OLDER residents say they are feeling “depressed” and “isolated” due to changes in the bus network that have left them unable or less able to visit friends, shops and medical services as often as they did more than a year ago.
Hamilton resident Monica Oberle, who uses a walker, said she used to use the bus network seven days a week, but this has dropped to three days a week since operator Keolis Downer changed the timetables a year ago.
“Lots of the buses used to come down Tudor Street but now only a few buses do,” she said.
“I just have to stay at home – I feel more isolated and I know a lot of other people feel the same.
“I catch taxis, but with that comes a cost. I can travel for $2.50 a day on the buses, but to go to Marketown and back costs about $18 even with a half fare.
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“I used to be able to go straight to Aldi and back. Now the bus goes to Broadmeadow Station, but there’s no shops there.
“I can’t get a bus to the Mater [Hospital] – I paid to use taxis twice a week for six weeks to visit my friend.
“Why could they not have left buses like they were? Everybody liked them and there were no problems.”
Labor marked one year of the overhauled timetables by releasing data it said showed there were 199,136 fewer Opal trips taken in the first 11 months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.
Labor excluded trips in the ‘other’ category from 2018 data, because it wasn’t included in 2017 data.
This includes inner-city fare-free zone, free travel passes, the 110 rail-replacement service, Broadmeadow park-and-ride and special events.
A spokesperson for Keolis Downer said the company aimed to “attract more people to public transport in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie”.
“By taking an integrated approach to network planning, more Novocastrians are using public transport across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie with over five million passenger trips on Newcastle Transport services between January 2018 and November 2018.”
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery, Swansea MP Yasmin Catley and Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison gathered at the Hamilton bus depot on Monday to call for change.
Mr Crakanthorp said it had been a “year of pain”, with the public showing their frustration by signing two petitions debated in Parliament and attending two rallies.
“It’s a failure,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
“Labor would review the network and timetables, conduct proper consultation with stakeholders and the community and redeploy buses to fix the problems.”
Resident Pat Mulligan said the changes had left older residents unable to “get out and about to meet friends, have a coffee and talk about old times”.
“Most elderly people here feel isolated and with isolation you get depressed,” she said.
“We’ve worked all our lives, paid our taxes and can’t get out to have a cuppa – that’s what keeps us going.
“We need to have contact with other people.
“I’ve had tears rolling down my face because I’ve been over it.
“We can’t always get to stops, or we have to walk and sit down, walk and sit down, or catch two buses.”