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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.