Keolis Downer's Newcastle bus network records passenger uptick despite timetable problems

KEOLIS Downer has conceded it has problems to fix on its Newcastle bus network despite an increase in passengers during January. 

The Newcastle Transport operator has released patronage data showing year-on-year passenger numbers were up 4.9 per cent compared to January last year, with 319,360 passengers in 2017 compared to 304,330 in 2016. 

Hunter general manager Mark Dunlop said the uptick was “a strong endorsement of the new network design”.  

“While we are seeing customers flock to the frequent routes and key locations, we know from the feedback there are some areas where improvements can be made,” he said. “Since 1 July we have received over 2100 individual pieces of feedback, and in addition, we have analysed over 60,000 bus trips since the new network launched in January.

“Our network planning team is reviewing all this information and data to understand what is working and where improvements need to be made.”

Improved services have been requested between Windale and Charlestown, Eleebana and Charlestown, north-eastern Lake Macquarie and Kotara as well as between Swansea, Charlestown and inner Newcastle. 

“It is important to remember that this review period after such a large network overhaul is a normal process,” Mr Dunlop said. 

“Over the coming months we are committed to making improvements based on customer feedback.”

The passenger data comes a month after a fiery public meeting convened by Labor MPs, with another rally slated for Sunday.

Hunter Labor MPs Jodie Harrison, Sonia Hornery and Tim Crakanthorp said the numbers did little to alleviate the complaints inundating their offices. 

Mr Crakanthorp said he believed the reason for increased patronage was clear. 

“When you take one direct bus service and chop it into two, three or even four services, of course you are going to get an increase in your numbers,” he said. 

“There is not one bus going down Beaumont Street, the main eat street of Newcastle. This is not the world-class service we were promised.”

A Keolis Downer spokeswoman said the full breakdown of the ticketing data would not be released in detail on Tuesday.

She said Opal data for the network would be released soon, while the figures cited for the uptick covered all ticketing types. 

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