PARLIAMENTARY Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, has defended the new local bus network which he said was delivering more services more often, with faster journey times.
He said the new Newcastle Transport network was showing signs of “positive growth” after just three weeks of operation.
But the new network has been widely criticised by Hunter Labor MPs.
Shadow Transport minister Jodi McKay joined the Hunter’s Labor MPs in Charlestown on Friday to continue to put pressure on the state government to “fix the mess” they said had been created on the buses.
“The privatisation of Newcastle Buses has left commuters stranded, late for work, and frustrated,” they said in a joint statement.
Independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said many people in his electorate were also unimpressed by the new timetable.
“I've received numerous complaints about the new system with some services cut altogether, popular routes changed and travel times extended in many cases,” Mr Piper said.
“These decisions must be reviewed and services restored.”
But Mr MacDonald this week questioned Labor’s “campaign of negativity”.
“Newcastle Transport is delivering 1200 extra services every week under the new network,” he said.
“It is very early days, however we are already seeing positive signs in terms of people using the new network.
“Delivery of frequent, direct routes have already seen a slight uptick in patronage, in particular trips to John Hunter Hospital has increased by approximately 15 per cent.
“We are confident that as the network continues to settle, these early signs will turn into sustained increases”.
Mr MacDonald reiterated that the new network was required to stem the years of declining passenger patronage when ‘ghost buses’ were prevalent.
The network lost some 700,000 passenger journeys over seven years with patronage having flat-lined prior to the launch of Newcastle Transport, he said.
“Do we really want to go back to the way things were where routes were almost empty for most of the day and long, lonely rides were common?
“The new network is designed to increase patronage through the delivery of better connections, more frequent and direct services, and reliable timetables. Going back to the old days of long, meandering – and ultimately empty – journeys is not what people want.”