10 January 2023

Timetable gripes aside, 2023 is a year of innovation for Canberra's bus network

| Ian Bushnell
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The ACT’s first 12 electric buses will soon be ready for service. Photo: ACT Government.

This year will be a watershed for Canberra’s public transport system, with the first batch of electric buses taking to the roads and a new ticketing system to be implemented.

Announcements on both are imminent this month.

The first of the 12 Chinese Yutong E12 battery electric buses being leased by the Territory arrived in Canberra before Christmas to be wrapped in Transport Canberra livery and made passenger-ready.

The others are in Sydney being commissioned and kitted out with ticketing, CCTV and communications systems.

Asked when all 12 buses will be in Canberra and running, Transport Minister Chris Steel said further announcements would be made mid-January.

The government is also buying an additional 90 electric buses, which are expected to be delivered in the next three years.

The new quiet-running Yutong buses will be charged at the existing Tuggeranong depot, but subsequent orders will be charged in Belconnen and the new Woden depot upon completion in 2025.

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There had been speculation that Mr Steel would announce the next-generation ticketing system before Christmas, but the procurement process is still in the final stages before awarding a contract.

A TCCS spokesperson said it was a long-term critical contract for the Territory so significant time and effort were being applied to ensure due diligence before finalising the procurement process.

The MyWay replacement will revolutionise how passengers pay for travel, allowing them to use credit cards and apps such as Apple Pay and other similar payment platforms.

The changes to modernise the bus system come as a new timetable from March, cutting many suburban services, threatens to take the gloss of the innovations.

But Mr Steel reiterated that the disruptions from infrastructure projects on the southern gateway to the city drove the service changes, which would be reviewed in the middle of the year.

Transport Minister Chris Steel with a Transport NSW electric bus

Transport Minister Chris Steel: service cuts will be temporary. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

He said the cuts were based on modelling of how the raising London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue Bridge works would impact the traffic network.

“We need to make adjustments to accommodate the extra time it takes for buses to move through the traffic network associated with the disruption caused by major infrastructure projects,” he said.

“Once we’ve assessed the reality of the disruption, then we’ll look at how we can make improvements to the timing of bus routes and improvement to the bus timetable in the second half of the year.”

Mr Steel said the disruption would affect how everyone moves around the city over the coming years.

“We really appreciate everyone’s patience while we go through this period of disruption, but it is going to be temporary,” he said.

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The government’s priority was reliability and maintaining trust in the public transport system.

“We want to make sure that when a bus is timetabled that it shows up, ” Mr Steel said.

“What we’ve done to make sure that buses are a great option for people as an alternative during this disruption period is to make sure we’ve got really frequent services during peak times.”

The other significant change this year will be the demolition of the Woden interchange to make way for the construction of the new CIT campus.

The Woden bus interchange will close permanently from the last service on Sunday, 29 January.

A temporary interchange has been built on the car park between the Hellenic Club and Grand Central Towers while the new interchange on Callam Street is built.

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“We really appreciate everyone’s patience while we go through this period of disruption, but it is going to be temporary,” he said.

How often have we heard this? Honestly, public transport was better 20 years ago (greater frequency esp at night and on weekends, more bus stops closer to destination), so how is this government encouraging use of public transport? New gimmicks and gadgets are fringe issues as public transport is about getting people to where they need to go when they need to go there.

More frequency at peak hours ignores the many trips people need to make outside those hours. Not everyone works public service hours and many have to pick up children, do shopping etc. None of these ‘innnovations’ improve our getting around Canberra.

The biggest joke is Christmas Day transport being free so you can go out for lunch, but you can’t get home again as the buses stop for the afternoon/evening.

I’m not sure how well Canberra Transport are managing peak bus services with the London Cct raising. There were three R4 buses lined up one behind the other yesterday afternoon.

Haven’t seen that banking up issue caused through the dedicated transit lane between Woden and Parliament House however. If it’s going to take 40-50 years to build Canberra’s currently proposed light rail routes, then you really need to have some dedicated bus lanes through the choke points for a long time yet.

Its all well and good to add a reasonable number of new busses to the network, however as Action Buses is unable to fully man the buses it DOES have now (especially on weekends) how does Action Buses propose to fill the gap in driver numbers? This is what Riotact should be investigating. This is the real story, along with why the ACT Government has been underfunding the bus network for decades.

Leon Arundell4:56 pm 12 Jan 23

Twelve electric buses will do little to reduce the record 34,000 tonnes of emissions that Transport Canberra’s buses caused in 2021-22. That’s 3.5 kg for every local public transport passenger journey (compared with under 2 kg for each equivalent car journey).

ChrisinTurner1:00 pm 12 Jan 23

I don’t believe “90 additional buses”. If we had 90 additional buses there would be no need to reduce the timetable. These are replacement buses but still too late to provide proper disabled access.

I don’t believe the term ‘zero emission bus’ is correct – unless it’s charged during the day while the ACT has an excess of solar – otherwise we are just exporting the emissions interstate.

“What we’ve done to make sure that buses are a great option for people“. This is a patently false claim from the Minister.

The removal of over 700 bus stops and the complete degradation of peak hour bus services, made the buses a worse option for huge swathes of Canberra. That’s why so many people have been complaining about their bus services for over 4 years and why bus use dropped markedly even before COVID. The government designers completely stuffed up Network19 and they simply ignored mountains of negative feedback in 2018, over 10,000 complaints an all time record for the ACT.

The Riotact can’t keep allowing Minister Steel to put out these regular puff pieces without holding him to account and questioning his claims.

“can’t keep allowing Minister Steel to put out these regular puff pieces without holding him to account and questioning his claims”

Why would any of the local media outlets start holding the government to account now?

The same problems objectively exist in many other areas and we often have the local media boosting for the government rather than doing their actual jobs.

Too right. ABC Canberra radio are possibly the worst.

I won’t miss the loud bus roar and stench, can’t wait.

So a hundred buses that make the tram redundant will be on the road before the track is even laid, and the main problem with delivering better public transport is the stupid tram. Honestly, can we abandon the Woden tram nonsense?

The new, state of the art ticketing sounds interesting – except for those of us who don’t use Apple Pay or similar platforms and are reluctant to use credit cards for public transport. How about those of us who are happy to use a MyWay card or similar, will we be required to walk or add to traffic congestion by driving (and be forced to pay usurious parking costs most of the day and well into the night, if we are lucky enough to find a parking spot)?

Seriously you don’t have a debit card? Just get one for travel. Put 10 bucks on it if your worried about it being scammed. Everytime you use it, top it up to the 10 again. Jesus, they can’t cater for everyone just the 99.99% of people.

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