State Government decision looming for Park and Ride

20 Mar 2019

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) has informed City of Newcastle it will make a decision Friday on the continuation of the successful Park and Ride commuter bus service into the city.

However, it appears Park and Ride won't continue beyond the end of the month given comments from TfNSW to the Newcastle Herald today suggesting people using the service instead “get a bus from Lambton Rd”.

The Park and Ride was initially funded by Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation (HCCDC) as a means off offsetting the impact of the construction of light rail and commenced on 6 November 2017. The NSW Government’s commitment was that it would trial the service and funding switched to TfNSW late last year when light rail construction finished.

City of Newcastle wrote to the Transport Minister in November last year seeking his support for the continuation of the Park and Ride based upon the strong take-up from commuters.

“More than 41,000 people have used the Park and Ride since it started,” City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath said.

“That’s a phenomenal outcome in a city that has the lowest rate of public transport usage anywhere in Australia.

“Despite the success of the Park and Ride it would appear TfNSW has decided to cease its funding at the end of this month. The comments in today’s Newcastle Herald from a TfNSW spokesperson are pretty clear.

“Their suggestion that commuters simply catch a bus from Lambton Rd fails to recognise that a dedicated space needs to exist nearby for up to 250 cars daily. The suggestion also fails to acknowledge that one of the great appeals of the Park and Ride was that it is an express service into the city.

“Since its introduction, the City’s position on the value of Park and Ride to Novocastrians has never wavered. We maintain that there’s a strong case for Park and Ride to continue until such time as the light rail is extended to Broadmeadow.

“We will continue to advocate for the Park and Ride for the simple reason that it remains the most reliable and cost-effective mode of public transport for people living outside the City.

“The NSW Government, through its Greater Newcastle Transport Plan, has publicly committed to doubling the rate of bus usage locally and has itself nominated Park and Ride as one way of achieving this.

“Park and Ride takes around 200 commuters and sometimes as many as 250, into the CBD from Broadmeadow each morning and back again each afternoon. In a city that has been reluctant to embrace public transport, Park and Ride has proved that people will use public transport when the service is affordable, reliable and regular.

“It has provided people with a dependable source of transport and the best means possible to access the City during a time of significant change and transformation."

From November 2017 to March 2019, passenger numbers have soared from an average of 372 people per week to 850 per week.

Mr Bath thanked Keolis Downer, Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation, Venues NSW and the people of Newcastle for their continued assistance and support in making the service a success.

“Local Government is not a transport provider. But we agreed at short notice to administer the Park and Ride on behalf of TfNSW because they said they didn’t have the capacity at that time. Our staff have been on site every morning at the Stadium, negotiated all contracts with service providers, funded the marketing of the Park and Ride, undertaken all communications with users and maintained the website," he said.

“Feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive and combined with fantastic support from Keolis Downer, the Park and Ride has provided a level of customer service that public transport in Newcastle that has never before been experienced. We have held the price at $2.20, increased the frequency of services, improved the customer parking experience at McDonald Jones Stadium and provided up to date communications.

“Thank you to the tens of thousands of people who used the Park and Ride. We will continue to push for its reinstatement and remain hopeful that whichever party forms Government after the State election on Saturday, will recognise that it makes no sense to shut off funding to a public transport service that is popular and well used."

Registered users will be notified of the future of Park and Ride once City of Newcastle receives formal notification from TfNSW, expected to be Friday. The likely final service will be on Thursday 28 March. It will not operate on Friday 29 March due to the Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and Sunwolves.