Last year in Blackburn, minor changes to bus routes resulted in mass community outrage, followed by a sudden backflip by Public Transport Victoria.
The story starts in August 2013, when following a public tender process, new entrant Transdev took over the operation of a number of bus routes across Melbourne. Included in the new contract was:
A requirement for the operator to conduct a comprehensive review of all services included in the franchise to identify opportunities for improvement and implement a “greenfields” timetable change by the end of April 2015.
Behind this requirement was the intent to make Melbourne’s bus network more efficient – remove little used bus routes and deviations, and redirect the resources towards bus routes that passengers will actually choose to use. The side benefit to this was no net increased in the level of government funding.
The first sign of these coming changes was in June 2014, when Public Transport Victoria publicised their new timetable, only one month before it came into operation.
Their website was very vague, with the metropolitan bus page not being much help.
- Major bus network changes in Brimbank, City of Port Phillip, Manningham and Bacchus Marsh
- Minor bus network changes in Banyule, Boroondara, Darebin, Hume, Maroondah, Whitehorse, Wyndham and Yarra
Not to mention, who the hell knows the names of local government areas besides the one responsible for picking up the rubbish bin outside their house?
It took a while before people actually found about their local bus routes being cut back – this piece from the Manningham Leader was the first newspaper article to publicise the changes.
Manningham bus commuters blast Transdev’s announcement of service cuts from July 27
June 30, 2014
Manningham commuters are about to be dudded again with the announcement Transdev will be scrapping a number of bus services, starting next month.
Scrapped routes include 201, 203, 205, 286, 303, 313 and 315.
Transdev told Manningham Leader in early June it would finish collecting data on passenger numbers, punctuality, frequency and timetables during the third quarter of the year.
Leader has today asked why the review and changes were fast-tracked.
Public Transport Victoria (PTV) spokeswoman Helen Witton said the changes would provide simpler routes and more frequent services that better connect with trains.
She said there would be improved connections to key stations like Croydon, Ringwood, Mitcham, Blackburn, and Box Hill railway stations.
Many local residents were very vocal.
But public transport users have taken aim at Transdev, Public Transport Victoria, and the State Government on the Yes to Doncaster Rail Facebook page.
Commuters vented their anger about the timetable changes on the Yes to Doncaster Rail Facebook page.
The storm of angry comments was directed at changes to time tables and reduced routes to the city — including the 908 SmartBus and 305 which will no longer operate to the city during off-peak times and weekends.
The Doncaster Rail Advocacy Steering Committee’s Facebook group members posted over the weekend, saying a number of routes in Manningham would be scrapped as of July 27.
The post revealed some routes would have reduced frequencies and operating hours.
“This was done with absolutely NO consultation with the community, unlike other areas of Melbourne who seem to get special treatment,” the post read.
“Some people will be better off, but generally, PTV has decided to reduce services in Manningham as they believe our public transport is good enough.”
The spokesperson from Public Transport Victoria said that the changes were a response to previous consultation.
PTV spokeswoman Helen Witton said the changes would remove duplication in the bus network and provide more direct services.
She said Transdev undertook a detailed market research study in late 2012 with both users and non-users of bus routes in the Manningham area.
“Transdev’s planning team also consulted with relevant local councils and took into account current traffic and patronage data before submitting their proposals to PTV for review and approval,” she said.
“PTV and Transdev also receive regular feedback from customers who consistently tell us they want more direct, simpler routes and more frequent services that better connect with trains, and this is what this network and timetable change delivers.”
And a Transdev manager also mentioned the reasoning behind the changes.
Transdev stakeholders and marketing general manager Emilie van de Graaff previously told Manningham Leader the scheduling of 52 bus routes was under review by Transdev and Public Transport Victoria, as part of Transdev’s franchise contract.
She said the review was aiming for a “more effective use of existing resources”.
“A lot of bus services are running around empty, which is costing money,” she said.
“They could be used in other areas where more services are needed.”
Ms van de Graaff said Transdev had clear targets to increase patronage by improving services by 2015, as part of their contract with PTV.
However the timetable changes occurred despite the backlash, with bus stops along the withdrawn route 286 being covered up with temporary signs.
Leaving bus shelters in streets that no longer saw buses.
The removal of bus route 303 was also a sore point, so in September 2014 the government back flipped, and found $860,000 to source an extra bus to reinstate the service.
Transport Minister Terry Mulder reinstates bus services from North Ringwood to the city
September 02, 2014
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder has apologised for making an $860,000 blunder and restored two axed bus services in Melbourne’s east, following fierce opposition to the bus’ scraping.
In a victory for commuters, Mr Mulder announced today that the government would reinstate the bus route 303, a peak hour service from North Ringwood to the city, which was scrapped in July amid a major shake-up of the bus network.
Eastern Metropolitan Region upper house Labor MP Shaun Leane told Maroondah Leader last week that his party would restore the 303 route if elected in November.
Mr Mulder laid blame for the “mistake” at the feet of bus operator Transdev and said the company’s public consultation process had failed to identify the route’s value to the community.
“I would just like to apologise for what has happened … we’re always prepared to acknowledge that we don’t get something 100 per cent right,” Mr Mulder said.
Then Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder blamed Transdev for making the changes.
“We did rely on this particular case with the operator (Transdev) conducting all of the research with the passengers.”
Mr Mulder said a new bus would need to be sourced and refurbished for the route 303 at a cost of about $860,000.
Asked if the Coalition was playing catch-up on public transport policy, Mr Mulder said it was “easy to make an announcement from opposition.”
Mr Mulder said this was the first time Public Transport Victoria was not heavily engaged in community consultation but the department would take a “far greater role” in the future.
The Minister said Transdev had made the decision to axe the two bus routes following public consultation.
“We understood, at the time, that those matters had been conveyed to the council and customers were aware of what’s going on,” Mr Mulder said.
“But quite clearly, the message I got back from (Liberal candidates) Dee Ryall, Tim Smith and Robert Clark was that was not the case.”
Leader has contacted Transdev for comment.
Note that the government was more than happy to take credit for “listening to the public”.
Eastern suburbs bus improvements commence on 13 October 2014
September 02, 2014
Following suggestions from Member for Mitcham Dee Ryall, Member for Box Hill Robert Clark and Liberal Candidate for Kew Tim Smith who listened to community feedback and fought hard for the restoration of some bus routes, Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder today announced that improvements would be made to some Transdev Melbourne eastern suburban bus routes from Monday 13 October 2014.
Eastern Freeway bus route 303 (Ringwood North – Melbourne CBD) will be reintroduced, while bus route 271 will be deviated to restore trips to Blackburn streets. Public Transport Victoria (PTV) will also consider how best to reintroduce a bus route along Kilby Road, East Kew.
Mr Mulder said that at community drop in sessions in August, PTV and Transdev staff listened to concerns about what the 27 July 2014 timetable changes meant for individual passengers.
“The community feedback indicated that fine tuning of existing bus routes in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs was warranted to help passengers travel to jobs or university in Melbourne’s CBD and the North Carlton area,” Mr Mulder said.
“Route 303’s resumption will reduce crowding at the Middleborough Road and Eastern Freeway on-ramp, also benefiting route 906 and 318 passengers. Route 303 will operate along its previous route and have four peak period morning and afternoon trips on weekdays.”
Ms Ryall said that this was great news for local residents.
“I am thrilled that my representations on behalf of local residents has assisted bus route 303’s reinstatement,” Ms Ryall said.
Mr Mulder said that Mr Clark suggested the rerouting of bus 271.
Bus route 271 will be altered to have a similar route as the previous 286 in the Blackburn area along Marchiori Road, Goodwin Street, Elm Street, Fir Street and then onto Blackburn and Box Hill stations, returning via Goodwin Street.
Mr Clark said that the alteration of route 271 would make travelling to school, Blackburn station and Box Hill easier for residents living near Goodwin and Elm Streets.
“Pedestrian access across Whitehorse Road to route 901 is difficult. This warranted the Coalition Government’s reconsideration of the July timetable change,” Mr Clark said.
Mr Clark said that he was very pleased the Napthine Government was able to work with the local community to devise a solution to better meet residents’ transport needs.
Mr Mulder said that PTV would examine how a Transdev bus route could be reintroduced to Kilby Road, East Kew by April 2015.
“Under Melbourne’s existing bus route contracts, this requires negotiation with Ventura,” Mr Mulder said.
Mr Smith said that he would continue to liaise with Mr Mulder.
“I look forward to working with Mr Mulder to ensure that East Kew residents again have access to a freeway bus route that uses Kilby Road,” Mr Smith said.
Information on the revised bus network and timetables will be available at www.ptv.vic.gov.au and www.transdevmelbourne.vic.gov.au in the coming weeks while passengers may also call PTV daily between 6am and midnight on 1800 800 007.
As well as bringing back the route 303 service, the existing route 271 bus was diverted via the back streets of Blackburn to replicate the removed route 286 service. Good thing they only covered up the old bus stops!
Transdev is currently working on a new timetable for the rest of their bus network, and this time they have released their plans to the public long before the timetable itself is due to come into effect. The official consultation period commenced on December 1, 2014 with the changes supposedly due to occur in April 2015.