In October 2022, Transport Minister Chris Steel announced bus route and timetable changes (effective 30 January 2023) which would cater for both the temporary Woden Interchange and road changes in the City due to the partial closure of London Circuit. In addition, there would be a service into Lawson, changes to Fraser and Denman Prospect services to reduce layovers, and the closure of the City West Station.
Mr Steel stated that the upcoming bus network changes “will use our full bus fleet and all available staff as we move away from the current interim timetable that has been in place during the peak of COVID-19.”
Details of the new routes and timetables were released on the Transport Canberra website on Monday 12 December 2022. While the route changes were in keeping with the earlier announcement, the timetables included unexpected reductions in services – mostly during off peak – and no improvement to weekend frequencies, both of which drew widespread criticism.
The changes were first brought to the public’s attention by Shadow Transport Minister Mark Parton, who partially blames the reductions on the lack of new buses:
“The new timetable reveals a significant reduction of trips on routes 18, 24, 32, 41, 43, 54, 55, 59, 62, 63, 66, 73, 78, 79, R4 and R5,” Mr Parton said.
“Night services will also finish earlier across many routes which will mean that many workers will not be able to get the bus home after 8pm.
“Weekend buses will continue to operate every two hours despite promises from the Labor-Greens government to increase weekend frequency.”
The Canberra Liberals believe that the network cutbacks are due to the non-arrival of the promised new buses which were supposed to replace the retiring old Renault vehicles and the increased bus travel times associated with the raising of London Circuit.Excerpt from Media Release “Transport Minister Quietly Cuts Bus Services”: Mark Parton / Canberra Liberals, 13 December 2022
The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) has reviewed the changes and thinks that the scale of the service reductions doesn’t add up:
Transport Canberra tells us that the construction delays around London Circuit and Woden Interchange cause longer journey times, and this means they can’t operate as many services. Which makes some sense, but doesn’t quite add up when you look at the scale of the cuts. The journey times really aren’t that much longer (up to 5 minutes in peak, around 1 minute off-peak), half the routes don’t even go into the City, yet services are being cut across the board, and by up to 30% on some routes. The handful of service improvements are offset by the reductions several times over. It’s also hard to understand how this justifies dropping late night services.
PTCBR knew that construction was going to cause delays to journey times, and at the time the works were open for consultation, we made submissions that Transport Canberra should monitor delays and implement more bus priority measures if necessary. What no-one mentioned was that delays in the City would have severe consequences for the entire public transport network. This was a significant oversight in the planning approvals process, and bordering on misleading from the project proponents.Excerpt from blog “2023 bus timetables don’t live up to their promise”: PTCBR, 14 December 2022
ACT Greens Party transport spokesperson Jo Clay repeated her call for the recruitment of additional drivers:
“We all understand that traffic will necessarily be disrupted during the construction of Light Rail Stage 2a. This affects journey times for buses as well as cars.
“I’m glad the new 2023 timetable will maintain good reliability and servicing for peak routes. People will be able to commute to work and get to school. There’s plenty of room on those services and they’re a really convenient option.
“I’m disappointed we haven’t recruited enough drivers to maintain off-peak services and give us hourly weekend travel at the start of 2023. In May this year, the Assembly passed my motion to recruit enough drivers so that we can return to the regular timetable in 2022 and provide hourly weekend services in 2023. We should have seen this in our new timetables.”Excerpt from Media Release “Greens call for more bus drivers to deliver better transport options for everyone”: Jo Clay / The Greens ACT, 15 December 2022
Transport Minister Chris Steel responded to the criticism stating that the reduction in off-peak services was in anticipation of traffic delays due to upcoming lane closures on Commonwealth Avenue. However, he further announced that an increase in the number of services may be possible mid-year:
“As we move into the next construction phase in the first half of 2023, we expect there to be further disruption. This will not only affect private motorists but will also increase bus journey times, which have been accommodated in a new timetable for term 1 2023.
“The new timetable responds to the disruption and focuses on reliability and delivering frequency during peak periods. The extra journey time has to be factored into the timetable and will result in a temporary reduction in the number of bus services which can be operated, particularly in off-peak times. Once we have monitored the actual impact on bus run times, during the next phase of construction, we will consider an uplift in services in the second half of 2023,” he said.Excerpt from Media Release “Update on first two weeks of disruption”: Chris Steel MLA / Minister for Transport, 15 December 2022
Full details of the Network 2023 timetables are available from the Transport Canberra website:
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This page was last updated on 24 December 2022