The number of of people taking buses on weekends has increased and there have been fewer cancelled services since the government responded to public pressure over passengers being left stranded at stops after their bus failed to show, according to the first Transport Action Plan Quarterly Update tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
The ACT Government revised the weekend timetable and introduced six standby drivers at each of the bus depots to fill any gaps in the schedule as part of a 10-point Action Plan in response to an Assembly resolution.
After the new network began at the end of April, average weekend reliability slumped to 89 per cent, which the Government admitted was not acceptable, attributing it to a lack of drivers volunteering for the contentious weekend roster.
The Assembly’s August resolution, after a Liberals’ motion was amended by Labor and the Greens, called on the government to release an action plan within a month.
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The Greens’ amendments also called on the government to increase bus driver numbers through continued recruitment and consider incentives for drivers to work weekends.
Transport Minister Chris Steel said the Update showed reliability had jumped to almost 100 per cent for the last four weekends.
He said more than 150,000 journeys were recorded over the past four weekends, about 27,000 more than in the same period last year.
“Weekend reliability earlier in the year was not hitting the mark. It’s great to see more Canberrans catching the bus on the weekend, confident that their service will arrive,” he said.
The government had initially cut services to deal with the problem but a public backlash and the Assembly forced it to do more to provide a long-term solution, including recruiting more drivers.
Mr Steel said that since the new network began, 58 new drivers had started with a further 10 currently in training.
The Action Plan included making longer shifts to make weekend work more attractive, spreading workloads between the Belconnen and Tuggeranong depots, as well as increasing the number of stand-by drivers to cover unexpected absences or vehicle breakdowns.
Transport Canberra is also moving from an annual recruitment round to continuous campaign to meet growing demand, with preference given to candidates interested in weekend work.
Mr Steel said work had commenced on nine of the 10 actions, with two completed (the revised timetable and standby drivers being available at each of the bus depots).
When Mr Steel announced the Action Plan last month, he said the government would also consult with staff and unions on potential changes and incentives in the drivers’ enterprise agreement to deliver a reliable weekend service.
The current agreement does not force drivers to work weekends, and if they choose to they are not paid weekend penalty rates as it is built-in to their overall pay rate.
The revised weekend timetable will incrementally increase weekend services to meet the Network 19 plan.
The public will be able to view the Quarterly Updates on the Transport Canberra website.