Next year’s bus timetable – and its reduced services – has drawn the ire of the Territory’s Opposition and public transport advocates alike.
According to the new timetables published on the Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) website yesterday (12 December), there will be fewer services across at least 16 routes in the new year.
Some night services will also finish earlier and the frequency of weekend buses will not increase.
Routes 18, 24, 32, 41, 43, 54, 55, 59, 62, 63, 66, 73, 78, 79 and the rapid routes R4 and R5 will all operate on reduced timetables.
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 is currently scheduled.
The timetable also shows five fewer outbound R4 services from Tuggeranong to Belconnen on weekdays and an earlier last service.
There will also be nine fewer outbound services from Gungahlin Place to Dickson Shops (route 18).
Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton said Canberrans who worked late and relied on buses would be adversely affected.
He questioned whether this was related to infrastructure projects like London Circuit or a failure for the new electric buses – which were expected to arrive before the end of this year – to come online.
“[The government] does not care about increasing the patronage of public transport,” he said.
“The public transport policy of the Labor-Greens government is not about public transport outcomes. They are about building more apartments along public transport routes.”
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.”
Mr Hemsley, who said the changes were significant, argued they had not been well-communicated and there didn’t seem to be a good reason for them.
“You’d be forgiven for thinking Transport Canberra didn’t actually have a plan to return to the promised frequency of buses,” he explained.
He said commuters deserved an explanation from the government about why services had been cut.
Transport Minister Chris Steel has been contacted for comment.
In October, he said a full bus timetable would return next year ahead of Term One.
But at the time, he said the 2023 timetable would not be a restoration of the pre-COVID timetable.
He said the new timetable would use the full fleet and all drivers, as well as new recruits, and would take into account traffic disruptions associated with raising London Circuit and community feedback.
According to Mr Steel, an interim timetable has been in place since August 2021 to allow for COVID-19-related disruptions and driver absences.
That’s despite repeated calls from the Opposition, and the ACT Greens, for it to reinstate a full timetable and hire more drivers.
Moving bus drivers, and their union, away from a five-day timetable has proven difficult and complicated reliable weekend services.
A refreshed public transport plan released in September showed passenger levels on the ACT’s bus and light rail network have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels with patronage then around 70 per cent of what it was in February 2020.
Fare revenue was down by $18.3 million on the previous year in the financial year 2020-21.