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Industry reacts to Victorian budget bus announcements

BusVic has weighed in on bus announcements in the latest Victorian budget, while an advocacy group is celebrating key funding to a popular Melbourne bus route

The Victorian budget for 2024-25 was handed down last week, with announcements made around bus and coach infrastructure funding drawing reactions from the state’s bus industry.

As part of the latest budget, the state government committed $30 million to improving bus and ferry services, with selected projects set to receive funding.

The funding was announced to deliver bus service improvements across Victoria, starting with improving links to new bus interchanges being built at Croydon, Pakenham and Greensborough train stations.

The funding will also improve weekend bus services to and around Chadstone Shopping Centre, while the Melton South Flexiride service and new bus stop infrastructure around Hastings and the Mornington Peninsula have received a boost.

In response, the Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic) says the budget has “more losers than winners” in the wider public transport sector, with buses receiving more funding than the previous year.

“The state is projecting spending of $25 million dollars a day on interest payments and needs to reduce costs,” BusVic CEO Chris Lowe told ABC.

“This has resulted in the decision to announce significant delays to major projects and the outright cancellation of other government initiatives such as sick pay for casuals and the end of the first home buyers grant.”

In terms of spending on the bus industry, Lowe says the budget has increased both metropolitan and regional service funding, while school bus services have also been increased in funding to cover contract indexation.

Other increases have been seen in the Student with Disabilities Transport program funding, resulting in a total bus service funding increase of $1.47 billion from the previous budget.

The budget also references specified bus improvements and general public transport investments, including coach service uplifts between Yarram, Leongatha and Pakenham stations.

“This is a ‘business as usual’ budget for the bus and coach industry,” Lowe says.

One group celebrating the budget is the Fix800BusAlliance, which has called for funding to upgrade the 800 bus route from Dandenong to Chadstone.

The latest budget provided funding to fix the service, providing funding for seven-day services.

The Alliance understands that the upgrade will reinstate Sunday service, improve Saturday frequency and extend operating hours on the popular Princes Highway bus route between Dandenong and Chadstone.

“Route 800 operating more frequently seven days is essential for people to get to jobs and opportunities in the Chadstone, Monash and Dandenong areas. The 800 is Melbourne’s busiest route lacking seven-day service and is the nearest public transport for thousands in the Noble Park North area,” Convenor Peter Parker says.

“We commend Victorian transport minister Gabrielle Williams and the state government for heeding the community’s call for better buses in the under-served south-east. We look forward to a speedy implementation with wide operating hours and frequent seven-day service as befits a main highway bus route.”

Parker says the route 800 upgrade would improve the lives of thousands along the Princes Highway corridor, who will get seven-day buses for the first time in more than 30 years.

“Despite Princes Highway being one of Melbourne’s busiest roads to its biggest suburban shopping centre and new developments like M-City along it, the current timetable sees buses as infrequently as every two hours on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays,” Parker says.

“The Fix800Bus Alliance campaigned vigorously for improved seven-day buses in the 2022 state election and the 2023 Mulgrave by-election. Route 800 has received substantial media coverage, becoming Melbourne’s most reported on bus route. It was also a case study in a recent Infrastructure Victoria report on improving bus services.”

Parker has thanked the community for contributing to change, expressing confidence that the extra route 800 services will be well-used by passengers. He is now urging the state government to consider similar seven-day upgrades on other popular local bus routes.

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