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Geelong Branch Media Release

18/02/2001

Bring Back the Booklet:

The PTUA Geelong Branch brands the scrapping of GTS timetable booklets "a backward step", and demands that the Transport Minister restore the all-in-one booklets.

The Geelong Branch of the Public Transport Users Association today demanded that the Victorian Minister for Transport, The Hon Peter Batchelor, have the Department of Infrastructure take back the responsibility for providing an all-in-one timetable booklet for the Geelong Transit System (GTS.) Spokesperson for the Geelong Branch of the PTUA, Tim Petersen, said the Bracks Government had ignored warnings from the PTUA about the timetable's disappearance.

Benders Busways, private operators of part of the Geelong Transit System, announced on Friday that under new contractual arrangements with the state government, they would only provide single route timetables from Monday 26 February.

Previously, bus travellers could buy a copy of the comprehensive GTS timetable for 20c, which included route and timetable information about all bus routes and V/Line services within urban Geelong.

"This was an advantage, because travellers had easy access to information about all public transport within the entire city. Comprehensive bus timetable booklets are unique to the transport systems of regional centres, where (unlike metropolitan Melbourne,) all bus routes can fit into one booklet.

After February 26, only timetable information for single routes will be available, meaning that passengers will have to search around to gather information for up to 12 bus routes, some of which they may only catch occasionally. "This is a step away from an integrated public transport system, and a step backwards for Geelong."

The Geelong Branch of the PTUA first learned that the State Government's new contracts might allow the dropping of the timetable booklet, when speaking to officials from the Department of Infrastructure early last year. "We wrote to every Geelong MP about our concerns, including local members Peter Loney, Ian Trezise and Elaine Carbines, as well as to Peter Batchelor, the Transport Minister himself. All the local MP's said that they would forward our concerns to the minister."

"Yet all we received in reply, was a dismissive letter from a bureaucrat, with no indication that the letter had even passed over the desk of Peter Batchelor, or any of the local MP's. Although we were disappointed, we let the matter rest, because we were told that there was no intention to replace the booklet at that time, and that the contracts were yet to be finalised," Tim Petersen said.

"However, it is now clear that our concerns were completely ignored by the Bracks government and Geelong's Labor MP's."

"Now that the contracts have been written, it seems that the only way to set things right is for the State Government's Department of Infrastructure, to take back the responsibility for producing and distributing the complete timetable booklets. It has done it before and it should do it again."

So what does the scrapping of the booklet mean for passengers using the GTS system?

"People who are trying to make trips that involve more than just going from their homes and to the city, will be thwarted by lack of information. It is likely that they will only have one of the 12 different timetables." Tim Petersen said. "These passengers will have to plan ahead for any future bus trips whenever they are on a bus, to ensure that they collect the right timetable information from the bus driver for any trips that they may need to make in the future."

" It is hardly likely that passengers would feel comfortable asking for all twelve timetables from bus drivers: Could you imagine the reaction of a driver to a passenger asking for all 12 timetables at once? And then again when timetables change?"

"What's more, there will be no information about any of the new routes that Benders is proposing. This means that passengers may not even know which route will serve their trip best, and so won't know which timetable to ask for!"

It will be even harder for people who have never caught or very rarely catch a bus in Geelong. "Questions need to be answered: such as, will all of Geelong's railway stations continue to stock every single route timetable, or will potential passengers be forced to flag down the correct company's bus to get a timetable? [There are two bus companies servicing urban Geelong, McHarry's and Benders Busways.] Or will they need to find the bus company's depot? How will passengers who have never caught a bus before, know which company runs their local bus route?" Tim Petersen asked.

The Geelong Branch of the PTUA was also concerned about the future of the GTS system, given the gradual disappearance of the distinctive blue and white GTS colour scheme, and the disappearance of the GTS timetable booklet. "Is the free transfer arrangement, where passengers can transfer between different companies' buses, also under threat? Is it only another contract change away?" Tim Petersen asked.

So why are the timetable booklets being scrapped?

The GTS timetable booklets had been compiled and distributed by the Department of Infrastructure until around July last year, when the new contracts came into force and the responsibility was given to the private operators. "Now, with timetable changes coming up, the private operators have decided that they no longer wish to pay for the timetables, which apparently cost too much to print."

In a letter to a concerned member of the Geelong Branch of the PTUA, Graeme Davis, the Group Manager of Kefford Corporation which runs Benders Busways, agreed that " a complete timetable booklet would be useful." However, he said that operators "could not afford to produce a complete timetable booklet…"

However, Tim Petersen said, "Both single route timetables and the timetable booklets should be produced and available free of charge, for the convenience of passengers, just as occurred when the Geelong Transit System was first introduced in 1983." While he said that it was positive that the new, single route timetables would be available free of charge (instead of paying 20c,) it should be noted that V/Line provides information on regional rail and coach services for the whole of South -Western Victoria in one timetable booklet. "This is available free of charge, in addition to the free single route pocket timetables, such as those available on the rail line between Melbourne and Geelong."

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 18 February 2001