During the election campaign and in the months since, the deterioration in reliability of bus services on the northern beaches has been raised with me time and again. In my electorate of Wakehurst, buses are the only form of public transport available. Day in, day out, people plan their lives around bus routes and services to get to work—to Parliament House, in my case—to school, to shops, to play sport and to see family and friends. Particular routes, depending on where someone lives and works, are an essential part of the rhythm of everyday life for so many in Wakehurst.
We all understand the logistics of daily life and how a bad public transport experience can throw plans into disarray. When people arrive at a bus stop for a scheduled, timetabled service and it does not show up and they check the live tracking on the transport app and find out it has been cancelled at short notice, you can understand their frustration. Then, when this happens multiple times for months, you can understand their outrage. Yesterday a constituent wrote to me in relation to the 174X route into the city from Allambie Heights. She explained that this express bus service to the city has had every second bus cancelled for the last six months. Her email said:
The 174X bus route into the city from Allambie Heights is becoming a professional issue as it's preventing many people from arriving punctually to work ... I would believe there are serious contract breaches at play and if not, there's likely been poor contracting done to begin with in allowing higher than acceptable levels of cancellations.
It is clear that the provisions in the contract between the previous Government and the private operator relating to penalties for cancelled services are inadequate. Given what has played out with the buses, we must reflect on the implications of privatising the bus service on the northern beaches—a decision by the former Government. I understand there is a national bus driver shortage and that a shortfall of drivers is the underlying factor causing the service cancellations; however, we must acknowledge that conditions and work culture are important factors in attracting and keeping workers. For example, the free Opal cards provided to drivers employed before privatisation should be provided for all ongoing drivers. These things clearly matter.
I welcome the new Labor Government's focus on improving bus services and its announcement of the Bus Industry Taskforce chaired by John Lee. I thank Minister Haylen for joining me at Brookvale Bus Depot with the drivers and the mechanics to talk through those issues. I look forward to the interim findings being released on 10 July. I will be participating in this inquiry, closely monitoring its progress and holding the Government to account on time frames and deliverables so we can implement smart solutions as soon as possible. I will also continue my engagement with the Minister directly, as well as with Keolis Downer, Transport for NSW and CDC NSW, so that they hear the voice of the people of Wakehurst and understand the urgency around this issue.
Yesterday I met with staff from Transport for NSW to communicate with them the frustration of so many in Wakehurst about the recent rate of bus cancellations and to discuss short‑ and long‑term solutions. I told them service reliability must be the key priority. We know that, when public transport is regular and on time, people love it. The popular B-Line service is a testament to this. When people catch the bus, we help get cars off the road, save people money and time, improve quality of life and support the smooth running of the economy. It is win‑win. I thank all the residents of Wakehurst who have written or spoken to me about this for sharing their experiences. I encourage them to continue to communicate with my office about the bus service reliability. I am using this information to directly inform my advocacy on the matter.
I understand how important a high‑quality bus service is to the people of Wakehurst and, indeed, the entire northern beaches. The current situation and rate of bus cancellations is simply not good enough. Through the Bus Industry Taskforce and through direct advocacy to the Government, I will continue to fight for the best possible services for our area. That means a reliable and regular service people can rely on. I look forward to continuing to work with the Minister, the Government, Keolis Downer and CDC NSW for the people of Wakehurst, who have this shared mission. Watch this space.