Hundreds of furious public transport users gave full voice to their resounding message to the NSW government at a public meeting on Monday night.
They want transport minister Andrew Constance to conduct a thorough, transparent, consultative review of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie’s new bus timetable.
The auditorium at Belmont 16s was packed to capacity for the meeting, hosted by the Hunter’s state Labor MPs, with the vocal crowd spilling out the front door of the club – some left because they couldn’t get in.
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It came after weeks of anger from public transport users, who said the new timetable introduced in January by private operator Keolis Downer had impacted their ability to get around.
The meeting heard from several community members who told of how the new timetable had affected them.
Kimberley Anderson, a mother on maternity leave with a new baby, said she had used public transport for two decades and her father was a bus driver for 25 years.
Ms Anderson told the meeting of a recent bad experience she had with the new on-demand bus service.
“I needed to be in Charlestown on a Wednesday for a 10am appointment,” she said.
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“I booked this service on the Sunday before, to make sure I gave them plenty of notice. I was to be picked up between 9am and 9.30am. I do not live in the on-demand service area. I had to take my son and walk 20 minutes to get into the area.
“On the Wednesday, it was raining, and I arrived at the area by 9am to be sure I was there for the bus. At 9.02am I received a text message stating that my service had been cancelled. So I was waiting in the rain with my three-month-old son for a bus that wasn’t going to show. After numerous calls… a bus finally arrived at 9.45am.”
NSW Labor leader Luke Foley told the meeting he believed the situation in Newcastle was akin to a public transport service in a “third world country”.
Mr Foley said the government should undertake a public and “damn urgent review”.
He invited parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald to speak.
Mr MacDonald accepted, but could hardly get a word in over the top of shouting and booing from the crowd and a chant of “fix our buses”.
He said he wanted to invite a Transport for NSW spokesperson to speak and answer questions at the meeting, but had not been allowed.
The Herald understands Keolis Downer was prepared to send a representative if the company had been invited to be part of the meeting but it received no invitation.
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said a rally would be held at Gregson Park in Hamilton on March 18.