‘Russian roulette’: More drivers on way to shore up weekend bus services

Ian Bushnell 31 July 2019 23

Holiday leave hit recent weekend services hard. Photo: George Tsotsos.

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.”

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23 Responses to ‘Russian roulette’: More drivers on way to shore up weekend bus services
Leo61 Leo61 9:17 am 02 Aug 19

Selling the bus service off to be run privately would only drive the price of a bus ticket up, fewer people would use public transport. Most services I see running through my suburb are empty. With the exception of peak periods there should be fewer runs and using smaller buses.

Bernie Ryan Bernie Ryan 2:02 am 02 Aug 19

Canberra still doesn't have the population to cater to a public transport network of this magnitude specifically on weekends. The best solution is to relaunch a more manageable scaled back network which will be covered easily with the drivers they have now and will get more bums on seats instead of empty buses wasting fuel and ware and tere.

Bussie Bussie 9:28 pm 01 Aug 19

You lot can hate on the drivers all you want but the real issue is that there are about 450 weekend shifts and about 800 drivers. Under the national heavy vehicle regulations drivers can work a maximum of 12 days in 14. So even if all drivers averaged 2 weekend shifts a fortnight TC does not have enough drivers to cover all the extra shifts they created.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:12 pm 01 Aug 19

Just like John Howard saying “we will decide who comes to Australia and under what circumstances they come here”, we now have nameless people saying “we will decide who drives the busses and under what circumstances they will drive them”.

This is so crazy the directors of ABC TV comedy Utopia would have difficulty dealing with it.

Where is our Chief Minister?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:03 pm 01 Aug 19

“ACTION bus drivers have had it too good for too longer. Time to outsource”

Adelaide has done it – trams there are next.

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 4:27 pm 01 Aug 19

Is “bus roulette” a thing, now?

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 2:26 pm 01 Aug 19

“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.”

The “increased” number of bus services?

Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 1:54 pm 01 Aug 19

Kids are missing their weekend sport and/or getting to their weekend jobs late due to these Bus cancellations. Absolutely hopeless. I agree with you all that its totally unaceptable that we have ended up in this situation. The bus changes have been a complete and utter debacle. Let's hope the new Minister finally draws a line in the sand and starts to address the problems. I have certainly seen better media enagement and an acceptance of the problems by Mr Steele in comparison to Megan (deny there's as issue) Fitzharris.

    Bernie Douglas Bernie Douglas 11:02 pm 01 Aug 19

    kids are missing weekend sport? really..

    Bernie Douglas Bernie Douglas 11:04 pm 01 Aug 19

    Canberra is by and large a car city with the lowest public transport patronage in the country. Lets see if there are improvements in the transport data a 6-12monthsafter the new network.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:57 am 01 Aug 19

Transport Minister Steel has two challenges to address:

– to get the urban regeneration trams to run on time and

– to get the ACTION busses to run on weekends.

Phil Andrews Phil Andrews 10:19 pm 31 Jul 19

ACTION bus drivers have had it too good for too longer. Time to outsource

Jodie Ruth Jodie Ruth 10:09 pm 31 Jul 19

Nxtbus isn’t a useful solution. It doesn’t tell you that a bus isn’t running, the bus only shows up if it is. And 90 minutes is a lie, most buses only show up when the driver logs on as they start the run. I’ve had many evenings waiting at the interchange wondering if and when my bus would turn up, because it was the beginning of the route… some drivers would start 10 minutes late so they wouldn’t run early towards the end of the route, which added extra frustration!

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:53 pm 31 Jul 19

“Solidarity forever” means also weekends.

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 8:39 pm 31 Jul 19

Is this a joke?

Ian Bensley Ian Bensley 8:20 pm 31 Jul 19

About time it was privatatised and joined the real world

Gary Fynmore Gary Fynmore 7:49 pm 31 Jul 19

Easy solution. A rolling shift roster. Nurses have been working under this shift system for ever. Employ more drivers.

No brainer 😜

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:59 am 01 Aug 19

    Gary Fynmore that makes perfect sense for any operation that needs to provide after hours and weekend work.

    But the problem is the enterprise agreement does not have the provision to introduce a rolling roster. In fact the agreement pays a composite rate which includes allowance for such work but no way of enforcing it.

D.c. Haas D.c. Haas 6:34 pm 31 Jul 19

This is not good enough ☹️ The short term solution is more part time drivers, the long term solution is to remove inflexibility from the EBA 👍

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 7:23 pm 31 Jul 19

    D.c. Haas the easy way to fix that is to stop paying a composite rate (which is meant to include a reasonable amount of after hours work) and pay a base rate with penalties. They will be scrambling over themselves for weekend work then.

    Stephen Matthews Stephen Matthews 8:38 pm 31 Jul 19

    Ashley Wright Thats it

gooterz gooterz 6:11 pm 31 Jul 19

Applying the hospital waiting times accounting to the transport portfolio.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 6:06 pm 31 Jul 19

1 in 5 buses not showing up. That’s absolutely outrageous. You get more reliable bus services than that in third world countries.

What an absolute debacle the new bus network has been.

It’s worth noting that despite issue after issue, bad report after bad report, still no one in Government or from Canberra Transport is willing to honestly accept that there are problems with the new network design and implementation.

I’m sure Canberrans would feel better if they’d at least admit to some issues and start a plan to fix them. Ignoring the problem isn’t going to make it magically disappear.

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