14 December 2022

Light rail-related construction disruptions to blame for reduced bus services next year

| Lottie Twyford
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London Circuit project

The raising of London Circuit is expected to take around two years. Motorists have been warned to expect years of traffic disruptions. Photo: ACT Government.

Buses will operate on a reduced timetable next year because of “disruption associated with the construction of major infrastructure projects”, the ACT Government admitted on Tuesday (13 December).

Major work has now commenced on the raising of London Circuit – which is expected to take two years – as well as a new interchange in Woden.

The 2023 timetable was released earlier this week without any public announcement which prompted the Canberra Liberals to come out swinging, accusing the Government of not wanting to encourage the uptake of public transport at all.

Mark Parton, MLA.

Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton said the reduced bus timetables were a “slap in the face” to people who relied on them. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton said yesterday this was a slap in the face for people who relied on buses for transportation.

The updated timetable shows many services will end earlier in the evenings and will operate on a reduced frequency.

There will be 25 fewer outbound R5 services between Lanyon Marketplace and the city on weekdays, and the last service will run 45 minutes earlier than it is currently scheduled.

The timetable also shows five fewer outbound R4 services from Tuggeranong to Belconnen on weekdays and an earlier last service.

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Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) Ryan Hemsley was similarly disappointed.

“These changes have been dropped without warning and without consultation right at the end of the year,” he said.

“People have already reached out to us saying they have lost their evening service. Others have had their daytime bus frequency cut from every 30 minutes to one bus every hour.

“In public transport, frequency is freedom.”

Chris Steel, MLA.

Transport Minister Chris Steel didn’t address the media yesterday. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Transport Minister Chris Steel was contacted for comment.

In response to Region‘s inquiry, a Government spokesperson said the priority for term one next year was ensuring services could be reliably maintained while construction works continued.

According to its statement, construction disruptions will lead to extra traffic and journey time in Woden and the City which has a flow-on impact on the number of services which can be operated.

These “unavoidable disruptions” have resulted in reductions to most rapid services, which will run on a 30-minute frequency after 7 pm.

A 15-minute frequency will be retained throughout the day. No rapids will run after 11 pm.

Local routes have also been reduced to an hourly frequency during off-peak periods although there will be no change to local service frequency during peak periods.

The Government confirmed the new timetable would use Transport Canberra’s full bus fleet and all staff and it has “the intention to implement a service uplift as soon as possible”.

The spokesperson said the 12 new electric buses were still due to come online by the end of the year and Transport Canberra had exceeded its recruitment targets of bus drivers set earlier this year.

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The timing and unannounced release of the timetables were also defended after this received criticism from public transport advocates and the Opposition.

“The timetable was released yesterday to ensure Transport Canberra is providing updated information to schools before they all go on break for the end of the year. Broader communications will be undertaken in January, closer to the changes being implemented,” the statement said.

Earlier this year, Mr Steel promised a full timetable would be implemented next year which would not be the same as the pre-COVID-19 one.

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Alternative hypothesis.
They are having issues getting drivers and slashed the hours of their staff. reduced overtime and a move to 7 working days.

This means they can’t work later into the night and shifts were cut.

Did the TWU complain their workers numbers getting reduced? no.
All money points to not being able to run it with the drivers they have.

Also electric buses take longer to charge, so more downtime over night

The Minister’s explanation makes some sense, albeit pathetic sense with services through our suburbs and into the evening needing to be sacrificed, in order to run services into the City.

Of course, the government’s argument about their drivers and their union not being prepared to move from a 5-day roster to a compulsory 7-day roster is obviously nothing more than spin. If they are cutting services with a 5-day roster, there would be no chance of them operating a compulsory 7-day roster. Why isn’t the Opposition isn’t calling them out on this?

It’ll be interesting to see how electric buses will impact services when they arrive, whenever that might be.
Will they carry as many people or will their battery weight reduce their carrying capacity? Will they, therefore need a larger fleet to move the same number of people? Mostly you would think recharging would occur overnight, but the real test will come with the gradual deterioration in battery life.

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