WCCC writes to Chief Minister on Action’s Network 14 Timetable

Dear Chief Minister

  I am writing on behalf of the Weston Creek Community Council to express our concern with ACTION’s Network 14 timetable that took effect this week. To be blunt, Council is extremely disappointed with the Network 14 changes to bus services.  These impact negatively on public transport in both Weston Creek and Molonglo. 

 In contrast to the ACT Government’s often stated policy aim of encouraging people out of cars and onto public transport, Network 14 appears designed to achieve the opposite outcome in Weston Creek. Through poor route design and timetabling, ACTION appears determined to make bus travel by public transport to and from Weston Creek as indirect, time consuming and unattractive as possible.

 From feedback Council has received from local residents to date, it’s becoming apparent that unless reasonable changes are made, Network 14 is set to encourage large numbers of current bus users to start driving to work for the first time. Faced with their direct routes to the City or Parliamentary Triangle being cut and with replacement routes not a realistic alternative as they take too long or involve travelling at a much earlier time, many Weston Creek residents will now opt to commute by car instead.

 A number of popular bus routes, including direct services to the Parliamentary Triangle, have been cut, while the few Xpresso services to the City (5 in total) have been scheduled, we believe, too early in the morning (all pass the Park and Ride at North Weston before 7.30am) to be of use to most potential commuters.   

The one welcome feature of Network 14 is the introduction of Xpresso route 705, which travels from Tuggeranong through Weston Creek and onto Belconnen, and vice versa in the other direction. Even though demand is unlikely to be as high as for Weston Creek to City or Parliamentary Triangle travel, we note that there are three services northbound and three southbound each morning with the buses properly spaced between 7am and 9am.

 Council asks why this frequency and distribution couldn’t be introduced for the Weston Creek to City Xpressos instead of concentrating all buses before 7.20am?  It seems quite strange that under Network 14, Weston Creek will now have better bus connections with Belconnen and Tuggeranong than with the City or the Parliamentary Triangle in peak hours even though the latter two destinations are closer and that’s where the vast majority of commuters want to go.

 In relation to off – peak and local services, we have also seen an effective cut of between 30 and 40% in the day time off-peak services with the removal of Route 75 and the loss of Route 28 which now becomes Route 83 and effectively services the Molonglo suburbs of Wright and Coombs with a passing interest only in Weston, Holder and Duffy.

 In relation to Molonglo, Council is very concerned that the strategy being pursued fits the Gungahlin experience to a tee. We have another dormitory District with no employment at present and little planned for the future.  The start of the bus service for Molonglo has this going via Woden and is more than likely to drive those new residents in Molonglo to use their cars to travel to work.

 One of the real concerns that Council has with the planning for the new Timetable is the use of the My Way Card as THE planning tool for usage.  This is correct in measuring usage but what the whole planning of this new timetable seems to fail to do is to ask or measure what routes and timing the demand is for.  All we get is a replication of usage and there is no effort to measure or cater for what the demand is.  To us, this is a very disappointing aspect of the new Timetable preparation and is only set up to fail as far as Weston Creek and Molonglo is concerned.

 In discussions with the Weston Creek Community Council as part of the Network 14 consultation, ACTION undertook to ensure that all of the Weston Creek to City Xpressos would be evenly spaced between 7am and 9am so that these buses would be freely available to commuters and depart at regular intervals from bus stops common to all the routes, such as the North Weston Bus Park and Ride. The Weston Creek Community Council, in its submission to the Network 14 consultation process, also emphasised the importance of spacing the buses out between 7am and 9am.

 Yet all of this seems to have fallen on deaf ears more influenced by past usage than anything else. It seems pointless for Council to try to communicate with ACTION representatives after the treatment we have received from expressing our concerns and views on how to attract people in Weston Creek to the bus network.

 Weston Creek already has among the lowest rates of public transport usage in Canberra. Council believes that this is largely due to poor bus route design, in particular the lack of direct bus links to the City. In Network 14, Council believed that ACTION had a great opportunity to encourage more people onto public transport through better route design in Weston Creek. We believe that not only have they squandered the opportunity, but they have taken the community backwards by cutting existing services and scheduling the few Xpressos too early to be utilised by many of those who would use them.  All this is likely to culminate in the wasting of valuable resources instead of addressing demand.

 It is difficult to describe the level of disappointment the Weston Creek Community Council feels in the whole Network 14 process, and in ACTION and Minister Rattenbury more broadly, for delivering such poor public transport outcomes for our District.

 It was hard to believe bus services in Weston Creek could get any worse, yet, despite all the spin, somehow Network 14 has managed to achieve just that.

 By contrast, when it comes to public transport for the Inner North and Gungahlin – no expense is spared it would seem. It’s a tale of two cities if ever there was one.

 Council’s view is that unless the Government takes public transport in the Weston Creek area a little more seriously and fixes the issues with Network 14, many in the community will resent vast sums of their taxpayer funds being spent on an expensive light rail for the Northside when their own bus services are so woefully inadequate. This is also at a time when bus services in Gungahlin have been increased markedly.

 I look forward to hearing a positive response for the residents of Weston Creek and Molonglo.

 I have listed our detailed issues with the new timetable in an Attachment to this letter.

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