We’re two months into our movement, and now it’s the turn of the union to speak their piece.
We are two months into the A Fair Go for Sunday Buses campaign I started to extend bus running times on Sundays and public holidays in Canberra. There has been an active social media campaign around the issue, and this especially has raised a number of questions.
So let us look at some of those questions, including what role the union plays in all this.
“There is no demand and the buses will just run empty.”
I addressed the demand issue in part in the first article, pointing out that “build it and they will come” was oft used as justification for the Light Rail, and that the same applies here. The problem is it’s hard to measure demand for something that doesn’t exist, it’s a catch-22 situation.
I admit we only have anecdotal evidence and statements from interest groups representing those affected to “prove” the claim that there is demand for this proposal. That is partly why the petition was started, to measure demand. I have spoken to a large number of people both online and in person over the past number of weeks who catch buses regularly, and when asked, not a single one was opposed to the idea of extending services on Sundays (and public holidays) or questioned whether there would be demand for it.
Every single person I have spoken to who relies on buses firmly supports the idea. But you have to take my word for that.
“It will cost too much money to extend services later.”
To quantify what we are asking for in terms of some figures, let’s start with the sixth of the year that is affected by this; every Sunday plus around 15 other days per year on public holidays are impacted by buses finishing early. Now let’s look at running hours in general. Around 110 hours per week is the total running times for all current services. We are asking for an extra three hours of running time per week (or public holiday) or around 3% of the current running hours.
Is this too much of a cost to ask for to ensure complete equity of access for Canberra?
“The union is the reason this can’t be done/no-one will want to drive the shifts.”
We contacted the Transport Workers Union who represents the bus drivers in Canberra, to ask them what they thought of our request to the Government and if they supported it or opposed it and why.
Klaus Pinkas from the TWU had this to say:
ACTION designs the networks and timetables for ACTION services not the members of the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU). TWU delegates are consulted during the network design process as a matter of courtesy and to take advantage of their vast experience in operating buses in the ACT but they do not have any veto power over where and when buses run.
Ultimately our concern is whether adequate breaks are provided for members, the members are properly paid and that the buses can be operated in a manner that is both safe to the driver and to the general public. Where and when ACTION choose to run buses is a matter for ACTION.
The ACTION Enterprise Agreement 2013-17 (the Agreement) does not preclude members from working on a weekend (indeed you may have noticed that they currently do work on a weekend), nor does it preclude drivers from working all hours of the day. I invite you to have a look for yourself.
Anybody who says that the Agreement prevents ACTION from running buses late on a weekend either hasn’t read it or doesn’t understand it.”
Clearly, the issue is not the availability of drivers for the shifts or the union award agreement for the drivers, so it really does come down to solely an operational decision by Transport Canberra and the Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris to not run buses later on a Sunday or public holiday.
“There is no need for buses running at these hours”
Apart from the need of Canberra citizens being able to get around later than 7pm, there is a very real need for services for people leaving from or arriving at our city. On every Sunday, there are coaches leaving and arriving from the Jolimont Centre once an hour, right up until 1:30am. There are trains arriving at Kingston station up until 10pm. There are flights leaving and arriving after 7pm at Canberra Airport. If we want to be a seven-day city, a modern welcoming and accessible city, we need to have a seven-day bus timetable to match.
“We can’t do this because ACTION has to make a profit”
ACTION and now Transport Canberra, has never made a profit in its entire history of operation, ever. It is a service funded by the Government, for the people of Canberra. In our second article, we detailed how the Government itself admits that public transport in Canberra is for the benefit of the community. So the cost needs to be looked at from the perspective of whether or not running buses later on Sundays and public holidays is benefiting the community or whether some people are not benefiting because of the current timetable.
There seem to be some myths around regarding Sunday night buses – so old is this issue, and we appreciate that we need to convince not just the ACT Government about this but also the wider Canberra community. I hope this has helped set some things straight for you, the reader.
Together we can do something about this long-standing issue and let the government know we are fed up with the way things currently are.