We’ve got a fair way to go before we can compete with the likes of Hong Kong’s 130km/h Airport Express train, but from Monday there will at long last be public transport between the national capital’s CBD and its airport (with one stop at Russell offices in between).
Canberrans have long wondered why the pro-public transport ACT Government did not offer such a service, and until this week, the concept remained pie in the sky (or pigs might fly, even).
There was talk of a rapid transit bus commencing in 2020. The Government painted this talk as a firm commitment, but cynical citizens expressed the view that they’d believe it when they saw it, and with direct international flights servicing our city for six months now, that timeframe bordered on the absurd.
The answers provided by the Government and Airport management on the issue were not helpful in clarifying why there must be a further delay of three years. There was talk about needing time to lock-in adequate infrastructure, but this must’ve been in the works for some time, surely.
It appears the delay was not to protect the existing shuttle bus operator because by all reports neither the Government nor the airport alerted the company to the impending arrival of ACTION buses on their turf.
Was it to allow the privately owned and operated airport a buffer of a few years in which parking fees could help pay for the extensive redevelopment that has taken place there since they bought the precinct in 1998? Given the efficient and visionary nature of the entire project and of the Snow family’s business operations more generally, this too seems unlikely.
Their swift issuing of a press statement lauding the decision earlier this week also suggests they’re pleased about the development.
“We have been discussing the need for bus services with Transport Canberra for some time, and are pleased the new services to the terminal will start on Monday 20 March,” Airport managing director Stephen Byron said in the statement.
“This will provide 64 services each week day, 26 services on a Saturday and 24 on Sundays between the terminal and the city, and we are delighted.
“The airport site, including the business parks, is now serviced by over 110 weekday services by ACTION buses, which is a great contribution towards the community accessing this airport.”
Did the delay in provision of a service come down to ACT Government policy?
Perhaps our local politicians felt that given it is Canberra Airport and not the ACT Government that benefits from the resounding success of the commercial property development surrounding the airport, it should be up to the operators there to provide transport services for commuters in and out of the precinct.
If this was so, the Government failed to recognise the fact that most of these commuters, and many users of the airport, are ACT ratepayers who quite rightly expect that their taxes will go some way to ensuring that our public transport service is adequate. Sure, the bus service is a boon to the operators of the Airport, but the benefits to the Canberra community as a whole far outweigh any negatives around giving the Snow family another leg-up.
Whatever the reason, we will wait no more. Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris revealed during a committee meeting this week that from March 20, Canberrans will be able to use their MyWay card to catch the 11 or 11A bus to and from the airport.
Spare a thought, though, for Royale, the operator of the Airport Express shuttle service since 2011. The arrival of Uber at the airport a few months back must’ve impacted on their business, and then learning in the last week via the media of the impending ACTION service only days before it is due to begin must’ve been devastating.
For full timetable and route details of the new airport service, see the Transport Canberra website.