13 December 2022

Quietly released 2023 bus timetable with slashed services draws ire

| Lottie Twyford
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Site of temporary Woden interchange

Canberra’s 2023 bus timetable was dropped two weeks before Christmas. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

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).

Mark Parton

Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton slammed the government’s lack of announcement associated with the release of next year’s reduced timetable. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.”

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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.

Chris Steel

Transport Minister Chris Steel said in October the 2023 timetable would not simply replace the pre-COVID one. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.

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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.

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optimusmaximus12:27 pm 31 Jan 23

90 minutes to get from Lanyon Marketplace to the city…uttery deplorable. I remember a time when it would take less than 40 minutes. So much for progress.

Craig Hodges4:28 am 15 Dec 22

Public transport one would have thought needs to be promoted and increased. Why? Labor to help the working class with affordable and regular transport. The Greens to help reduce emissions and the environmental impact of transport. The difficult but obvious policy objective true leadership would take is to move towards making public transport free AND expanding the service. See you on the 59.

HiddenDragon8:32 pm 14 Dec 22

The Labor/Green government is obsessed with a “hub and spoke” public transport system, built around light rail, which would only be viable in a Canberra which is very much larger than at present.

That is a Canberra which may not happen, if ever, for decades unless (to use Paul Keating’s colourful metaphor) another very large and bountiful rainbow shoots the federal budget up the fundament and the thus-blessed federal government(s) choose to spend an appreciable chunk of that bounty in Canberra.

In the long and expectant meantime, announcements of the sort outlined in this article will be business as usual.

As a public transport lecturer told us, the land geography and urban footprint of Canberra simply doesn’t suit a Hub and Spoke transport design.

“You would have more chance turning Tokyo into a bush capital”.

I never agreed with everything my lecturers ever told me bj_ACT. From my experience some lecturers are not always the best. I made up my own mind!

Based on some of your previous comments on this site, I think you should probably have listened to your lecturers a little more.

Based also on the failure of the 2019 bus network ‘hub and spoke’ changes and the unprecedented drop in passenger numbers, then I’d say it was probably worth listening to that particular lecturer too.

Well bj_ACT I actually disagree with your lecturer’s assessment. That is based on much research. If your want to believe everything you are told knock yourself out. I always believed universities were forums of ideas.

How do you explain a 5% drop in bus use in Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong after the hub and spoke redesign?

Note this was even before COVID struck.

I agree with you that universities are forums of ideas.

Usually where people back up their positions with logic, evidence and research, rather than ill-informed waffle.

Chewy, I’m starting to wonder if it’s even worth engaging with Jack D. He won’t even acknowledge and accept the government’s own data or

ChrisinTurner5:51 pm 14 Dec 22

I don’t understand what Labor has against public transport. They only support Light Rail because it helps developer profits. Time to vote Liberal.

The drop in bus patronage since the pandemic is not as low as 70%. Anyone who is a regular bus catcher will see the industrial scale fare evasion, principally by teenagers. I suppose it helps pay in part for the vapes. Parents take note…

Seems rather important information like this should probably have been published in that glossy ‘Our CBR’ newsletter, assuming it wasn’t just a publicly funded ongoing Labor/Greens advertorial full of positive spin.

Seriously with inflation up and fuel prices up they reduce the number of buses. So we will soon hear from the lunatic fringe that less buses equals less CO2, ignoring that most people will be forced back into their cars.

I really think this local bus service is like the fabled efficient hospital that was at its best when it had no patients. I await the next instalment

Can’t run a bus timetable, can’t run a ticketing system.
Demands you get electric car, buys diesel buses.
Cancelled school buses and direct routes.

Then complains when people want to drive.

Chris Steel is proving to be remarkably adept at making the bus service even worse than it was before. It’s a skill he’s really developed to a gold standard.

He consistently talks about better bus services and helping to get people to where they need to go. Surely he no longer believes his own spin on the impending improvements to the bus service.

I’m going to scream if I hear him say… the new ticketing system is almost there, we’re doing a great job with Canberra’s public transport system, we’re hiring record numbers of new drivers, or the doozy he loves around a focus on delivering ever more reliable services going forward.

Leon Arundell5:44 pm 13 Dec 22

The timetable changes will displease many people, but they will reduce greenhouse emissions. Until 2019 our buses averaged 8.3 passengers and caused greenhouse emissions equivalent to 1.7 kg per boarding. After light rail commenced, Transport Canberra’s services increased by the equivalent of 1.2 million bus kilometres per year. Bus passenger numbers failed to match the increase in services, passenger loadings fell, and emissions increased to 2.3 kg per bus boarding. Covid caused further falls in bus passenger loadings, and emissions increased to 3.5 kg per bus boarding. A 10% reduction in bus services would reduce bus patronage by about 3%, and would reduce emissions by 10%.

Leon Arundell said “A 10% reduction in bus services would reduce bus patronage by about 3%, and would reduce emissions by 10%”.

By your reckoning this would make more people to drive cars. Wouldn’t this create more emissions?

Thats assuming those 3% trips just disappear – if instead they are replaced by car journeys the overall reduction in emissions would be much smaller (if any at all)

Leon Arundell4:09 pm 15 Dec 22

Emissions will probably fall if people switch from public transport to car travel: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-data-shows-high-emissions-from-canberra-buses-leon-arundell/

Mr Steele how is cutting existing weekday and evening services got anything to do with drivers and the TWU not wanting to move to a compulsory 7-day work roster?

If you can’t staff the existing network, how are you going to staff a full 7-day one?

Oh and as for the $18.3 million reduction in fares, just maybe stop letting all these adolescent kids and scammers ride for free! I swear sometimes, we are the only passengers who swipe their cards; others just hope on and sit down.

“Oh and as for the $18.3 million reduction in fares, just maybe stop letting all these adolescent kids and scammers ride for free! I swear sometimes, we are the only passengers who swipe their cards; others just hope on and sit down.”

I have to agree. Not only adolescent kids but it seems everyone. I was told by a driver that they are unable to do anything. Scamming is actively policed in Sydney and Melbourne, why not Canberra. And if we have so many scammers how can we trust the statistics which provides input into additional services?

The best way to do that is by introducing contactless card payments. At the moment if you don’t have a myway card and aren’t at an interchange it literally isn’t possible to pay. Even at the train station or airport, there is no way for tourists etc. to buy tickets

Many users are getting free or discounted fares. The ones that pay the full price are the ones that are likely paying the most tax.

To be honest when it costs transport Canberra $30 a day to get you to and from work /school, why can’ t the buses just be free?

It costs money to run the ticket system and to work out who gets free or discounted tickets. Costs money to advertise prices etc..

May as well make use of something we’re already paying for.

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