19th October 2023 18:28
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan) (18:28): (532) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Public and Active Transport Gabrielle Williams, to whom I extend my congratulations on her recent appointment to this portfolio. A couple of weeks ago I attended a ball – a ‘bus ball’ in fact – to celebrate transport awareness week. I donned my good gear and, together with a group of like-minded public transport devotees, hopped on the number 220 bus to Sunshine, and what a fine time we had of it. But of course for most residents in the Western Metropolitan Region, getting around the western suburbs on buses is no fun at all – it is a nightmare. This is not the first time I have broached this subject – nor I note, my colleague Trung on this similar theme. There is a dearth of transport options in the west. We know that reliable, affordable and accessible public transport is essential for promoting productivity and inclusion and reducing pollution and congestion. It allows people to access employment and education, health services, shops, entertainment and social activities. The lack of public transport in the west forces people to rely on cars, with households needing multiple vehicles to get around, creating enormous financial stress on families and increasing congestion and pollution. Those who do not have access to private transport face long and unpredictable travel times and often unbearable wait times for public transport. Buses would be a good alternative, but they do not operate in the evening or on Sundays, and during peak times the average wait time for a bus in the Western Metropolitan Region is 40 minutes.

Matthew Bach: 40 minutes!

David Ettershank: Yes, 40 minutes. With the fastest growing population in the state, the public transport system in the west is being pushed to the brink.

The Better Buses for Melbourne’s West report offers solutions to the public transport malaise in the west. It was developed by Melbourne University’s Melbourne Centre for Cities and proposes replacing the current network with an entirely new grid. It is not a major infrastructure project that will cost tens of billions to implement or years to construct. This is restructuring an already existing bus network for little cost, which would dramatically improve accessibility and wait times for more than a million people in Melbourne’s west. Real benefits in real time for minimal cost – what is not to love?

We have been told by the public transport minister’s office that bus network reform cannot take place until the recontracting process is complete as it consolidates multiple routes across a single contract. However, in the west a single bus company – CDC – runs 49 of the routes, covering large swathes of areas with the worst services. For example, a simple rerouting in the Hoppers Crossing area would increase accessibility by a staggering 1155 per cent.

The action I seek is that the minister approve a pilot of the new bus network grid for the CDC-contracted routes based on the Better Buses for Melbourne’s West plan.

Written Answer
Received: 17 May 2024
Hon Gabrielle Williams MP
(Minister for Government Services, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Public and Active Transport)

I thank the Member for Western Metropolitan Region for his question.

Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with members from the Better Buses for the West Campaign.

The Allan Labor Government recognises the important role buses play in meeting the travel needs of people living in Melbourne’s growing suburbs. Buses are a vital part of Victoria’s integrated transport system, with around 400 regular bus routes servicing metropolitan Melbourne, and local bus networks operating in regional towns and cities.

Since 2014, we’ve delivered over 20,000 new bus services and 2,000 new train services per week – with hundreds more services set to be delivered over the next three years. During this time we have also invested over half a billion dollars in new and improved bus services.  In last year’s budget alone, this Government committed $36.4 million to deliver bus service improvements right across Victoria. 

In addition to existing investments, last week we announced an additional $150 million dollars for better buses for growing communities in the North, West and South East suburbs – the single largest investment in buses to date. Much of this investment will support the growing communities of the Western suburbs.

For example, you may be interested to know that from 24 March, a new bus service, running between Sunbury and Diggers Rest stations, was introduced.  Route 475 Sunbury Station – Diggers Rest Station will improve bus coverage, connecting new estates to the bus network to better support Sunbury and Diggers Rest’s growth. It will provide a fast and frequent service, operating every 20 minutes on weekdays and every 40 minutes weekends.  The new bus service improves connections to shops, schools, train stations and other amenities. It will address coverage gaps on Elizabeth Drive in Sunbury and on the western side of Diggers Rest, while also linking with trains at Diggers Rest Station to connect Sunbury and Diggers Rest locals to the broader transport network. In addition, Route 475 will provide easy access to local employment and shopping centres. Diggers Rest residents will have better access to Sunbury Downs College which is their zoned secondary school.

The $150 million package includes $61 million for a new bus route between Wyndham Vale station and the Harpley and Cornerstone estates, as well as a new fixed route bus for Tarneit and Laverton North in place of the current flexiride service. We are also investing nearly $5 million to upgrade Williams Landing Station.

This builds on work that has already been ongoing for our growing suburbs in the West. For example, just last year we opened a new bus interchange at Tarneit Station which allows for more bus services to run more often. The new Tarneit Station bus interchange in the southern car park improves accessibility – better connecting the community to local schools, shops and employment, and providing a comfortable shelter for commuters year-round.

We know there is more work to be done, which is why we will continue to review the bus network to identify where improvements can be made and make it easier for locals to travel.


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