From The Canberra Times, Monday 24 September 2001 –
By GRAHAM DOWNIE
A decision on new ACTION buses is imminent, with the choice between Scania and MAN.
At a cost of $350,000 to $400,000 each, the [Humphries Liberal] Government has budgeted for 10 new buses next year and three for each of the next three years. The Labor Party [(the opposition party)] has stopped short of a commitment to this program, but leader Jon Stanhope said on Friday, “We will commit to a progressive upgrading of our fleet to ensure that it’s wheelchair accessible.”
Yesterday, ACTION chief executive Guy Thurston said all new buses would have ultra low floors, would hopefully be air-conditioned and run on compressed natural gas. The intention was to put the new buses on the intertown services to provide maximum accessibility.
Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane were all introducing CNG-powered buses. A decision was yet to be made on whether ACTION’s new buses would be powered by CNG, but it was hoped that would be the outcome. Because ACTION would “latch on to an existing government contract”, the choice of new buses was between Scania and MAN, supplied respectively to the Brisbane City Council and the South Australian Government.
The Government has budgeted $7.98 million of the $27 million provided for its free school bus scheme for the new buses. The Labor Party has committed the entire $27 million to education, prompting a call by Disabled Peoples International for Labor to clarify its position over the purchase of the 19 wheelchair-accessible buses. The group’s president, Craig Wallace, said additional accessible buses were essential to increase travel opportunities for disabled people.
The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act requires that all buses must be wheelchair-accessible within 20 years. Mr Thurston said that with a life expectancy of 20 years, all of ACTION’s new buses must now be fully accessible.
ACTION’s fleet had an average age of about nine years with the oldest buses about 14 years. A short-term lease of 17 buses had been undertaken to provide for an anticipated increase of demand under the free school bus scheme. There had been a 20 per cent increase in students using buses under the scheme, with about 50 new applications being received each day.