Opal data for the September quarter again shows Newcastle’s new bus network is attracting fewer passengers than it did last year.
The Transport for NSW figures show 1.197 million Opal passengers used the Keolis Downer network across July, August and September, a fall of 4 per cent on the corresponding period in 2017.
The Newcastle Herald reported in June that the number of seniors and pensioners using the network had fallen 7.3 per cent year-on-year in the first four months of 2018.
The latest like-for-like figures confirm this trend. A total of 123,107 seniors and pensioners took journeys in September, down more than 7 per cent on the corresponding month last year.
The seniors and pensioners Opal trips for the September quarter were down 4.5 per cent on last year.
But the number of adult Opal card travellers grew markedly, from 339,000 in the September quarter last year to 380,000 this year, a rise of more than 10 per cent.
The increase in adult passengers was cancelled out by a year-on-year fall in school student travel, from 234,000 to 189,000, for the September quarter.
The Opal figures do not include a new “Other” category on the Transport for NSW website as this statistical grouping did not exist last year.
The “Other” category includes the park-and-ride service from Hunter Stadium to the CBD and the train-replacement fare-free zone in the inner-city.
Keolis Downer took over the privatised network in July last year and introduced new routes and timetables in January.
It modified the network in July 2018 after community opposition to some of the changes.
The state government, Transport for NSW and Keolis Downer have argued consistently this year that the Opal data alone does not reflect true patronage numbers.
Keolis Downer, a French-Australian company, has succeeded in growing patronage on its more frequent Stockton ferry service, which has attracted more than 44,000 passengers in each of the past three months.
The figures represent an 8 per cent rise on the September 2017 quarter, due mostly to increases in student travel on the ferry.
A new on-demand bus service in Lake Macquarie has attracted about 2000 passengers in each of the past four months since starting in January.
Keolis Downer has a contract with Transport for NSW which includes financial incentives to grow patronage.
It will operate the inner-city light rail service from early next year.
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