Well, we did it. After twelve months of not taking no for an answer, Canberra officially has a Sunday bus timetable befitting the city it now is. Here’s how it happened.
It has been a year-long fight to get late night buses on Sundays and public holidays in Canberra. It is nearly exactly a year to date since I first wrote about this issue. Since then (and a total of six articles published later), A Fair Go for Sunday Buses is proud to announce a victory for Canberra on this issue.
We (A Fair Go for Sunday Buses) have campaigned on social media and written numerous letters to Ministers and other Members of the Legislative Assembly in Canberra. We have called their offices and even protested once right outside the Assembly to make our voices heard on this issue.
For as long as anyone can remember, buses in Canberra on Sundays and public holidays have finished around 5:30-6:30pm, leaving little options for travel left later in the evening. This impacted on late night trading possibilities for business, those who can’t afford cars or taxis or Uber, homeless Canberrans, and people arriving at the coach terminal and at Canberra Airport in the evenings on these days as late as 1am.
Our demands from the outset were simple. We asked for buses ’til at least 10pm on Sundays and public holidays, network-wide, and in the end, this is exactly what the government has delivered on, just over one year since we began our campaign. In July last year, we pulled a Bush and declared victory a bit too early.
That is because we hit a road bump after that. The new timetable with 10pm Sunday buses was meant to start at the beginning of this year, but…it was delayed due to the light rail being delayed, as all of the buses that the light rail is meant to replace form part of the new bus timetable and could not commence until the light rail was operational.
In the meantime, we asked the Transport Minister, Meegan Fitzharris, to make special consideration for certain Sundays and public holiday dates over the last four months on which major events were going on in Canberra and which would be the most affected by the delay of the new timetable.
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At first, the minister ignored us, which led to me protesting solo outside the ACT Assembly in February this year to try and get the minister’s attention again. This was very successful, with Meegan’s chief of staff coming out to talk to me after almost two hours of protesting by myself, just as I was about to pack and go home for the day.
After this, I was put in touch directly with a senior official in Transport Canberra, and we made some progress on the issue of the major events still to come prior to the new timetable starting at the end of April.
In the end, Transport Canberra did put on special late night services on four different Sunday or public holiday event days that we are aware of, including network-wide buses running til late on Easter Saturday this year, for the very first time ever.
The other three Easter public holidays have still run with the old 6pm-finish timetable, but at least they agreed to extend services on the busiest days overall, especially Easter Saturday with the National Folk Festival on in Canberra as well as being the launch day for the light rail.
Now, finally, the light rail has started for the first time on Easter Saturday, and the new bus timetable takes full effect from tomorrow, April 29, to allow a crossover period with the light rail.
Today will be the last ever day that the buses finish early in Canberra. From tomorrow onwards, we will have a proper, seven-day a week timetable, with buses till 10pm or just after on Sundays and public holidays, and til 11pm or 1am on other nights of the week.
This is a huge step forward for public transport in Canberra, not just for the Sunday buses but also with the light rail now finally operational. Not to toot our own horns too much, but even Transport Canberra has admitted to me that this would not have happened without massive community pressure on the Government to do this. Well done Canberra, and well-done everyone who fought for change.
The outcome clear, the facts plain. Finally, late night Sunday buses for all.