoke positively of the changes or opposed someone else's negative view of the changes). I didn't say you worked at Canberra Transport (although I have often wondered if you had some union or ACT public service connection), someone else made that inference by connecting two separate sentences of mine together (P.S., how do you do carriage returns in Facebook???). I was saying that for a number of years you have consistently defended Canberra Transport on their work, or you have provided a counter balance to people who claim to have been negatively impacted by the bus changes. Just because you say you have highlighted problems in the one obvious area around the Expressos (a bus issue on which basically everyone in Canberra agrees), doesn't mean you have provided a balanced opinion on the bus network. I challenge any general person to read back through your various 'new bus network posts' across many different Riotact bus articles and think you have NOT consistently defended Canberra Transport. I have certainly been consistent in my complaints about the new Bus network, especially since my Kambah daily commute time got doubled, and the problem for me and my 15,000 Kambah neighbours has never been properly understood or addressed.

    John Tozer John Tozer 7:29 am 11 Feb 20

    Grace Morgan - $707M... You wish!

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