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Bus Network

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Ms Burch for bringing this motion before the Assembly today. Many Belconnen residents have shared with me the very same points that this motion raises. In fact, frustration with the chaos and dysfunction that this government has needlessly introduced into the territory’s bus network is something that I hear about regularly in my electorate of Ginninderra.

I strongly suspect that Minister Steel and those opposite, clueless about how to fix these issues, are holding out for people to just get accustomed to a severely diminished public transport system. This is not going to happen, however. Canberrans know what their commutes looked like before Labor and the Greens closed 752 bus stops, cancelled express commuter services for residents in Tuggeranong and Belconnen, and axed buses for schoolchildren. They remember how long it took to get to work, to school, or to a doctor’s appointment one year ago, and they know how long it takes now.

Earlier this month, I spent a morning meeting with Canberrans who live in one West Belconnen neighbourhood. One of the main concerns raised that morning was frustration with changes to the public transport system. These residents know personally that these changes have not been improvements, and any attempt to label them as such comes across as Orwellian doublespeak.

One resident who works in Belconnen explained that it now takes her 45 minutes to get there from her home. She would prefer to use public transport, she said, and in fact used to, but now she drives her private car since she can do so in one-third the time. Residents also raised concerns about the unpredictability that plagues the network. Now buses frequently come early or late, they said, and often they are completely full and don’t stop at all.

One resident who recently separated from her husband spoke about how she no longer feels safe catching the bus after having been left stranded by overfull buses both on her way to work in the morning and at the bus interchange in the evening. She also expressed concern that a one-kilometre walk to and from the nearest bus stop in the dark of winter is simply not woman friendly.

As a result, Madam Speaker, residents of Belconnen are turning away from the public bus network, as the latest patronage data clearly show. The Barr government’s stubborn determination to make the public transport system less convenient, less efficient, and less safe has had a significant impact on many families in my electorate and many other parts of our territory. I therefore join Ms Burch in calling on the Minister for Transport to fix these problems as a matter of priority. Thank you.

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