The ACT Government has made changes to its new bus network not even two weeks since its introduction, after a torrent of complaints from disgruntled passengers.
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris acknowledged that there had been a lot of community feedback, and Transport Canberra was continuing to monitor the new network.
She said Transport Canberra was now putting on bigger buses for certain services, adding extra services past schools where there was high demand and adjusting bus stops near schools.
It was also adding more light rail services, particularly where it had proven to be more popular than anticipated.
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A spokesperson said Transport Canberra was continuing to monitor how services were working for schools and making adjustments as required.
So far additional buses had been added for Burgmann Anglican School to cater for demand past its school in the afternoons and a larger articulated bus added to meet demand at St Francis Xavier College.
Transport Canberra was also about to adjust the time of a service out of Gungahlin to make journeys more convenient for students travelling to Dickson.
Changes to where buses drop off and pick up students near St Edmund’s College and St Clare’s College were made before the start of the network to ensure there was enough room at bus stops for all buses.
Larger buses were being used on some trips to meet demand, including on the Rapid 5 and Route 32.
The frequency of light rail services had been increased between 6 pm and 6:30 pm to cater for the extra demand.
Transport Canberra had to cut 4 per cent of services last weekend (4-5 May) due to not enough drivers volunteering for shifts – 148 out of the scheduled 3721. There were 36 driver duties not covered as a result.
The volunteer system has been a feature of the ACT bus system for decades and the Transport Workers Union rebuffed a new push from the Government to move to a compulsory seven-day roster.
Ms Fitzharris said the TWU had committed under the terms of the recently agreed Enterprise Agreement to ensure that all weekend duties were covered at all times.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the TWU and their members to help ensure they deliver on their commitment and help us deliver a seven-day network for Canberrans,” she said.
“Overall reliability was good, and whilst it was just short of the total service level, we were able to respond proactively to spread cancelled services across high frequency services to reduce the impact on passengers. We expect more certainty in delivering scheduled weekend services as we bed down the new network.”
She said more drivers for both buses and light rail were being recruited and ‘we hope that over time we can meet the community’s expectations with our weekend services’.
Ms Fitzharris said that there were more than half a million passenger boardings on the new public transport network, although the Government has been criticised for aggregating MyWay card touches across services.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr clarified this number when he addressed the Canberra Business Chamber on Thursday, saying more than 77,000 trips were taken on light rail during the first week of operation, adding to the 290,000 journeys taken on the new bus network over the same period.
“This shows there is a strong appetite in this community for faster, cleaner and better connected public transport that provides a real alternative to the car,” he said.
Ms Fitzharris said the feedback also included new and existing users who were saying how the new network had given them added options, and that they were now using public transport more, and in some cases using public transport for the first time.