POLL: Bus use declines

MORE passengers have turned away from Newcastle’s buses in yet another year of patronage decline for the service, as the state government contemplates transport changes in the inner city and region.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen and Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell will raise the decline in bus use when they meet Transport minister Gladys Berejiklian this week.

In its 2011-12 annual report, the State Transit Authority, which operates Newcastle Buses and Ferries, put total boardings at 12.005 million passengers, down from 12.069 million boardings in 2010-11.

Of the total, bus passengers fell from 11.64 million in 2010-11 to 11.568 million, for a decline of 72,000 passengers.

Stockton’s ferry recorded a slight increase in passengers, for a total of 437,000 boardings in 2011-12.

The bus use number includes an estimate of 1.56 million for the city’s fare-free zone and 73,354 boardings for its free city loop shuttle bus.

A State Transit spokesman said the change to patronage overall represented a 0.5per cent decline, and could be due to a number of factors including wet weather.

Among the results was a 6.3per cent increase in passengers travelling route 235, via Wallsend to Newcastle, after the service was extended to Maryland.

Mr Owen said planning for transport improvements was at least in part unavoidably dependent on a government decision on the city’s rail line and broader strategy for inner Newcastle.

‘‘It’s no secret we need more express bus routes,’’ Mr Owen said.

Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said the government needed to pick up the pace with work on its Hunter transport plan. It is expected to release the final version of its state transport masterplan by the end of the year.

Ms Berejiklian said the  Hunter plan would then be developed and look ‘‘at the unique transport challenges that face Newcastle and the wider Hunter region and identify the solutions that will serve  growing populations and expanding industries into the future’’.

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