NEWCASTLE’S lonely “ghost buses” are dead and private operator Keolis Downer is the ghostbuster.
That is the view of the state government which has released new Opal card data that it says shows certain high frequency services got off to a good start in the month after an overhaul of the bus and ferry network.
The data, which compared “tap on and tap off” totals between mid-January and mid-February in 2017 and 2018, showed route 11 from Charlestown to Queens Wharf was Newcastle’s most popular bus.
According to the data, the “frequent route” was used by an average 2400 passengers a day, representing a 35 per cent jump in patronage compared with figures for the former 100 bus, which had a similar route to the 11.
Keolis Downer claimed the route 13 bus, from Glendale to the city, was also a star performer.
The Opal data shows that bus was used by 1320 passengers per day – a 70 per cent increase on the similar 363 route.
Patronage figures across the network remained “generally steady” but the data was “promising”, Keolis Downer said.
“The latest Opal data is in, and although the new network is in its infancy we’re pleased to see commuters have familiarised their new routes and are using the four new frequent services in droves,” Keolis Downer Hunter general manager Mark Dunlop said.
Mr Dunlop foreshadowed future changes after conceding the current network was not locked in.
“Through data and community feedback we’re constantly analysing and reviewing the new network,” he said. “While it’s great to see we don’t have buses carrying just ten people per day like on the old network, there are still potential tweaks and adjustments may prove necessary.”
He added: “This has been a monumental change to how buses operate in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and understandably it will take time to get used to.”
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the figures were “encouraging”.
“Business as usual was not an option with declining patronage,” he said.
The release of data comes on the same day a community meeting in protest of the network changes is scheduled to go ahead.
The meeting, which is organised by the state Opposition, kicks off at Belmont 16s at 6pm.
Mr MacDonald criticised Labor MPs for “not inviting” either himself or transport officials to the meeting.
The Liberal MP confirmed on Monday morning he would be attending but said: “It is disappointing the NSW Labor Opposition has not taken up my offer to have a representative from Newcastle Transport attend, speak and take questions.”
In Parliament, transport minister Andrew Constance accused Labor of “deliberately trying to denigrate the new system in Newcastle”.