Rural bus routes face axe
Local governments say a decision by the Public Transport Authority to cancel five different bus services across rural WA will impact on the most vulnerable people in rural communities, and some may even be forced to relocate to bigger centres.
The services include Boxwood Hill to Bremer Bay, Hopetoun to Ravensthorpe, Quairading to Narembeen, Albany to Ravensthorpe, and Northam to Mukinbudin.
A service from Bunbury to Boyup Brook via Collie has been reinstated to become a twice-weekly service after discussions between Nationals leader and Member for Warren-Blackwood Terry Redman and Transport Minister Troy Buswell.
The decision to cancel the five bus services comes on the back of the proposed cancellation of the AvonLink rail service from Northam to Perth by the end of the year and the integration of the MerredinLink train service into the Prospector train timetable.
In a written statement Transwa said the service cancellations were due to consistently poor patronage, with each service, on average carrying fewer than three passengers per journey.
PTA spokesman David Hynes said the routes, three of which were regular services, and three of which were on-demand services, were heavily subsidised.
"The last of these services will run on December 27, 2013," he said.
"There simply isn't the demand to justify the services.
"Cutting these services will save the taxpayer more than half a million dollars every year."
But North Eastern Wheatbelt Regional Organisation of Councils chief executive Tanika McLennan said the cancellation of the Eastern Wheatbelt bus service would have a major impact on indigenous people, the elderly and school children.
"They are people who do not own a car, cannot drive or are no longer permitted to drive due to age or health," she said.
"They mainly use this service to attend medical appointments or visit family."
Ms McLennan said many of these people did not have family living close to assist them with their transport needs and some did not have the financial means to drive themselves to the city.
"The decision that this is an economic one is not a reasonable argument when there are numerous examples of bus and train services in the city which run empty or close to, and would also not be economically viable, relying on taxpayer funding to operate," she said.
Shire of Ravensthorpe chief executive Pascoe Durtanovich said his Shire had written to the Mr Buswell in September regarding this issue, but they were yet to receive any response.
"Before he makes a final decision on the closure, he should, in our case at least, look at the option of using smaller buses," he said.
"The cost could be reduced significantly if we go down that path."
Mr Durtanovich said the concern was some people, particularly the elderly, who needed regular access to medical services in major regional centres, could be forced to relocate.
"This is not the outcome we want," he said.
Member for the Agricultural Region and shadow regional development parliamentary secretary Darren West said it made no sense to close the bus service if the Government was serious about trying to attract and retrain people in rural areas.
"If you are serious about regional development, which the Government claims to be, why would you remove the only public transport service from dozens of towns," he said.
Mr West said community members could sign a petition protesting against the service cancellation.
Member for the Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies said she would be seeking a meeting with the Minister for Transport on this issue.
"I'm currently collating letters from people that are expressing their concern about the fact that they used the bus service and they now have no access to public transport, and will be left without any options as a result of this decision," she said.
"This decision was made without any consultation with me, as the local member, and I share the disappointment and concern of the community."
A spokesperson for the Minister for Transport said the minister would respond to the request from the Shire of Ravensthorpe in due course.
_BUS STOPPED _
·Boxwood Hill to Bremer Bay
·Hopetoun to Ravensthorpe
·Quairading to Narembeen
·Albany to Ravensthorpe
·Northam to Mukinbudin
Those interested in signing Darren West's petition should contact his office on 9322 3574.
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