School students’ safety is being jeopardised at some schools by inadequacies in the ACT Government’s new bus network, the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations say.
The ACT Government released its new bus timetable on Thursday morning (14 March) before the network becomes operational in six weeks, with ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris saying the new network incorporates 10 rapid routes, light rail, new local routes and more buses servicing schools across the ACT.
The network was met with opposition from the Canberra Liberals, with the Liberals transport spokesperson Candice Burch stating the new network will have fewer routes for schools and suburbs, with 59 schools to be left without a dedicated bus service.
ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations spokesperson Janelle Kennard echoed those concerns and said the council was concerned that a child will be injured or killed crossing some of the “busiest roads in Canberra” to catch a bus home.
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Ms Jennard said students from several schools will be catching buses from stops at a range of distances from the school, rather than from existing bus stops at the front of the school.
“Our concern is not so much the distances the students will have to walk to get the bus – up to half a kilometre – but that groups of teens will need to cross busy roads, some well outside the school’s 40 km/h zone, and will need to make detours to safely cross at pedestrian lights or underpasses,” she said.
“We also know that teenagers are poor at assessing risk and that this is worse in groups of peers.
“It seems an unnecessary and unacceptable risk to take when buses currently pick up and drop off students at the front of the school.”
Ms Jennard said the most dangerous example is Lyneham High School, which currently has 10 dedicated school bus routes but in the new network will have none.
Not a single regular route will service the school directly either, with the closest buses stop at the new Dickson interchange on Mouat street.
“Transport Canberra tells us that Lyneham High needs no dedicated buses because of its proximity to the Dickson interchange and light rail corridor,” she said.
“Why then will Daramalan College, which is a similar distance away from Dickson, but reached without crossing Northbourne Avenue, have six dedicated Transport Canberra school routes taking students directly to the school gate?
“We think that all suburbs need to be safely linked by bus to their in-area high school. We think that is a reasonable expectation.”