Faster, more frequent transport network unveiled

Ian Bushnell 1 July 2020 20
Transport network

More frequent, faster and better connected: that’s what the ACT Government is promising after sweeping changes to the transport network. Photo: File.

The postponed sweeping update to the ACT’s public transport network will be rolled out from 18 July and include more frequent and faster services in a bid to smooth out the wrinkles in its original design.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the timetable for the wide-ranging update’s original launch in April, and the roll-out is timed to coincide with recovery plans and people returning to work and their offices.

It is also the weekend before the start of Term 3, which allow the network to bed down before the restart of school.

There will be four new school services – three in Gungahlin and one in Tuggeranong – as well as modifications to some services.

The updated network includes more local services, with 30-minute frequencies on weekdays instead of every hour, more direct Rapid services and scrapping of the loops in Gungahlin and Tuggeranong that made for longer journey times and so incensed commuters.

The aim is also to make it easier for Canberrans to avoid the peaks and spread their travel across the day.

Minister for Transport Chris Steel said the updated network, based on community feedback and analysis of travel data, would provide 692 extra bus services each weekday, up 17.5 per cent from 4132* to 4824, most of which will be local runs.

“As some Canberrans gradually return to work during Step 3 of recovery, we will be implementing an improved bus system with more services on key routes to help avoid crowding,” he said.

“Our advice still remains the same about public transport, which is to avoid travel in peak times. However, implementing this update to the bus network will assist in supporting those who need to use public transport.”

The number of light rail services will also increase from 18 July, with the frequency rising to every five minutes and Sunday services starting from 7:00 am.

There will be 55 extra weekend bus services from 18 July and this will increase by a further 236** from the beginning of Term 4, or earlier, once driver training had been completed, following delays to face-to-face training during the pandemic.


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Transport Canberra says the update will mean better coverage of Taylor, Denman Prospect, Wanniassa, Giralang and McKellar, with services better connected and timetables for routes that serve the same area better coordinated to improve connections and reduce waiting times for passengers.

Transport Minister Chris Steel

Transport Minister Chris Steel in Calwell last February discussing the network changes and a driver recruitment campaign. Photo: File.

In Tuggeranong, there will be travel time savings of about 20 minutes from Lanyon to the City for passengers using Rapid 5, which will run every 10 minutes all day on weekdays.

The Rapid 4 will also no longer terminate at Woden but will continue on to Tuggeranong.

Three local routes – 72, 76 and 77 – will provide direct services from Tuggeranong suburbs through to the Canberra Hospital and Woden.

In Wanniassa, route 73 will stop on Kirkton Street, Gaunson Cresent, Longmore Crescent and Sainsbury Street.

“More peak buses will be provided back to Tuggeranong each afternoon from the City and Barton to Lanyon Valley, Kambah, Chisholm and Calwell, giving passengers more flexibility about when they leave work,” Mr Steel said.

For Woden, Weston Creek and Molonglo, the Rapid 10 (Molonglo to City) service will run every 15 minutes at peak times, and the Rapid 4 and Rapid 5 will both take the most direct route from Woden to the City.

A new frequent local route 59 will run from Woden to Forrest, Barton and Russell every 15 minutes on weekdays.

In the inner city, four minutes each way has been shaved off Rapid 9 between Dickson and Belconnen, while Route 902 will run directly from Old Narrabundah to the Woden Town Centre, seven days a week to reduce the need to change buses.

In Belconnen, about nine minutes has been cut from the morning commute on route 41 from Charnwood, Flynn and Melba to Belconnen, and services on route 32 (Belconnen to City via Jamison) will run every 10 minutes at the busiest times.

There will also be new services through Giralang, Kaleen and McKellar connecting to Gungahlin and Belconnen.

In Gungahlin, there will be local bus services from Crace, Palmerston and Nicholls to the Belconnen Town Centre to reduce the need to change buses, and Route 18 will be extended to Dickson, reducing the need for passengers to make multiple transfers and making it easier to get to Mitchell from Belconnen and the inner north.

Whether parents and schools will be happy with the changes to their services remains to be seen, but transport officials say some of the network changes will also benefit students, such as more Rapid 6 services stopping at Narrabundah College.

Other changes include:

  • Additional school specials, including new routes and extra buses on busy school specials at schools such as Amaroo School, Good Shepherd Primary, Red Hill School and Melrose High School
  • Extended school specials, with some services extended to provide a service to more students for schools like St Edmund’s College and Calwell High School
  • Faster school specials to save time for families each day, at schools like St Francis Xavier College and Radford College
  • Adjusted timetables to match bell times at schools like Giralang Primary and Lyneham High School, and
  • Changes to bus stops to make it easier for students to catch a bus from schools like St Monica’s Primary and Telopea Park School.

Public transport patronage has begun to rise again after it collapsed at the height of COVID-19 concerns with journeys more than tripling from 39,647 (WC 6 April) to 136,351 last week (WC 15 June).

But transport officials are playing a long game, saying the recovery will take a couple of years not months.

Journeys had been rising steadily over the past three years and 16.5 million had been projected for this year, only for COVID-19 to slash that to 12.4 million.

To see the full timetables and detailed regional improvements, visit Transport Canberra.

* Corrected from 3662, which is the pre-Network 19 figure.

** Correcting the increase in the number of overall weekend services.


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20 Responses to Faster, more frequent transport network unveiled
PigsFly PigsFly 2:13 pm 18 Jun 20

With the need to continue social distancing (physical distancing is IMHO a more accurate term), what does Transport Canberra plan to do to accommodate this on the packed school buses? My daughter’s bus every morning and afternoon is standing room only. Surely there is a genuine need to either provide a bigger bus (ie. a bendy bus) or provide a second bus running this route. Or does Transport Canberra believe that school students are immune to Covid19 so is happy to pack them all in like sardines?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:08 am 17 Jun 20

What this really means is another 692 empty buses will be on our roads.

Linh Kieu Linh Kieu 7:11 pm 16 Jun 20

They should cut the R2. I catch the R2 everyday and I feel they waste a lot of money to run empty R2 from frazer to Belconen. It is because it is not busy at all, especially during the off peak time. They should restructure the local bus and the connecting bus from Belconnen, city, woden and tuggranong interchange.

    Kerry Jackson Kerry Jackson 10:30 am 17 Jun 20

    Linh Kieu oh no. Not my experience at peak hours. It's the only bus I can catch that goes to Barton directly and I still have to walk 10 minutes plus to the stop and watch empty R4s sweep past every five minutes and the R 2 is always full and runs every 15 minutes. Cut the R4

    Linh Kieu Linh Kieu 10:33 am 17 Jun 20

    Kerry Jackson Oh, R2 is my way to Barton as well. I only mean they should cut/ re_estimate the way from Fraser to Belconnen because It is not busy.

    Kerry Jackson Kerry Jackson 10:34 am 17 Jun 20

    Yes it may.pick up everyone later. By Calvary it is.

    Linh Kieu Linh Kieu 10:35 am 17 Jun 20

    Kerry Jackson Anh i agree with you about R4, too many :(

    Aiden Howlett Aiden Howlett 11:11 am 17 Jun 20

    Linh Kieu I think the R2 is fine as is, and provides a good Rapid service to West Belconnen - it is walkable from Charnwood too, except most don't bother. Very useful at midnight to get home from a night out.

    Linh Kieu Linh Kieu 11:20 am 17 Jun 20

    Aiden Howlett I agree the bus is helpful for ppl in West area. But they can increase the local bus more frequent. Because R2 and R3 do the route from Belconnen to City which already has many R4 does at the moment. If the TC want to build the network like local bus connecting to main interchange. They should not build the Rapid service to the local. To be honest, The old network is much convenient and helpful. because it has express service during peak time.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:07 pm 17 Jun 20

    Linh Kieu one of things people don’t realise about the rapids is one of the reasons the R2/R4 go into the suburbs is so that people can change in the suburbs to the express rather than having to go to the traditional interchanges.

    I appreciate why people don’t do that, even at places like Kippax but that is the reason for it. Many would find if they change from a local to rapid in the burbs their trip may be quicker.

Shaun Coash Shaun Coash 1:43 pm 16 Jun 20

Michelle Ntz now they fix tbe charny to belco route...

Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 11:32 am 16 Jun 20

I wrote to local MLAs about Kippax needing a tram/bus ticket vending machine for the 45,000 people in the West Belconnen area, and the area is growing with Ginninderry, so even more people. Minister Chris Steel replied last week and told me West Belconnen will not get an auto ticket vending machine. See quote below from his email. In Sydney, every area has a ticket vending machine at each train station, even with a NSW Liberal govt, they make sure that safe Labor seats get a ticket machine. So, why is it that a Labor ACT govt does not put a ticket machine in safe Labor voting area West Belconnen? This seems to be systematic discrimination, leaving out the 45,000 people of West Belco-Ginninderry. Why is this so, with a Labor ACT govt? Why does a NSW Liberal govt care for Labor seats but an ACT Labor govt neglects Labor areas? Where is the logic? How much do these ticket machines cost? Also, did you know that every tram stop has a ticket vending machine?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 7:09 am 17 Jun 20

    Vanessa Jones other than light rail where is there a ticket vending machine in the suburbs? That’s what I think you don’t get. Kippax is not a town centre, it doesn’t have an interchange.

    Oh and every light rail stops gets one because they don’t collect fares onboard unlike buses which do. (Though it course at present due to COVID different story). And in Sydney you only find the vending machines on the Opal card only routes

    Aiden Howlett Aiden Howlett 11:08 am 17 Jun 20

    Vanessa Jones I think you'll find Sydney does not have ticket vending machines for bus services at all. You cannot purchase bus tickets from a train station, for example.

    Canberra has followed Sydney by having ticketing facilities at every light rail stop, however the ticket machines at bus interchanges are a Victorian idea, not NSW, and they are only present at major interchanges which Kippax is not.

    Aiden Howlett Aiden Howlett 11:09 am 17 Jun 20

    Ashley Wright Sydney doesn't have ticket machines for buses at all. In cashless areas, you must use an Opal or credit card.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:02 pm 17 Jun 20

    Aiden Howlett i stand corrected, but thought when the 333 to Bondi and the red M routes were introduced they had basic ticket machines at key stops.

    Aiden Howlett Aiden Howlett 6:30 pm 17 Jun 20

    Ashley Wright You may be right, or thinking of PrePay tickets (TravelTens for example), however if their were some machines around the Liberal government has all but reversed that.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 9:33 pm 17 Jun 20

    why would you ask him to buy old technology when they are expected to announce a new ticketing system any day? Hopefully, it will mean these machines become redundant because your bank ATM card will be accepted.

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