Newcastle private transport operator Keolis Downer has responded to complaints about its newly announced bus routes by saying they will suit the bulk of customers.
Some commuters reacted angrily on Friday to the new routes, lamenting the loss of some direct services in suburbs such as Mayfield, Lambton, Swansea and Valentine.
Keolis Downer will issue detailed timetables for the new routes on January 2 before the revamped network begins on January 14.
“So, instead of getting the 230 into town from directly outside my house, I need to get the 27 to Broadmeadow, change to a train or another bus, which then will take me as far as the Wickham interchange, where I then get a light rail replacement bus to Union Street and then walk 15 minutes,” a Lambton resident wrote on social media.
“Also, none of my kids can get a 230 straight to school now. Wonderful planning job. It's almost as if this hub arrangement is to force people to use several forms of transit to boost the numbers.”
Other Newcastle Herald readers bemoaned the loss of a direct bus to inner-city Newcastle from Swansea and Caves Beach. The new plan compels travellers to change at Belmont.
“The changes to the Swansea route are ridiculous. I thought this was about getting more people to use public transport, but this will make it more difficult,” one wrote.
“This means you won’t catch a bus; you will drive. As it is it can be over an hour on a bus to Newcastle. This will make it longer having to change.”
A Warners Bay resident said: “I can’t get to my children’s doctor any more, or karate classes, or gymbaroo.
“They’ve dropped the 320 that goes along Warners Bay Road to Mount Hutton and Charlestown. Our doctor is at Mount Hutton. There’s no bus from Warners Bay to Mount Hutton any more.
“God knows what all the elderly people who can’t walk from our area to WB any more due to the hills and rely on the 320 to get to Mount Hutton do instead.”
Other readers complained about losing direct routes to shopping centres, including the 310 from Valentine to Charlestown and the 111 from Mayfield to Kotara.
Keolis Downer, responding to questions from the Herald, said Opal data showed 60 per cent of Swansea and Caves Beach passengers stopped at Belmont. It said those continuing north would face only a four-minute wait for the new No.14 bus.
It said services in New Lambton and Lambton would be more frequent and more direct under the new routes 12 and 13 and would offer better access to Kotara and Broadmeadow station.
“We have worked to optimise the network to better meet the needs of our customers using an evidence-based approach based on Opal data, staff knowledge and community consultation,” a spokesman said.
“Our objective is to increase public transport usage across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
“We’re committed to delivering the best possible service for customers and we will be monitoring the network closely as customers adjust to the new network to see what is working and if any changes need to be made.”