Parents say Newcastle bus changes force children into dangerous school trips

Callaghan College Waratah year 7 students Elees and Izobel McCarroll, Indra Gardner, Imogen Peady and Duncan Hunter at their bus stop in Maryville on Friday.
Callaghan College Waratah year 7 students Elees and Izobel McCarroll, Indra Gardner, Imogen Peady and Duncan Hunter at their bus stop in Maryville on Friday.

Parents are worried that the loss of some direct bus routes in Newcastle will force children into more dangerous trips to school.

The Newcastle Herald spoke on Friday to a group of Maryville parents concerned at the loss of the 111 morning bus to Callaghan College Waratah under changes to the bus network introduced last weekend.

Their children, who are about to start their first year of high school, will have to take a regular public bus into Hunter Street in the CBD, cross the road then catch another service to Waratah. A dedicated school bus, the 710, will bring them home in the afternoon. 

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“About 10 of us were planning to get together to do a practice run to get their children on the 111, and then all of a sudden we found out that the 111 had been cancelled,” Kelvyn McCarroll, whose twin girls will start at Waratah this month, said.

“My understanding is that it serviced 11 schools. It also linked all of our suburbs to Charlestown shopping centre, Kotara shopping centre and Waratah shopping centre.

“It actually serviced a lot of the elderly and a lot of school kids.

“It affects some parents I know that are going to Newcastle High. I also know some kids from St Phillip’s at Waratah are affected by it.

“There were 10 children who were going to get that bus just in my kids’ year 6 class.” 

Keolis Downer Hunter general manager Mark Dunlop said on Friday that dedicated school routes had not changed but some students traveling “across the area to attend selective schools or schools out of zone” might need to change buses.

The students at Maryville, Islington and Tighes Hill are not traveling out of zone to attend Callaghan College Waratah. 

The company said it had provided schools with detailed information about the network changes as part of its consultation program and remained open to making changes if necessary.

Keolis Downer has copped flak from confused and angry customers since rolling out the new network on Sunday.

Labor MPs Tim Crakanthorp, Sonia Hornery and Jodie Harrison have lined up to take a shot at the government and Keolis Downer over the changes.

Newcastle MP Mr Crakanthorp said it “beggared belief” that students in Islington, Tighes Hill and Maryville had been left without a direct morning bus service to school.

He said he had asked Transport Minister Andrew Constance and private operator Keolis Downer to run the 710 school bus in the mornings.

Ms Hornery (Wallsend) said her phone had been “in meltdown” this week as parents discovered their children faced more problematic rides to school.

“Students now face having to catch multiple buses or cross major roads unsupervised,” she said.

“I am calling on the Minister for Transport to intervene and ensure sanity prevails here.”

Ms Harrison (Charlestown) said the changes were causing stress for people with intellectual disabilities who used public transport to get to work in Lambton and Hamilton.

“Some of them have given up their jobs because it is just too difficult for them to be travel-trained on the new routes,” she said.

“These young people have lost their independence, social interaction and money, all because of these outrageous changes to our public transport system.”


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