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Eastern Suburbs bus routes removed from Sunday to increase use of “slow” and “unreliable” Light Rail

The 'Save Our Buses' campaign succeeded in saving the 373, however over 20 bus routes will cease to run from this Sunday. Photo: Supplied.

By EVA BAXTER

From this Sunday December 5th the contested South East Sydney integrated transport network will be introduced.

22 Eastern Suburbs bus routes will be modified, with a further 24 ceasing to run. These include the 300, 301, 302, 309X, 314, 316, 317, 338, 353, 357, 376, 377, 391, 393, 394, 395, 400, 400N, L94, X40, X93, and X99.

The changes have been developed to integrate the Light Rail service into the public transport network.

Maroubra resident Marissa has been campaigning to ‘Save Our Buses.’ Photo: Supplied.

Maroubra resident Marissa said at a ‘Save Our Buses’ rally last week, “I do not want to be one of the thousands of commuters who are going to be forced off our buses and onto Light Rail, as [buses] are a vital requirement in our everyday lives.

“I like to keep an active lifestyle, stay connected to my family and I’m worried I won’t be able to because the Light Rail is less accessible and services fewer areas.”

Marissa’s online petition to ‘Save Our Buses’ with over 11,000 signatures states the Light Rail’s “unreliable” and “slow” service should not be commuters only option to get to and from the city.

Last month Transdev announced that the Inner West Light Rail (L1 line) would be closed for up to 18 months as issues with the trams are addressed.

The Eastern Suburbs (L2/L3) line vehicles are different vehicles to the fleet on the L1 Inner West Light Rail line.

Member for Coogee Marjorie O’Neill told City Hub the bus cuts are happening to force people onto the Light Rail to fulfil a contract signed by the government that includes paying a shortfall if passenger fulfilment is not reached.

A spokesperson for Transport for NSW said, “there is no deal to drive patronage from buses onto Light Rail for the benefit of the operator.”

O’Neill said another reason for the cuts was streamlining the services for privatisation.

“[The changes] are going to hugely disrupt the people of the Eastern Suburbs, for those people that are now forced to catch the Light Rail, we know that their journey times are going to be significantly longer.

“Buses take 20 minutes to get into the CBD down to Circular Quay from Coogee, the Light Rail takes closer to 45. Journey time is just one thing.

“The other thing is we know that at least 50 bus stops are going to be removed, so access to the buses that remain is going to be limited,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the government is refusing to release the raw data from the consultation summary and is calling for the data to be released.

A community survey on the plans was open to residents for an extended eight-week consultation period with 8,801 responses.

Transport for NSW found customer journey time, travel patterns, access to key destinations and ease of interchanging were the most important topics to respondents.

Question 9 of the survey asked, ‘what statements do you associate with the proposed changes?’

Respondents were given the following answers to choose from, ‘more room and capacity,’ ‘better local connections to things like shops and other services,’ ‘better and new routes,’ ‘more buses more often,’ and ‘other.’

76% of respondents chose ‘other’ and provided written responses which Transport for NSW has not made available to the public.

Integrate/interchange

Due to the focus on integrating bus and Light Rail services, residents may now have to transfer to reach their destination where currently they have a direct service.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said, “based on these changes, many customers will continue to have a direct bus or light rail journey available to their destination, but a number of existing bus trips in the South East may now involve interchanging onto another bus or light rail service based on their current travel patterns.

“Some customers who transfer from a bus to Light Rail will be required to pay more for their journey under the current Opal fare structure.

“In the majority of cases where customers no longer have a direct bus option in the new network, there will be an option of transferring between buses to continue your journey, and in most instances from the same bus stop.

“In these instances, there is no fare penalty for customers transferring between buses to complete their journey.”

Marissa told City Hub, “people are not going to know where to go because they’re going to get confused.

“I caught a bus back to Randwick yesterday from Martin Place and I happened to be walking past these bus stops and there’s already signs on them saying the bus stops are changing, and you’ve got to catch this bus to get this bus, and you’ve got to change to get to this bus, and it’s just like, what’s the point?”

O’Neill said, “I was talking to [a student] and he goes ‘under these changes I now have to catch two buses to get home. I currently catch one.’

“How is that fair?

“Our job is to make people’s lives better. These bus changes are doing the exact opposite.”

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