New bus timetable facing first test under private operator Keolis Downer

OPTIMISTIC: Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald testing out the new service. IT’S been confirmed there is scope for a review of the city’s new bus timetable, but commuters have been urged to go in with an open mind, as the first shake-upin a decade took effect on Sunday.

Keolis Downer –the city’s new private transport operator – also used the occasion to launch a trial of its“on-demand” service at Lake Macquarie, the equivalent of Uber for buses.

While the first real test will come on Monday with the rush of morning commuters, the timetable has already meta hostile reception from passengersno longer serviced by a direct route.

Responding to the backlash on Sunday,the state government and Keolis Downer said there was potential for the new timetable to be reviewed, but reiterated itwould see an overall increase of 1200 services.

Thegreatest benefit is expected to be the introduction of services every 15 minutes on four“main trunk routes”.

“That’s where the highest demand for services are, so that’s where we’ve added the extra services,” parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said.

He admitted that Novocastrians could be “a little bit wary” about change, butwas optimistic people would come around to the new timetable. He emphasized it was based on Opal card data.

“We’ve had low patronage on public transport –less than four per cent –so business as usual couldn’t go on.

“If we need to make changes, obviously we’ll be talking to people like Keolis, but I think we’ve got to give it a go,” Mr MacDonaldsaid.

Sunday saw Mr MacDonald and Keolis Downer’s Hunter general manager Mark Dunlop ride the first “on-demand” bus from Warners Bay to Charlestown.

Customers can order a bus to pick them up and take them anywherewithin the boundaries of Dudley, Mount Hutton, Charlestown and Warners Bay.

Buses can be ordered by phone or smartphoneapp, with a fixed $3 adultfare and$1.50 concession.

Mr Dunlop said the “sophisticated” technology had already been tested overseasand he was confident it would minimise travel times.

“The app [is] dynamically altering the route to come up with the optimal path for the bus to go and all of this is done in real time,” he said.

He said the entire service would be reviewed on an ongoing basis, but the launch of the timetable was “exciting”.

“There’s an enormous amount of work that’s gone into it,” Mr Dunlopsaid.