Hamilton Business Chamber collects 1000 signatures on petition calling for review of Newcastle bus timetable

Fed up: Beaumont Street Newsagency owner Robert Burton, Hamilton resident Patricia Mulligan, pharmacist Anthony Piggott and Hamilton Business Chamber president Nathan Errington give the petition to Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers
Fed up: Beaumont Street Newsagency owner Robert Burton, Hamilton resident Patricia Mulligan, pharmacist Anthony Piggott and Hamilton Business Chamber president Nathan Errington give the petition to Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

Hamilton Business Chamber has collected 1000 signatures on a petition calling for a review of the new Newcastle bus timetable.

The chamber handed the petition to Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp on Monday, after the changes introduced in January left no services running down Beaumont Street – one of the city’s busiest dining strips.

Some Beaumont Street business owners say patronage has dropped up to 15 per cent since the change.

But Newcastle bus operator Keolis Downer says the number and frequency of services to Hamilton has increased under the new timetable.

Some Beaumont Street business owners say patronage has dropped up to 15 per cent since the change.

But Newcastle bus operator Keolis Downer says the number and frequency of services to Hamilton has increased under the new timetable.

Hamilton Newsagency owner Robert Burton said two of the thousands of customers who had been into his store since the change had made a positive comment about their experience.

Mr Burton said he’d experienced a 10 to 15 per cent downturn in business since the new timetable was introduced. He said problems weren’t confined to customers – his staff members had also been stung on their way to work by bus connections that didn’t line up properly.

“It’s certainly knocked the community because they can’t access facilities [on Beaumont Street], from your banks to your pubs to your chemists,” he said.

The government awarded a 10-year contract to Keolis Downer in December, 2016, to run Newcastle’s bus, ferry and light rail network.

A Keolis Downer spokesperson told the Newcastle Herald that Opal data showed 65 customers used stops on Beaumont Street each day, compared with 400 who got on or off the bus at nearby Tudor and Donald streets.

“This shows that customers who accessed Beaumont Street regularly are coming from beyond the suburbs that were previously serviced by route 201. The new network reflects this,” she said.

Robert Burton.

Robert Burton.

“Keolis Downer is open to all community feedback. While it’s only early days, we are monitoring the new network as it stabilises to confirm what is working and whether changes need to be made.”

Hamilton Business Chamber president Nathan Errington saidKeolis Downer should have communicated more with groups like his chamber before it settled on new routes. Mr Errington said the service should be changed to bring passengers down Beaumont Street.

“Many older customers are telling us that they must now catch a bus into Marketown as they cannot easily access Beaumont Street anymore under the new system,” he said. “We are supportive of other business centres doing well, but not at the expense of others.”

Mr Crakanthorp said it was “incredible” that the new timetable left out a service running down Beaumont Street.

“What I’ll be doing [on Tuesday] the first thing when I get to parliament is calling for a debate on this issue. I’ll be raising the issue of Beaumont Street businesses,” he said. “For one of our main eating and drinking precincts, it’s just outrageous.”

A public meeting about the new timetable will be held at Belmont 16 Footers at 6pm on February 19.

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