Fringe runs trim bus cringe

Tasmanian operators are awaiting the outcome of seed funding allocations tied to 'social inclusion' criteria for urban fringe services

By David Goeldner | [July 9, 2010]

Improved ‘social inclusion’ forms part of urban fringe and regional bus trials starting across Tasmania within the next three months.

Tasmanian Bus Association General Manager Geoff Lewis says private operators will extend weekday and weekend services to areas where service patronage is currently low.

The thrust of the trials is to encourage communities in Tasmania’s urban fringes to use buses.

Lewis says funding for new or extended services will be provided from $2 million allocated over two years from the recent Tasmanian budget.

"The idea of the seed funding is for better ‘social inclusion’ for urban fringe and regional services," he says.

"There may be only a few people on a bus, but if an operator can identify a catchment significant in size to fill that bus during the 12 month trial period then the service stays."

Lewis says about 8 private operators will be affected, with each having lodged service development plans in March.

Plans that are based on the needs of the community will be used to guide the allocation of funds.

While operators are yet to be advised of the outcome, Lewis says a service that could demonstrate a few hundred extra passengers each week on a new or extended route would be considered highly.

"But this needs to be demonstrated by the operator, and they need to market their services to get these people using the extended services," he says.

He says most services will cover passengers living up to 40 kms from a city or town centre using low floor buses.

While funding will not cover the cost of expanding fleets, it will provide for fuel, wages and repair and maintenance of vehicles.

Minister for Sustainable Transport and Alternative Energy, Nick McKim launched the initiative saying that bus operators had been working with their communities to better understand the specific needs of passengers.

"Based on this direct feedback they have formulated and submitted proposals to increase services and improve the attractiveness and convenience of their service in meaningful ways," he says.

Mr McKim says the funding comes from the $7 million Public Transport Innovation Fund announced in the State Budget aimed at making public transport the people’s first choice.

"More frequent services which offer passengers choice and convenience are one means of achieving this," Mr McKim said.

"This $2 million (seed funding) is a win for regional Tasmania that will see improved services across the state."

McKim, a member of Tasmania’s Greens, says it’s essential to encourage greater use of public transport and develop infrastructure to help set Tasmania up for a low emission future.

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