The start of Canberra’s new bus network has been pushed back until the start of the second school term next year, with new timetables to be issued in March and a month of free travel to sweeten the delay and encourage patronage.
The new start date will allow the bus network to be aligned with the launch of light rail services, although Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris is unable to commit to a firm date for that other than the first quarter of 2019.
“Given the complexity of this kind of major infrastructure project and the need for third-party accreditations that are beyond the government’s and the Canberra Metro consortium’s control, we have decided to start the new bus network in term two to minimise disruption to commuters as much as possible,” she said.
The Government continues to be dogged by complaints that the new network has reduced people’s travel options in some areas and about fewer dedicated school bus services.
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Some schools continue to protest against the withdrawal of dedicated services, with Radford College accusing the Government of ignoring its concerns, but a spokesperson for the Minister said further changes were unlikely and the network would proceed as is.
Radford says the lack of dedicated services from the southern services was its main concern and it was now considering organising its own service, to be paid for by parents.
Ms Fitzharris has tried to reassure parents that the buses and interchanges are safe for young children, saying Transport Canberra will boost staff on the ground and that 60 per cent of schoolchildren are already using regular services.
The new network will now begin on Saturday 27 April, with school services starting when term two begins on Monday 29 April. Timetables will be released in early March.
Transport Canberra will provide a month of free travel for every journey on the new network when a passenger uses a MyWay card.
Ms Fitzharris said the later start date would give travellers, and especially students and families certainty and enable schools to prepare for the new network during term one rather than in the busy end-of-year period.
“We have already released the updated network, following extensive consultation, to give the community a chance to become familiar with the new bus routes,” Ms Fitzharris said.
“By starting the new network before the start of term two we can give passengers, especially parents and school students, certainty to plan their journeys for both the beginning of the 2019 school year and for term two onwards.
“We usually make changes to our bus network during school holidays to minimise disruption to students. By starting the bus network for term two, we can provide certainty to students while minimising any risk of disruption when light rail begins.”
Route maps for the entire new network, including maps and services for every school and at a suburb level, are already available online: https://www.transport.act.gov.au/getting-around/new-network
More information and enhanced customer service will be rolled out in early 2019 ahead of the start of the new network.
A new journey planner, which was one of the improvements the community asked for in the recent transport network consultation, will be available before the new network starts.