Metropolitan bus patronage highest in 40 years

By: Graham Gardiner

Melbourne’s bus network now carries 100 million passengers a year, the highest level since 1970 as passengers take advantage of

Melbourne’s bus network now carries 100 million passengers a year, the highest level since 1970 as passengers take advantage of the extra 16,500 weekly services added to the timetable in the past three years.

Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky says the boom in bus patronage is evidence of the $1 billion investment the Brumby Government has made to improve local bus services, rolling out SmartBus and investing in more freeway express buses.

March patronage figures show metropolitan bus use has increased by 14 percent in the year. Tram patronage grew by 15 percent to 178 million trips and train growth has slowed slightly to 11 percent to 214 million trips.

"The Brumby Labor Government is taking action to give Victorians the best transport network in Australia and improving bus services across Melbourne is the key to developing an integrated public transport system," she says.

"And the results speak for themselves with patronage figures showing the highest number of bus users in almost 40 years.

"The massive investment has also created more than 400 full-time jobs and provided a boost for the bus industry creating more opportunities for local suppliers and businesses.

"With buses now operating for longer hours and more frequently, Melburnians are taking advantage of the massive overhaul which the Brumby Labor Government has and will continue to deliver."

Since late 2006, 150 bus routes have been upgraded with the majority now running until 9pm, seven days a week.

The 44-kilometre Red Orbital SmartBus route from Altona to Mordialloc, one of Australia’s longest scheduled bus services, is now operating, building on the success of the hugely popular SmartBus services.

"More people than ever before are using Melbourne’s public transport network and that is why we have projects worth $1 billion already just completed or under way plus more than $6 billion funded through the state and federal budgets," Kosky says.

"Last week, I announced 290 extra services to the metropolitan train timetable with the majority on the Werribee line to improve off peak frequencies. And by the end of the year, the first of our 38 trains on order will arrive.

"Works are under way on the Werribee, Dandenong and Craigieburn lines to add extra tracks to run more services and in August the first works will start on the $4 billion Regional Rail Link project.

"And planning work is under way to follow through on the commitment made in the Victorian Transport Plan for a fleet of up to 50 new low-floor trams."

Speaking at the popular Doncaster Park and Ride, Kosky says the Brumby Government is getting on with the job of delivering a better public transport network.

"This year’s budget allocates more than $2 billion for train, tram and bus projects and includes funding for the $360 million Doncaster Area Rapid Transit (DART) initiative which will more than double the number of Eastern Freeway express bus services from around 200 a week to 540 a week," Ms Kosky says.

"More than 3000 people use the Eastern Freeway services each day and it’s clear that buses are a real alternative for people who want to leave their car at home."

Metlink CEO Bernie Carolan says the booming bus numbers shows the perception of bus has changed.

"It’s good to see more people thinking about their travel choices and using public transport more often. We believe that much of this growth is fuelled by the improved services plus the tightening of household budgets and care for the environment," he says.

"Buses have sometimes been the least preferred public transport mode but these latest results show that this is certainly changing.

"The advances we have made in customer information technology through the journey planner, stop timetables and other products currently in development, will ensure that we can continue making it easy to use buses."

Kosky says one of the runaway success bus stories is the innovative route 401.

"The Route 401 bus which runs from North Melbourne Station to Melbourne University via the hospital precinct now carries around 17,000 people each week. During peak hour, buses leave North Melbourne Station every three minutes allowing people to avoid the City Loop," she says.

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