Nothing gets Canberrans more fired up than when their regular bus route changes it seems.
On 9 October, the new timetable and route changes came into effect; a change which the government claims provides more frequent and efficient services for all Canberrans.
Not according to the numerous emails, letters, calls and face-to-face approaches I’ve had recently.
In September, my office did a letterbox run of some of the suburbs in my electorate to inform them of the new bus timetable and the services that may be impacted.
One of these was the cancellation of the popular number 5 bus which provides a direct service to the City and Woden for Narrabundah residents.
Blinded by its shiny new timetable, it seems the government forgot one crucial thing – actually consulting with actual users of the service before actually deciding to cut it and actually notifying them of the cancellation.
Since I’ve been in the Assembly, I’ve never had as many emails and calls and letters than I have had about the cancellation of the number 5 bus. Who knew that after the tram debate was done and dusted, public transport could ever ignite so much excitement again?
As early as 13 September, I put questions to the Minister for Transport in Question Time about what consultation she had undertaken before unilaterally deciding to cut the service and got nothing more than, “information is being made available to residents now”. Pretty hollow words as an afterthought when the government had already decided to cut the service.
In addition to the correspondence I’ve had with the Minister since that time, the topic of public transport came up again in the Assembly on 26 October. Almost 6 weeks after I first raised the issue with her in the Assembly (which I am sure is not the first time she received complaints from residents about it), she was still clinging onto the line of denial – that the changes to the timetable are providing more services to the Inner South.
All hats off to the government officials who fronted Narrabundah residents at the Community Services Open Day on 28 October. When you choose to go into the public service, facing irate residents about changes that you personally may, or may not, have had a say in can’t be easy. Kudos to the team from Transport Canberra for being available to answer questions and listen to resident concerns.
And to give the Minister credit – she did acknowledge that perhaps the government could have done better to communicate the changes to Narrabundah residents, but, aside from it coming too late, it also came with a qualified claim that perhaps residents are “confused” because they are receiving “other information” in addition to information from Transport Canberra. In other words, I was the naughty local member who notified my constituents of the bus timetable change and the residents were not smart enough to work out what the changes mean and are now “confused”.
When the residents of Narrabundah no longer have a service that goes through a key part of their suburb taking you to Woden or to the City, and you stubbornly continue to claim this is an increase in service, perhaps it is you that is “confused”, Minister.
You said so confidently in the Assembly last week, “One of the major improvements to the 2018 network will be increased frequency and better connections so that Canberrans will be able to just turn up at a bus stop and go where they need to”. Can you honestly look a Narrabundah resident in the eye and say that?