Published by The Border Watch
By Raquel Mustillo
INDEPENDENT MP Troy Bell has called for an overhaul of Mount Gambier’s bus service which has not changed its routes since 1990 despite the city increasing in land cover.
Mr Bell has sought parliamentary support into a review of regional bus services to ensure it is adequately funded and provides a service which meets the needs of communities.
In yesterday’s sitting of parliament, Mr Bell said the Mount Gambier City Bus service had not kept pace with urban development, with many people living beyond convenient distance to any form of public transport.
Mr Bell said the weekly service, operated by the South Australian Transport Department and contracted to Mount Gambier Buslines, did not go to Conroe Heights or the Hallmont Retirement Village.
“Umpherston Caves is one of Mount Gambier’s biggest tourist attractions, but you cannot get there via a bus,” he said.
“Nor can you get to the Lady Nelson Information Centre.
“The bus will take you near the Mount Gambier Hospital, but will not take you in front of the Mount Gambier Hospital.”
Mr Bell said the Monday to Friday operation and restricted operating hours was a contributor to low patronage.
“The service does not operate on weekends or public holidays and it does not start until 9am,” he said.
“If you start work early or finish late, you will not be able to take the bus from work.
“If you live in metropolitan Adelaide, your transport modes are many.
“You have access to buses, trains and trams that virtually run around the clock.
“We need a public transport system that caters to its population, no matter where they choose to live.”
Mr Bell cited a study completed by the former Weatherill Government, which found repeated requests for longer hours for the bus services and for a wider coverage from 7am to 9pm.
He said the study also suggested regular intra-regional day public transport services between Millicent and Mount Gambier and Naracoorte and Mount Gambier.
“Small communities now rely on locally funded buses, like the community bus which services the extended communities of Port MacDonnell, Allendale East and Kongorong,” he said.
“You need to be a car owner in regional South Australia because, if you rely on public transport, you simply will not get where you need to go.
“If we want a regional public transport system that actually serves people living in rural or remote areas, first, there needs to be a review and then, the funding to implement the changes needed.”
South Australian Labor indicated it would support a review into bus services, but was unable to speak to Mr Bell’s motion because of time constraints.
Debate on the motion is expected to continue on July 1.