ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel believes a new recruiting program will help fix the shortage of weekend bus drivers which has thrown the service into disarray.
The recruitment drive is one of 10 strategies outlined in the ACT Government’s action plan designed to make the weekend service more reliable.
The action plan recommends the Government provide longer shifts to drivers to make weekend work more attractive, spread workloads between the Belconnen and Tuggeranong depots, as well as increase the number of stand-by drivers to cover unexpected absences or vehicle breakdowns.
According to the action plan, Transport Canberra recruited an additional 60 drivers before the new network was introduced with the expectation that they would help deliver a consistently reliable weekend service. But due to a high rate of drivers “unaligned” with the new network and other factors, Transport Canberra was “unable to meet our expected level of reliability”, the plan said.
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Mr Steel acknowledged that the reliability of weekend bus services operated by Transport Canberra does not meet the expectations of Canberrans, but he said the action plan will make the service more reliable.
“The action plan outlines a range of adjustments to improve recruitment efforts which will help deliver incremental increases to the frequency of local services,” Mr Steel said. “This includes transitioning from an annual recruitment campaign to a continuous campaign, as well as prioritising candidates interested in weekend work.”
Previously, Transport Canberra undertook recruitment drives once a year but with the growing demand for additional drivers, Transport Canberra has now implemented an improved continuous recruitment program.
Since 29 April, a total of 68 new drivers have signed up for training, with 36 now on the road driving buses. A further 250 applications have been received since mid-July.
In the medium to long term, Mr Steel said the ACT Government will consult with staff and unions to identify potential changes and incentives in the drivers’ enterprise agreement to deliver a reliable, weekend public transport network.
The current agreement does not force drivers to work weekends, and if they choose to they are not paid weekend penalty rates.
Mr Steel said the interim weekend timetable, which will launch on 28 September, will be released later this week while they incrementally increase weekend services to meet the Network 19 plan.
Mr Steel said the new timetable will retain frequent Rapid services – which make up 70 per cent of boardings – as well as extended hours of coverage with some reduction to local services.
“We know that if Canberrans plan a bus trip, they expect that bus to turn up. We listened to the community and we have developed a roadmap that sets out 10 measures to improve reliability for public transport users,” Mr Steel said.
“I am confident these range of short-term, medium-term and longer-term actions will deliver an improved weekend bus service while also providing a range of improvements which will benefit future weekday bus services as well.”
Click here to read the ACT Government’s action plan in full.