Adjournment: Regional Bus Services
My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Public Transport, and my ask is that the minister undertakes an urgent review of all major regional bus networks, prioritising the Ballarat and Greater Geelong networks. Buses are the forgotten part of our public transport system. Years of underinvestment and poor planning mean many bus networks are unreliable, with poor connections to other transport lines, patchy services and long wait times, and regional bus networks have it even worse.
In Ballarat, for example, the local bus network has had no major upgrade or review since 2017. In that time the population has expanded, putting additional pressures on the already unreliable network. There are limited evening bus services and none after 8.00 pm, meaning many hospitality staff and shift workers who rely on public transport have no reliable way of getting to and from work. On weekends services are also few and far between, leaving locals and visitors dependent on cars to get around the city. Current routes are poorly planned, with many taking roundabout routes that unnecessarily extend travel time, and many routes have patchy connections with Ballarat’s train services. While residents and the Ballarat City Council have been calling on the government and the Department of Transport to undertake an urgent review of the Ballarat bus network, their calls have been ignored. In fact they have been four years waiting for a promised 12-month follow-up on the 2017 review, which is yet to occur.
In Armstrong Creek, just outside of Geelong, residents are relying on a single bus service for major residential growth areas. Bus users are required to change buses at Waurn Ponds if they wish to continue to the Geelong CBD. Locals are begging for additional services and routes for the area, but no new services appear to be planned.
These are problems seen pretty much across the entire regional bus network. Our failure to invest in our bus network locks residents into car dependency, increasing congestion and vehicle pollution in our regional cities and towns. As petrol prices continue to soar, regional Victorians are increasingly getting a raw deal, forced to spend hundreds on fuel in the absence of any other way to travel around their communities. A big investment in our regional bus networks would help more people switch to public transport to ease the current cost-of-living pressures. I ask the minister to initiate an urgent review of all major regional bus networks, with the review of the Ballarat and Greater Geelong networks as a priority