By NOEL MURPHY
NEW bus routes have left Highton residents high and dry – unable to readily get to doctors, banks or shops, MP Andrew Katos has told State Parliament.
Changes introduced in recent weeks have brought a raft of complaints by angry commuters across the region from Belmont and Highton through Newtown to Lara.
Mr Katos said he had received numerous complaints about new routes and timetables and called for some to reinstated.
He said Highton’s Helen Badham formerly used the number 16 bus servicing Deakin University, via the Highton shopping centre, High Street Belmont and Kmart into Geelong central.
“This gave many senior local residents the independence to use the local banks, doctors, dentist, post office, newsagent, public library, pathology services, not to mention supermarkets as well as catching up with friends for a coffee,” Ms Badham said.
“So you can imagine some of our senior’s distress to learn that the new number 43 bus route does not give them access to any business hub at all south of the Barwon River.
“Our bus route provides no service to the Belmont High St shops or Kmart or the Waurn Ponds shopping centre or the Highton shopping centre.”
Mr Katos raised concerns voiced by Jane Stevens, also from Highton: “As a parent of two children who catch the 34 bus, one to Belmont High School, I found it hard to believe that this service has been scrapped.
“We live in Grantham Drive, Highton and one of my children will have to walk with a heavy backpack and musical instrument to school. I cannot understand how a decision like this was made, there is a huge amount of Belmont High students catch this bus every day.”
South Geelong’s John Thompson described changes to bus schedules and routes close to the CBD as “bloody ludicrous”.
“I used to go to town on number 61 or 62, there’d always be another 20 minutes later but now the wait is 40 minutes.
“I know little old ladies who are struggling home with their shopping after five stops were wiped out.”
At South Geelong station reduced connections meant many commuters had to walk to Moorabool Street to catch a bus, he said.
“Many women coming home late at night are on the road after dark, it’s not as safe or sensible,” Mr Thompson said.
Shopkeepers in the CBD told the Independent they’d noted a reduction in people at their stores as a result of bus route changes. They said they’d fielded numerous complaints about schedule and route changes.
Parents complained of children at Lara travelling circuitous new routes to school that took longer than previously.
Mr Katos called for bus services cut in Highton to be reinstated.
“The changes to these services have focused on linking buses to railway stations and Deakin University,” he told parliament.
“That is good, but it has come at the expense of local bus services so people who want to shop or move about their own suburb can no longer do so.
“I ask the minister to immediately reinstate former bus services 16 and 34 in Highton.”
Timetable information is available at ptv.vic.gov.au.