The ACT Government has unveiled a new public transport network incorporating light rail that includes 10 Rapid routes spread across the city, replacing the current Xpresso services and involving trade-offs such as more bus changes, shorter routes, fewer bus stops and dedicated school services.
The Government says the proposed new network, now open to public consultation, will deliver more frequent, faster services seven days a week from 2019, with fares unchanged and passengers needing only a single ticket to travel on buses and light rail.
It includes an extra Rapid route (R10) to service the growing Molonglo Valley, travelling from Denman Prospect, through Wright and Coombs and the Inner South to the City.
The new Rapid 5 will connect the Tuggeranong Valley from Lanyon, Calwell, and Erindale to Woden and the City via Barton every 10 minutes or better during peak times. Rapid 4, which travels between Lanyon, Woden and the City, will run as frequently as light rail – every six minutes or better – during peak time.
The Government says that under the new network, over 55 per cent of Canberrans will live within walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop.
But it will mean more passengers will have to change buses to take advantage of the Rapid routes.
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Deputy Director General of Transport Canberra Duncan Edgehill said that even with an interchange, more frequent buses meant overall a faster and more direct journey for customers.
“What we know looking at the data from our network is that there are many more people, commuters and schoolkids who are interchanging as it is so we don’t think it is something that is entirely new for customers. It is something that is a key feature of other bus networks in Australia and indeed the rest of the world,” he said.
There will be services at least every 15 minutes along Rapid transport corridors from 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday, continuing into the evening with less frequency. Sunday and public holiday service times will also be extended to 10 pm.
More school children will travel on regular buses with more frequent services past schools rather than dedicated school services that Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said were inefficient and could take a long time to get to their destination. There will also not be any ‘school bus only’ stops.
“We want to make walking, or catching the bus to school the norm here in Canberra, so the new network seeks to make getting to school by bus easy and quick,” she said.
“The new network significantly increases trips past schools, and students will now be able to get to school via the regular network, and if not, dedicated bus services will operate.”
Transport Canberra will also boost staff at interchanges to make them safer, particularly for schoolchildren.
The new network will introduce services into new areas of northern Gungahlin including Moncrieff, Throsby, Jacka and Taylor; and Rapid services will be extended to Kippax to cater for growth in West Belconnen.
Changes to suburban routes include longer and slower routes shortened and ‘straightened out’, with some bus services no longer travelling down the same streets, fewer stops and some bus stops removed. Transport Canberra says tough choices were involved but this will enable faster route travel while maintaining service coverage.
It says local service numbers will be easier to understand and be the same every day of the week.
For passengers who won’t be able to access a service, Transport Canberra is planning new delivery models that may be similar to the existing Flexible Bus Service.
It is also planning new flexible services to provide public transport connections to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Calvary Hospital and the University of Canberra Public Hospital, and Lawson, until the local road network is completed.
“The new network, open for consultation today, will integrate our buses with the light rail network and take advantage of Transport Canberra’s ongoing investment in bus network design, fleet and infrastructure, to ensure Canberra remains one of the most liveable cities in the world,” Ms Fitzharris said.
“Over the last few months, we have been asking Canberrans what they want from public transport. People told us they wanted more frequent, faster, reliable services that operate seven days a week.
“The proposed network released today delivers a city-wide integrated public transport network that can move people around our city quickly and efficiently, providing a real alternative to the car. This network will prepare us for growth and ensure we remain one of the most liveable cities in the world.”
Ms Fitzharris said the network had been designed to deliver shorter, straighter, more regular and reliable local services to connect people with local destinations as well as Rapid routes to travel between districts.
“Overall the new planned network provides greater service coverage and frequency, seven days a week,” she said.
“The new network is all about attracting more people onto public transport over time, ensuring traffic congestion does not increase as the city grows.”
Mr Edgehill said the changes to the public transport network were also meant to complement the growth of the light rail network over time.
To have your say on the new network go to www.yoursay.act.gov.au