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Our campaign to create a fairer bus timetable for all Canberrans has got a shot in the arm, as the government is now willing to discuss the issue.
We have published three articles here so far about our campaign for A Fair Go for Sunday Buses if you haven’t read any of our previous pieces yet it’s well worth taking a quick look, as we’re going to jump right into the politics of it all here.
Last month, the Canberra Liberals Shadow Transport Minister Candice Burch moved a motion in the assembly regarding bus finishing times.
In response to this motion, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris promised that the government would only be “looking at” extending services, stating:
“I am pleased to advise the Assembly that our new integrated network will provide access and equity for people to get home safely at night seven days a week. We are looking to expand the hours of operation, with the initial light rail timetable running until 11.30 pm Monday to Thursday, 1 am on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, and 11.30 pm on Sunday night. Likewise the new Transport Canberra bus network rapids will run to midnight Monday to Saturday, and we are looking to run them to 10.30 pm on Sunday nights.”
Both the ACT Greens and the Canberra Liberals gave passionate speeches addressing the motion in support of extending bus times. ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said in part:
“As a frequent bus user, I very much thank Miss Burch for her frequent bus motions, and I hope she can keep up the good work. It is great that this Assembly is looking at our public transport system, in particular, our bus system, because that is what serves most people—or does not serve most people—in Canberra. I very much welcome the Liberals’ support for public transport, which has not always been quite as enthusiastic in the past.
I do wish to make it very clear for the record that, of course, I agree with Miss Burch’s statement: low-income Canberrans are disproportionately impacted by public transport. If you are someone who washes dishes in a restaurant, you are probably not going to be able to afford to take a taxi home. If the restaurant closes at 11 o’clock, you will still be there at 12 o’clock. The patrons might be able to get home on the bus, or they might not, but you certainly will not be getting home on the bus.”
Candice Burch’s response welcomed the commitment in theory, but noted that the actual issue (the public holiday services) had not been mentioned:
“The minister spoke a lot about moving to a seven-day network, and while that will certainly go a long way to address the lack of Sunday services, she largely ignored the significant concerns I raised about the lack of public holiday services. I look forward to hearing back from the minister on what the government is doing to make future improvements around public holiday services.”
In an emailed statement I received this week from Fitzharris mentions nothing beyond the coming consultation with the community about buses, encouraging me to review the “transport network” when it is released.
To me, this email has all the all hallmark of having been written by a public servant who is trying to reply, while saying nothing at all of substance, and is a lot less of a firm commitment than her statement last week in the Assembly chamber.
At this point, it is clear that there is a need for our campaign for extended Sunday and public holiday bus services, and we need to keep the pressure on.
What we need you the reader to do, is sign the e-petition here and contact your local MLA’s by email or phone, and tell them you support A Fair Go for Sunday Buses. Just a few minutes of your time can make a big difference for our campaign. With only a small grassroots effort, we have already got the Government halfway on this issue, now we need your help to bring it home for a win for all Canberrans.