BRIDGE BUS TRIAL EXTENDED; BAYLINK FUTURE STILL TO BE DETERMINED

By: Fabian Cotter


A FREE BAYLINK SHUTTLE BUS trial - providing a handy link with 10-minute frequency between Rhodes and Wentworth Point in Sydney for the past three months – has been extended until 31 May, it was recently announced, with organisers still seeking valuabe feedback to help Parramatta Council determine if it should be continued.

BRIDGE BUS TRIAL EXTENDED; BAYLINK FUTURE STILL TO BE DETERMINED
Two Optare Solo demonstrator buses – a 7.9m and a 9.9m unit - have been used on the route (Photo: www.homebushbaybridge.com.au)

Launched on 29 January, 2018, the trial is expected to have seen around 150,000 passengers use the service by the time it was to originally end on 27 April, according to a Wentworth Point landowners alliance made up of the Billbergia Group, Sekisui House, Homebush Bay Holding’s and Homebush Bay Properties.

However, although online commuter feedback seems mostly positive of the free popular service itself, not all of the 11,000 Wentworth Point locals are convinced of the property devoloper's intent, with some critics taking to social media to raise doubts about the long-term implications of the plan.

Commenting via the Wentworth Point Community Central Facebook page, respondant Elaine Tan said, "If this means more apartments will be built in exchange for it, then forget it," she said.

Another, Jingsheng Li, said, "I MUST highlight to everyone who is filling up the [feedback] survey that the trial is part of the Billbergia's proposal for future development - which means its intention to put even higher density to WWP [Wentworth Point], e.g. you would end up [seeing] 35+ storey towers … one day.

"It is NOT just about promoting public transport, saving the earth..etc, there is irreversible cost [to] the community … to enjoy today's convenience provided by the developer!"

The future of the Baylink Shuttle service is currently under discussion with City of Parramatta Council, with the trial due to finish at the end of April, 2018.

As part of a review of the trial, Billbergia has commissioned surveys (https://www.research.net/r/keepbaylink and https://www.research.net/r/baylink) to help understand how people travel to and from Wentworth Point for work, and whether continuing the Baylink Shuttle will help move more people onto public transport.

The survey was due to close at 7pm on Monday 16, but at the time of print seems to still be open. It thanks respondents for, "helping us ensure the continuation of the Baylink Shuttle for the next 20 years."

According to the website www.homebusbaybridge.com.au, an update about the ongoing operation of the bus service will be provided once discussions with Council have progressed.

The Buses

Two Optare Solo demonstrator buses – a 7.9m and a 9.9m unit - have been used on the route, launched and officiated at an event in January by the City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Andrew Wilson and John Kinsella AM managing director of Billbergia.

Said Mayor Wilson at the time: "I think it's going to be wonderfully sucessful. And [I] really appreciate John and his team putting it on before a VPA is signed or anything. It shows a great commitment to the community, which I think is going to stand you in good stead."

The Baylink Shuttle trial has been operating to assess whether it helps to reduce private car use and encourage greater use of regular, reliable public transport, it's claimed.

As www.wentworthpointcommunity.org explains: "A free community shuttle bus between WP and Rhodes was first talked about during construction of Bennelong Bridge. The proposal was for Billbergia to enter into a Voluntary Planning Agreement with Council (originally Auburn, but now City of Parramatta) to provide long-term funding for the Baylink shuttle, a larger park adjacent to the bridge, and additional infrastructure works in return for 'apartment uplift'. Although agreement was reached with Auburn in 2015, negotiations with Parramatta Council have been ongoing since they took over in May 2016."

Fast Facts

Salient points to note from a Baylink Shuttle Free Community Bus Service fact sheet compiled on 2nd February, 2018 include:

- The current three-month trial is part of Billbergia’s proposal to deliver $45 million in additional community infrastructure and facilities at Wentworth Point that has been offered in a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) to City of Parramatta Council.

-  The Billbergia Group funded the Baylink Shuttle as a three-month trial. Telford’s Bus and Coach was contracted to operate the service on behalf of Billbergia.

- Billbergia has allocated $21 million for the long-term operation of the Baylink Shuttle, with ongoing operation subject to agreement with City of Parramatta for the VPA and additional development.

- The Baylink Shuttle operates as a separate service to complement the current NSW State Government bus services.

- The 300m Bennelong Bridge includes two lanes dedicated to public transport, together with a shared pedestrian and cycle path. The Bridge operates as a Transit Way; it is not available to private vehicles.

- The bridge aimed to allow residents to avoid a 12-kilometre round trip to get from one side of the bay to the other.

- ANZAC DAY: Baylink Shuttle trial will not operate on ANZAC Day (25 April, 2018).

- A service review has recently been conducted following community feedback about inconsistencies in the 10-minute frequency of service during peak times. This has now been brought to the attention of the Shuttle operator to rectify.

For further information visit bennelongbridge.com.au, or call 1800 WWP BUS.

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