15 March 2019

P&C council says new bus network jeopardises student safety

| Lachlan Roberts
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P&C council is concerned that Lyneham High School will have no dedicated school bus routes. File Photo.

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.

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.”

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It may be possible for Lyneham High students to walk to and from Lyneham Primary school and catch their school buses to various places.

It is a bit weird how for instance the school bus service that currently leaves Belconnen station in the morning for Brindabella Christian College, Lyneham High and Dickson College now just stops at Brindabella with a short hop down the road to Lyneham Primary for some reason. Why not continue it on to Lyneham High and Dickson as it does now?

I’m curious why a school bus from Belconnen should be going to Lyneham High and Dickson college in the first place. Any school buses to those schools should be within the entitlement area not to out of area locations.

There was also a similar one in the Crimes yesterday about a school bus from Fadden to Alfref Deakin high. Again not in or even close to being in area so why should there a school bus?

Want to send kids out of area (and that includes private schools) then transport should be the parents problem factored into their decision to go out of area and for private schools it should be the schools problem.

Lyneham has a number of ‘excellence’ programs open to any student not just those in area. So parents have made decision to send kids there based on these programs and the fact school buses were available that had safe drop off and pick up points and efficient timings. Now these bus services have all been taken away so faced with choice of longer, less safe travel or moving kids to a local school mid way through year after kids have settled in.

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