Swansea MP Yasmin Catley picks fight over Swansea buses

TENSION: Keolis Downer, the private operator of Newcastle Transport, has been called on to reveal its plans for Swansea to Newcastle buses like the 350 service. Picture: Peter Stoop
TENSION: Keolis Downer, the private operator of Newcastle Transport, has been called on to reveal its plans for Swansea to Newcastle buses like the 350 service. Picture: Peter Stoop

SWANSEA state Labor MP Yasmin Catley has accused Transport Minister Andrew Constance of a “talk to the hand” approach to questions about the future of buses between Swansea and Newcastle under Newcastle Transport’s private operator Keolis Downer.

The pair clashed in parliament this week after Ms Catley said Keolis Downer had disenfranchised bus users in her electorate by consulting “primarily via social media”.

“My community has been led up the garden path by the minister and the new operator of Newcastle Transport,” Ms Catley said, adding that she wanted to discuss the concerns with Mr Constance.

Mr Constance told Ms Catley she had “just been knocked back for a meeting”.

“Guess what? Welcome to opposition,” he said. 

“I enjoyed it for eight years under you lot and it was not fun.”

Swansea state Labor MP Yasmin Catley.

Swansea state Labor MP Yasmin Catley.

Speaking to the Newcastle Herald, Ms Catley said well-placed sources had told her that Keolis Downer is reconsidering Swansea bus services such as the 349 and 350 routes.

“The minister is taking a ‘talk to the hand’ approach to all of this. There’s no response whatsoever,” she said. 

“If you’re driving along the Pacific Highway and look at the people who rely on the buses they’re elderly, disabled, down and out. They should be ashamed about this.”

Keolis Downer would not say whether it is committed to the 349 or 350 routes, but referred to its “Voice of Newcastle” online program that let commuters submit their views on transport between July 1 and September 11.

Campbell Mason, the chief executive of Keolis Downer Hunter, said the operator is complying with government standards for service levels in outer metropolitan areas.

“The network redesign for Newcastle continues to be informed by insights gathered from Novocastrians,” Mr Mason said.

“Already we know the community want more direct bus routes between key locations to reduce journey times as well as better integration between different modes of transport.”

Keolis Downer said its network will be released later this year and implemented in January 2018.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.

Mr Constance told the Herald Ms Catley “well knows” that Keolis Downer and Transport for NSW are doing “extensive consultation” about transport upgrades.

“This should be above politics, and the member for Swansea should stop talking down public transport and our public transport workforce,” he said.