Nearly a fifth of Canberra’s bus services did not run on the past two weekends, as Transport Canberra moves to recruit more casual and part-time drivers to shore up its voluntary roster system.
The issue of cancelled weekend services continues to simmer in the community, as well as the reliability of the NXTBUS website which is supposed to provide real-time service information.
One commuter described travelling on the weekend as ‘Russian roulette’, adding that the 13 17 10 information service was also failing passengers.
The situation is detracting from the fact that weekend journeys are up by about 30 per cent under the new network.
Transport Canberra says that on average over 91.30 per cent of services have been delivered on the weekends since the beginning of May, but on the past two weekends only 82 per cent of services ran, with the pool of available drivers depleted by school holiday leave arrangements. It did not say how many buses did not run.
“Drivers must book their leave 12 months in advance and thus availability of drivers was affected and there were insufficient casual drivers to fill the services,” a spokesperson said
Transport Canberra acknowledges that weekend reliability is an issue and is currently conducting a driver recruitment drive.
Transport Canberra and City Services Minister Chris Steel said more than 30 new drivers were currently being trained to start working on the new network and over 70 people had already responded to the latest recruitment campaign.
“We have added an extra 1377 services in the new network which provides more services in the evenings and more convenient services with the same route and number as weekday services,” he said.
“Improving weekend reliability is one of our main focuses and we are working closely with TWU to increase recruitment of bus drivers, together with exploring a range of other available options to cater to the increased number of bus services that are available to Canberrans.”
Under the agreement with the Transport Workers Union, driving on weekends is voluntary, a sticking point in negotiations for many years that the Government has failed to resolve.
Mr Steel did not respond fully to questions about the inability of the NXTBUS website to provide commuters with sufficient notice of cancelled services, and any alternatives the Government was investigating.
He only said Transport Canberra continued to review how technology could be used to improve customer experience.
“The NXTBUS system provides passengers with information 90 minutes in advance of services to help them plan their journey,” he said. “People can also contact Access Canberra on 13 17 10 to get further advice on services which have been cancelled.
“Due to the operational nature of public transport and possible road conditions, it is always a good idea for passengers to check NXTBUS close to their journey time.”