Day 1 of new Newcastle bus shuttle an embarrassment for Labor, say Greens

The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, today declared the first day of operation of Labor’s new $500,000/year free shuttle bus service for Newcastle an embarrassment for the sitting Labor member, Jodi McKay.

“Day 1 of this service demonstrates everything that is wrong about Labor’s attempts to deal with the challenge of public transport in Newcastle, and elsewhere around NSW,” Mr Sutton said.

Mr Sutton said that he had personally monitored one of the bus runs on the first day of operation yesterday, and noted the following:

  • The bus started its run from the Newcastle depot at 12:46pm, 5 minutes later than its scheduled start time.  The earlier service (scheduled departure 11.40am)  was observed to enter the Newcastle bus layover after completing the loop  at 12:18pm, 38 minutes after its scheduled start time.
  • The full route took more than thirty minutes to complete, rather than the publicised twenty minutes (i.e., more than 50% longer than the publicised journey time), even in favourable traffic conditions – anything abnormal would clearly extend the journey time even further.
  • The new green-painted sign (normally indicating a free shuttle bus stop) on the bus stop outside the Clarendon Hotel in Hunter St states “FREE BUS ROUTE 555 Does not stop here”. A man was observed waiting for the bus at this stop (presumably he had seen the green sign but had not read the fine print), and – seeing that the shuttle bus was not stopping, but had rather pulled into the right lane to turn from Hunter St into Merewether St – he crossed the left traffic lane in Hunter St to board the bus.
  • The new green-painted sign on the bus stop in Watt St, south of Newcastle railway station states: “FREE BUS ROUTE 555 DOES NOT STOP HERE. PROCEED TO CUSTOMS HOUSE. In fact, the bus did stop at this stop to allow passengers to alight.
  • The service is not, as the promotional material claims, a “continuous loop”, because the bus lays-over at the Newcastle depot after each run, requiring passengers who want to travel beyond that point in the route to alight at the Watt St stop south of Newcastle Station, and walk north to the Customs House stop across the road from Newcastle Station to wait for the next service.
  • The Customs House stop is not indicated at all on the promotional brochure.
  • The service is using three bus-stops along King St (between Auckland St and Newcomen St) that were installed over the weekend but have apparently not yet been approved by the Newcastle traffic committee, and are not indicated on the promotional brochure.

“Newcastle commuters are desperate for improved services, so they will welcome any new service,” Mr Sutton said.

“However, this service was hastily introduced without any consultation, and the multiple and amateurish errors and misrepresentations in the promotional material highlight the politically-driven rush and lack of communication within the Ministry of Transport,” he said.

“The Greens have already drawn attention to the fact that the new shuttle service is not the most cost-effective way of improving Newcastle bus services, and does not operate in peak hours when it is most needed by workers, and when it would actually make some contribution to reaching the peak-hour journey-to-work targets in Labor’s own State plan,” he said. [see previous media release “Labor stuck in sad loop on Newcastle bus system”, on my election blog at: http://newcastle2011.blogspot.com/2011/02/labor-stuck-in-sad-loop-on-newcastle.html

“This new service is a rushed, expensive and tokenistic attempt to improve Newcastle’s public transport services, showing all the signs of being the election stunt that we thought it would be, with inaccurate and misleading promotional material, confusing signage, failure to meet timetable commitments, and even preemptive use of bus stops that are yet to be approved by the Newcastle traffic committee.

“The first day of operation of this service shows that it’s Labor and Ms McKay – not Newcastle commuters – who need to find a new way of thinking about public transport, that goes beyond political spin and a few coats of fresh green paint designed to cover up fifteen years of failure,” Mr Sutton said.

See the promotional brochure for the new shuttle service at: http://www.131500.com.au/tickets/upload/docs/Kogarah_Shuttle_Brochure.pdf

For further information or comment, please contact John Sutton (Greens candidate for Newcastle), on 4969 2668 or 0411 154 004.
John Sutton’s campaign blog is at: http://newcastle2011.blogspot.com

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