Hunter Labor MPs take aim at new Newcastle and Lake Macquarie bus timetable in NSW Parliament

Not on board: Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison, Labor's transport spokesperson Jodi McKay, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp and Swansea MP Yasmin Catley discussing the new bus timetable in February. Picture: Simone De Peak
Not on board: Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison, Labor's transport spokesperson Jodi McKay, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp and Swansea MP Yasmin Catley discussing the new bus timetable in February. Picture: Simone De Peak

Labor is keeping pressure on the NSW government over Newcastle and Lake Macquarie’s new bus timetable, with Hunter MPs repeatedly raising the issue in parliament in the past week.

In a private member’s statement late Wednesday afternoon, Swansea MP Yasmin Catley said there had been skepticism over the government’s decision to privatise transport in the Hunter but “sadly our deepest fears have been realised”.

She read aloud an email from a constituent, who claimed to have been a Liberal supporter since 1959 and who was threatening to “work against the Liberal Party” if the former timetable was not restored.

Ms Catley said there would soon be a second petition containing 10,000 signatures delivered to parliament calling for the restoration of the bus timetable – on top of the 10,000-signature petition handed in earlier this month.

“You cannot continue with this arrogance. It will be at your peril,” she said to the government benches.

“You must reverse this decision, have a proper review. We don’t want tweaking, we don’t want refining, we want a proper consultative review. Restore our services, that’s what we need.”

Keolis Downer, the private operator of Newcastle buses, introduced a new timetable for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in January.

Keolis Downer, the private operator of Newcastle buses, introduced a new timetable for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in January.

It came after Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison read a notice of motion on Tuesday and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, Port Stephens MP Kate Washington and Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery asked about the buses during question time this week.

Ms Harrison’s notice of motion called on the government to reveal how many “public buses are being used as a personal taxi due to missed connections”.

She told parliament she received a report that a bus due at Broadmeadow railway station on February 23 never arrived and two commuters were unable to get to Redhead. 

Ms Harrison said a bus marked ‘not in service’ was used to take the commuters from Broadmeadow to their destination.

She also told parliament last week that her office had gone from “rarely” receiving calls about school buses to getting them daily – particularly about services running late.

“My constituents are angry, and I am frustrated that the minister is not listening,” Ms Harrison said.

On Tuesday Keolis Downer – the private operator of Newcastle Buses – released data that indicated patronage in January had increased by almost 5 per cent compared to the first month of 2017.

In a statement released with the figure, the company said it had received 2100 pieces of feedback since last July and would “continue to consult with the community and review the network”. Keolis Downer was contacted for comment on Wednesday.

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