Shadow minister for transport Jodi McKay led four of the Hunter’s Opposition MPs on Friday in a collective call to the NSW Premier for a full review of Newcastle’s privatised bus timetable.
At a meeting of the Labor five at Charlestown bus interchange, Ms McKay announced a public protest would be held on Monday, February 19 at Belmont 16 Footers to show community angst over the new Keolis Downer timetable. The announcement followed a week of exchanges in state parliament between Hunter MPs and Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
In the first sitting week of 2018, the Opposition placed a censure motion on Mr Constance regarding his handling of the bus timetable change, and later criticised his response to questions from Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp about its impact on workers with a disability.
Ms McKay said the opposition would continue pressuring the government and cited the review into Sydney’s train timetable as example of what could be achieved with the community’s backing.
“Andrew Constance has no intention of fixing this whatsoever,” Ms McKay said.
“We are now upping the ante and we’re calling on Gladys. So next week it will be about Gladys intervening to fix this situation.
“If Andrew Constance won’t, then she has the power and ability to direct her minister to do that. And we wan’t a review of the system.
“We put pressure on the Sydney train timetable, which since November has been a nightmare and now they’ve implemented a review.
“So if it’s good enough for Sydney, they can implement a review here too.”
Mr Crakanthorp said Mr Constance had been “incredibly dismissive” of his electorate this week and said the minister “wants to bury his hand in the sand on the issue”.
He said he was contacted on Monday by Access Industries, a non-government organisation that employs 115 disabled people in Hamilton, who raised the timetable’s impact on their workers.
He then put questions to Mr Constance in parliament on Tuesday, where the minister said he was unaware of any complaints about the system.
Mr Constance then claimed on Wednesday that Mr Crakanthorp had raised a “smart-alec” question the day before, and the opposition MPs were “deliberately trying to denigrate the new system in Newcastle”.
Mr Constance also said the city had been given “1,000 additional and new services” from the timetable change, and the 10-year privatisation contract of Newcastle’s bus system was put in place because the network “was experiencing declining patronage and people were not using transport”.