The region’s bus operator should admit it got parts of its new timetable wrong and fix the problems immediately, rather than wait out the three month review period, Lake Macquarie’s mayor says.
Kay Fraser, who belongs to the Labor Party, says she has been inundated with complaints about the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie bus timetable since Keolis Downer changed it in January.
Her comments come after a public meeting organised by the region’s state Labor MPs attracted an estimated 1000 people on Monday night – many vocally angry from the floor during proceedings.
“I’m hearing it everywhere. It’s a huge issue,” Cr Fraser said.
“I think Keolis downer should be listening to the community and really working closely with the community and say ‘hey, we’ve got it wrong’.
“It’s horrific and it needs to change. We all need to keep the pressure up – we’re all hearing the same stories, we’re not making it up.”
A Keolis Downer spokesperson told Fairfax Media that the organisation was taking all feedback on board and that it had always intended the first three months of the new timetable to serve as a review period.
“We have always said we are open to reviewing the network and our network planning team is currently reviewing the network in line with the feedback we have received since the launch of the new network,” the spokesperson said.
“This review period, after such a large network overhaul, is a normal process and we are monitoring the new network as it stabilises to confirm what is working and where changes need to be made.
“We are aware there are some elements where the new network can be improved and over the coming months we are committed to making sure this happens.”
When asked whether he would act on calls at Monday’s meeting to step in and review Keolis Downer’s new timetable, transport minister Andrew Constance said it was “early days” but he argued that the new network “added 1000 extra services”.
“The operator has committed to a three month review of the network, as is appropriate, and will make changes where necessary,” he said.
“We can all agree that the old bus network did not work, and needed fixing. Constantly declining public transport patronage was not a good sign for a growing city like Newcastle.
“I would expect the operator to use Opal data and customer feedback as part of their review to continue to improve service to their customers. Early indications show increased patronage on key bus routes and the elimination of ghost buses that were adding to road congestion.”