11 January 2023

'Broken promise': Government accused of breaching disability standards with old buses

| Lottie Twyford
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To be compliant with the new national disability standards, the old Renault buses should have been retired at the end of last year. Photo: Brock Ginman.

The ACT Government has come under fire for its alleged continued use of non-compliant outdated orange Action buses.

As of 31 December last year, the remaining 33 Renault buses are no longer compliant with current national disability accessibility standards and should have been replaced with 12 electric buses and 25 leased low-emission buses.

Late last year, the first of those 12 electric buses arrived in the ACT, ready for charging and use on the network this year and an imminent announcement regarding the rest was expected.

In response, the government has claimed supply issues have delayed the delivery of the new low-emission buses and, in any case, the older buses are only being used as a backup if a newer bus breaks down.

An ACT Government spokesperson said all new buses will be “progressively phased” into the fleet over the first half of this year.

Mark Parton

Opposition spokesperson for transport and city services Mark Parton accused the government of a lack of transparency regarding the continued use of the orange buses. Photo: Region.

But Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton has slammed the government for “saying one thing and doing another”.

The disability standards for accessible public transport, which were first implemented in 2002, included a 31 December 2022 deadline for when the older buses would need to cease operation.

“The Transport Minister announced in March last year that all 34 of the non-compliant Renault diesel buses would be removed from service at the end of last year and that promise appears to have been broken,” Mr Parton said.

“Electric buses were supposed to fully replace the old Renaults, and despite the Labor-Greens government making a song and dance about the arrival of the first of those buses, the remaining 11 are yet to materialise or appear on our roads.”

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As Transport Minister Chris Steel was on leave, a government spokesperson said it was liaising with the Human Rights Commission “to keep them informed of these impacts”.

It said it would continue to update them on the situation.

But the spokesperson said the buses would only be used in exceptional circumstances.

“This will mean they are primarily used to cover unplanned issues such as breakdowns or late running to maintain reliability for our customers,” they said.

“Canberrans are encouraged to use the journey planner and NXTBUS to identify the type of bus running on that service and whether it is compliant with the [disability] standards.

“We will also work with customers to ensure that specific buses are allocated to services where compliance is critical for particular users.”

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Mr Parton and public transport advocates have been vocal critics of the government for having quietly released a slashed bus timetable for 2023.

The government has attributed cuts to services to longer travel times at points on the network due to construction in Woden for the building of the new interchange and the disruption associated with raising London Circuit and the works on Commonwealth Avenue.

Mr Parton has rubbished that excuse.

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ACT Government already broke their “more buses more often” promise, I don’t think another broken promise concerns them at all.

Transport Minister Steel is so focused on Light Rail he doesn’t actually seem to care one iota about our buses. Based on his dismal bus network record, you get the feeling he wants the bus service to fail to make the tram look better in comparison.

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