Latrobe Valley feedback

Latrobe Valley Buslines MD hails last week’s free buses a success, now looking to sustain patronage

Latrobe Valley feedback
Latrobe Valley feedback

By David Goeldner | February 3, 2012

Feedback from last week’s free buses across Latrobe Valley Buslines’ route service network in regional Victoria has been overwhelming positive.

"We’ve had calls from people before the new services started who said ‘this will change my life, and I can get out and do things I couldn’t do before’," Latrobe Valley Buslines Managing Director Rhonda Renwick says.

"That’s what we are working for."

With Victorian Government backing, Latrobe Valley Buslines commenced 800 new services in the last week of January, enticing would-be commuters to board the regional network, and ditch the car.

"Most people used buses for the first time and thought about the efficacy of catching buses," Renwick says.

"They had the opportunity of free travel that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about."

Unlike metropolitan Melbourne, and prior to January, Renwick admits the local bus network didn’t offer the complete span of service hours that enticed the regional workforce to take public transport on a regular basis.

"Services didn’t start early enough or finish late enough for people to use public transport, which included school and tertiary education travel in some cases," Renwick says.

"It precluded people to think ‘bus’."

Latrobe Valley Buslines now has a greater service frequency, starting earlier and finishing later, and with more weekend services.

While 800 new bus services are now running across the network between major centres, Traralgon, Morwell, Moe, and Churchill, no new buses were introduced into the fleet.

"We are providing these extra services with the same fleet," Renwick says.

"But we have had to increase our workforce by nearly 30 percent, now running two shifts."

Leading up to the ‘free bus week’, Latrobe Valley Buslines recruited an additional 25 drivers.

Morwell MP Russell Northe launched the new services, saying the changes would have a myriad of positive outcomes for the Latrobe Valley community.

"From a small business and employment perspective, these changes have already benefited our community and economy by creating an additional 25 jobs with Latrobe Valley Buslines," Northe says.

"With more links between rail and bus services and education and shopping facilities, there are now more opportunities for people to travel inter-town for shopping, dining or employment."

Renwick says major centre Traralgon has experience a growing traffic and parking problem, in part due to the restraints on the bus service.

"People are now thinking that taking public transport is a better alternative to driving, parking and handling the congestion," she says.

"And buses that would be sitting in the yard are now out on the road."

With a fleet of around 70 buses, Renwick says she had lobbied the Victorian Government for a ‘considerable period’ to support the service expansion.

"Over the last few years there was a project to understand the needs of people in the Valley," she says.

"There was a report tabled a couple of years ago, and we had been talking about this with the Government for a long time."

Now that a new era of public transport travel in the Latrobe Valley has started, Renwick is keen to gauge patronage growth.

Renwick believes patronage has started to increase, now that the free offer has ended, although says it’s as yet hard to determine.

"I would say we will be looking at between a five and ten percent increase in patronage, but it will be a slow and gradual increase."

After Renwick’s introduction of low floor buses a few years ago, a rise in patronage rose by about five percent, and at similarly slow rate.

Although a free week of travel attracted the attention and use of Latrobe Valley buses, Renwick says there is more to do to sustain growth.

"We’ve still got some more work to do out in the community now that the services are there," she says.

"We are keen to push the green aspect of public transport as well, and any new vehicle purchases will be with the lowest of emissions."

Renwick says enhanced vehicle technology and cleaner emission standards will be used to promote public transport in the Valley.

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