City steps up to fund Park and Ride
City of Newcastle will fund the operation of Park and Ride for the next month in response to Transport for NSW’s (TfNSW) refusal to publicly indicate whether it will continue to support the popular bus service beyond the end of this week.
CEO Jeremy Bath said the City’s commitment meant the service would continue from McDonald Jones Stadium to the CBD during April while a detailed examination of the cost of the service is undertaken.
“City of Newcastle will underwrite the Park and Ride for the month of April,” Mr Bath said.
“In a city that has traditionally refused to use public transport, the Park and Ride has proved Novocastrians will catch a bus to work when the service is affordable and reliable.
“More than 41,000 people have used the Park and Ride since it started in November 2017 in response to the impact of the construction of the NSW Government’s light rail project.
“While public transport is very clearly a responsibility of the NSW Government, we owe it to the almost 1,000 passengers that use the Park and Ride weekly to do everything we can to continue the service.
“Over the next four weeks we’ll undertake a detailed analysis of the costs of the Park and Ride operation. This will include speaking with bus operators, including Keolis Downer, to establish the true cost of running the Park and Ride service under a variety of hours of operation.
“We will also speak with users of the service to understand their needs vs their wants when it comes to public transport.
“During April, there will be no change to the current service with buses to operate weekdays from 7am to 9am from McDonald Jones Stadium and departing from the city to Broadmeadow between 3pm and 6.30pm.”
Mr Bath said that under the current model, he understood that the Park and Ride operates at a cost of approximately $500,000 a year.
He said the City would look at how to reduce the cost of operating the service, which for its first 16 months has been funded by the NSW Government.
“For the Park and Ride to continue the price will have to rise. The price of the service hasn’t increased since it was launched and that was done to encourage car enthusiasts to try public transport, often for the first time.
“However, if the City is going to bear the cost of the Park and Ride then we will need to re-examine the pricing model. But that decision can’t be made until we understand the true cost of operating the service as well as people’s willingness to pay for an express bus to the city and back.
“TfNSW’s refusal to confirm whether they will continue to fund the Park and Ride has created angst and frustration for its users. I have written to the 5,000 people registered with the Park and Ride today asking them for patience as we commence a review of the costs of the operation.”
Mr Bath said TfNSW was still yet to formally advise the City of its decision to withdraw funding for the service, almost a week after their agreed deadline.
“To date, we’ve heard nothing from TfNSW other than a promise more than a week ago to provide a decision by last Friday,” he said.
“This is despite four months of regular discussions in which we we were led to believe the Park and Ride would continue to be funded by the NSW Government.
“City of Newcastle is firmly of the opinion that it makes no sense to shut off funding to a public transport service that is incredibly popular, especially one that is a key promise in TfNSW’s own future transport plans,” he said.
Park and Ride users are reminded that the service will not operate Friday 29 March due to the Super Rugby match at McDonald Jones Stadium between the Waratahs and Sunwolves.
It will return to regular service from Monday 1 April 2019.