Families reunite as borders open

Passengers celebrate the first Gull Bus in eight months. (Louisa Jones) 222911_01

By Luke Voogt

Geelong locals embarked on a journey to reunite with loved ones as state borders reopened and the Gull Bus resumed services for the first time in eight months on Tuesday.

Elizabeth McCaffrey, en route to see her grandkids in Sydney, was one of about 130 passengers who boarded the airport shuttle service that day, according to management.

The Wandana Heights grandmother was travelling to help her son Brendan, a former Geelong local, with his kids as he commenced extra hours at his job supervising shutdown work.

“They need me at the moment. [Shutdown work] can be quite full on,” she said.

Ocean Grove’s Ruth Dorman was travelling to Tasmania to see her daughter for the first time in 11 months, after it’s border reopened with Victoria last Friday.

“I think [the borders reopening is] absolutely fantastic for the whole of Australia – it needed to happen,” she said.

Former Geelong local Cas Scott was returning to Sydney and taking one of her grandchildren back on an adventure with her.

She and her partner travelled to Geelong to reunite with family last Tuesday after the New South Wales-Victoria border reopened.

“It was brilliant seeing family again – although it was really strange wearing a mask.”

Gull Airport Service is now operating 13 daily services on weekdays and 10 services on weekends.

The company had been running 17 daily services until COVID-19 restrictions forced it to suspend operations on April 2, according to general manager Scott Leeds.

“We had 32 drivers and staff on JobKeeper,” he said.

But with flights operating again and Victoria’s borders with Queensland and South Australia reopening on Tuesday, “everybody is back on deck”, he said.

Mr Leeds has worked for the Gull Bus for 38 years and said the only other time the service had stopped in its 40-year history was the 1989 Australian pilots’ dispute.

“Once we restarted after that, we started full bore, unlike this which will take a while to rebuild. We’ve never seen anything like this.”

Despite carrying about 450 people a day before the pandemic, Mr Leeds was “very pleased” with 130 passengers for “day one” of the resumption.

“That will increase as flights increase.”