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Restoring Belconnen Bus Routes

Madam Speaker, I have presented a petition signed by 1,180 Canberra residents who want this Assembly to understand how frustrated they are with recent changes to the bus network in the Belconnen area. We often hear the Minister for Transport assure us that her new transport network is better for almost everyone. The more than 1,000 people who have signed this petition disagree, and I am pleased to make sure their voices can also be heard.

Each person who signed this petition has a story. I haven’t heard all of them, but I have heard many. Here is an account from one Aranda resident, in her own words:

I arrived at my nearest bus stop at around 8:20am to catch a bus due at 8:28am. At 8:35am, the bus went past – it was full. I later found out that it had been full since Cook and that no one had been able to get on at any of the stops in Aranda. The next bus was due at 8:50am. It arrived at 9:05.

Another resident related the following to me, also in his own words:

Everyone at the stop let me know that the bus had already gone past, completely full. One woman was ringing her husband to come get her with his car. ‘I don’t know why I keep trying’, she said. Three others were arranging an Uber. A school student explained that losing his school bus had added 30 minutes to his travel time each way. ‘This government has stolen an hour of my day’, he said.

Residents in Evatt have reported similar issues, with overcrowded buses not stopping for passengers. What was once a 30-to-40-minute commute now takes them over an hour. Hundreds of Belconnen residents have reported similar blow-outs. An extra half hour each way seems to be the most common account, but some former Xpresso users in the Belconnen area say it now takes an extra 40 minutes each way to get to and from work. As one resident explained, ‘The short-sighted decision to remove the Ginninderra Drive/Northbourne Avenue [Xpresso] route is the biggest step backward in my 19 years of bus usage’.

Parents who live in West Belconnen have related how their children could formerly travel to school in Canberra’s south on a single bus that took 30 to 35 minutes. Now, the quickest route for these kids involves three different buses and takes over an hour. Ironically, students who attend the same school but live well across the border in Yass and Murrumbateman still have a dedicated school bus and can get to school in about the same time it takes their Belconnen classmates, with far greater safety and far less difficulty.

In the case of Aranda residents, they have been asking this government for some time to increase bus service to their suburb during the morning and afternoon peaks. Many of them felt certain that their requests would be reflected in the new bus network. Instead, the peak-hour frequency of the former number 40 bus, which residents have said was already too crowded, has been reduced by one bus in the morning and one in the afternoon with the new 32 bus. I have heard from those who catch the bus in Aranda that fewer people have been left waiting on the side of the road lately, not because the bus is no longer too full to stop but because so many have simply given up trying. In his own words, here is the experience of another resident:

I used to be able to use the number 40 and number 80 to get to work … in 35 minutes. It now takes three busses and around 70 minutes. Even if I catch the first bus in Cook at 5:59, I’ll be late for work. So now I drive to work. Because these changes were aimed at getting more people out of their cars and onto public transport, right?’

Madam Speaker, on behalf of these deeply frustrated Belconnen residents, I commend this petition, with its 1,180 signatures, to the Assembly.

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