CHANGES are in store for local bus services after the release of the first review of Busways.
The report follows a consultation with the local community on the bus network.
Many parents in the region are keen to see the result of the second stage of the review which investigates the school bus network.
The first stage looked at a variety of topics including the streets used by buses; locations of bus stops; types of buses used; new destinations; frequency; hours of operation; train connections and the route numbers used.
“Busways believes the revised network provides a balance between opening up new travel opportunities whilst still meeting the needs of our existing valued customers,” said Andrew Glass, Busways Group Service Development Manager.
“The response to the proposed network was encouraging with over 390 items of feedback received. This clearly shows how passionate the community is about their local bus service,” Mr Glass said.
Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said she looked forward to seeing the changes implemented to accommodate improved public transport for the community.
As a result of the review, Busways are introducing 17 changes to the network including changed services in the CBD and urban areas, retaining routes where changes were proposed, location of bus stops, as well as the introduction of a trial night service in Port Macquarie.
“I am pleased that Busways have undertaken the review and have listened to the concerns of our community. In fact our area had the most submissions of any regional area in the Busways network across the state,” Mrs Williams said.
“I congratulate our community for taking the time to make a submission and be a part of this important review.
“Now that the town service has been reviewed, Busways is now turning its attention to reviewing the school bus network and will commence consultations with schools, parents and students early next year and will again be calling for submissions.
“I am still receiving correspondence from residents raising issues about the school services and will happily continue to send them to Busways for their consideration.
“The full implementation of service changes will commence by the end of next June once the school review has been completed,” Mrs Williams said.
Earlier this year the Camden Haven Courier raised concerns on school bus safety from local parents.
Concern focused on bus route 9 on which high school students travel three-to-a-seat and standing in the aisle from Bonny Hills to Port Macquarie via Houston Mitchell Drive and the Pacific Highway.
Parents worry their children will be killed if the bus every crashed, travelling at speed on the highway. Their concerns were heightened recently when a bus carrying children crashed in Singleton, killing one nine-year-old boy.
Parents are calling for school busses to be fitted with seat belts. Local parents have formed an action group (STAG - school transport action group) to lobby the government and Busways.
“NSW and Victoria are the only states in Australia with no formal policy on mandatory seatbelts on school buses,” said parent Mandy Campbell.
“The longer the O’Farrell Government leave making the decision the longer our children will be at risk and more it will cost.
“Last financial year, the government budgeted $6.4 million towards the ‘Seatbelts for Kids’ scheme which has now been renamed the ‘Seatbelts on Regional School Buses Program’ and the program extended to 2015.
“Less than one third of that money was spent because bus companies with school route contracts chose not to apply.
“So where to from here? Will it take the death of another child before someone in Parliament has the guts to stand up and say enough is enough let’s change things now?
“The government saw the dangers of travelling without a seatbelt in large passenger vehicles when in 1994 it ordered all new coaches to be fitted with seatbelts. Why is a life worth less on a school bus than in a car or on a coach? Why do school bus drivers have the security of a seatbelt but not their human cargo? I just don’t understand the logic.
“I strongly believe that the government should not be stalling any longer on making the decision to change the law, to prohibit standing on school buses and then the introduction of seat belts on school buses, and be looking at ways to finance the cost.
“Some of the ways of financing new school bus safety legislation might not be popular, but could make a positive contribution. One of the things suggested is a tax levy. If the federal government can levy such things as the ‘Ansett levy’ to pay redundant workers, the ‘gun buyback levy’ to keep us ‘safe’ and the ‘flood levy’ then why not a state levy to improve NSW school bus safety? Should we be placing a cost on safety?”
Once the school bus investigation is complete and the outcomes reported to Transport for NSW, it is anticipated implementation of the new route and school network will take place in the first half of 2013.
A copy of the Feedback and Outcomes report can be found on the Busways website: www.busways.com.au
A series of school bus safety stories can be found here.