Published on: November 2020
Sydney Bus Services
The DEPUTY SPEAKER:
It being close to 4.00 p.m. Christmas felicitations are interrupted for consideration of the petition signed by 10,000 or more persons listed on the business paper, with the first debate to be on the petition regarding bus service cuts, lodged by the member for Maroubra. Before we commence the first debate, and for the benefit of the public who are listening online, I take this opportunity to explain the process and rationale behind this unique debate. It is unique because it enables the public to bring their concerns directly to the attention of the House. The intent of this procedure is that the petition debate will start with a speech from the member which, in most cases, will be the member who lodged the petition, followed by four other members and then by a Minister in response and, to conclude the debate, the first speaker will speak in reply.
After all members have spoken, the House will vote on the question that the House take note of the petition. This question will, in most cases, be determined on the voices and be passed. However, if this is challenged by a member, it may proceed to a division, where the bells are rung and members vote on the motion to take note of the petition by sitting on the appropriate side of the House.
The question is that the House take note of the petition.
Mr MICHAEL DALEY (Maroubra) (15:58):
:21 The petition that we are discussing this afternoon states:
This petition of concerned residents and commuters brings to the attention of the House our strong community opposition to the NSW Government's plans to cut 16 bus routes from our area – the equivalent of removing 1600 buses from the network each weekday.
Mr Tim Crakanthorp:
Mr MICHAEL DALEY:
It is a shame. It then goes into all of the routes that will be completely cancelled, but I will speak about those shortly. First, I thank the residents of the electorate of Maroubra, my fellow residents, for signing this petition. It is no easy feat to circulate a petition and in quick time garner 10,000 signatures, which enables it to be brought to the floor of this House. But when we consider that last week my colleague the member for Coogee also brought a similar petition with well over 10,000 signatures to this House, and the member for Heffron, who will also speak on this petition today, has been doing the same sort of activity, it speaks of a great unrest in the Eastern Suburbs, in our communities, in our homes, about what the Government is doing to transport services in our area.
Consider that in the year 2020 we will soon have worse transport outcomes than we did five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago—I know; I still catch the buses into Parliament House from time to time. The people in my area love the buses. Much has been said about the difficulties that COVID has brought upon communities, but it has also brought some opportunities. One of the opportunities that COVID has brought to our community has been a real‑life and live instant comparison between the light rail and the buses, which we all love. Currently, we have the buses running concurrently with the light rail, despite the fact that the Government said it cannot be done, it will not be done and it should not be done. It is being done and we want to keep it being done.
At the moment, even at the height of COVID when people are being told to socially distance, the buses are full. People are voting with their feet; they are on the buses with their masks on. They would rather take the risk sitting on a bus with other commuters than have to hop on the light rail. It does not matter what time of day you stand along any part of Alison Road or Anzac Parade and have a look at the light rail, it is the longest tram in the world and it is also the least-used tram in the world. There is no-one on it; there is one person per tram. The commuters of our area have already made their choice and they are saying loud and clear: Do not make us catch the light rail. The light rail was over time, it was over budget and it destroyed many businesses along the route right through to Surry Hills: They have not recovered and they will not recover.
In addition, if you catch the bus into the city now you can hop on at La Perouse. From the furthest reach of our realm you can still get to the city in 30 or 40 minutes on a bus at any time of day. Hop on a light rail at one o'clock in the morning and it will still take you 55 minutes to get to Circular Quay. It is a dog. As I have said in this House, that is not my phrase for it; that is the Minister for Transport's description of it. When he took over the portfolio from the hapless former transport Minister, who now happens to have been promoted to the position of Premier, he called it a dog and asked his department to see if he could cancel the contract. The answer came back "No", and that is the crux of what the people of Maroubra, Coogee and Heffron are suffering.
This is not a better transport outcome. This was a bad decision made by Barry O'Farrell from Opposition in an unsuccessful attempt to defend former member for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith from Marjorie O'Neill—as if that juggernaut was ever going to be stopped—and now we are stuck with a 15-year contract that provides a worse service. So here we are in 2020 and when Elon Musk is signing contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to send people to Mars, within our area we get worse transport outcomes than we did when I was a little boy in shorts at Maroubra Beach. How the hell, $3 billion later, can you get a worse transport outcome?
What made me laugh is that the budget came out this week. I picked it up and for Maroubra the budget is paper thin. This is what we are getting for transport: $251,000 to complete a design for bus priority infrastructure on Anzac Parade, Maroubra Junction. What is that? A lick of paint on the road? They are getting rid of the buses and they are giving us $251,000 for buses that go nowhere. [.]
Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (16:03):
:36 I thank the member for Maroubra for allowing me to make a contribution today—nay, I say a tribute to buses today. I brought a model of one of my favourite buses here today, one of the great innovations of this Liberal-Nationals Government, the B-Line, because my community, like the member for Maroubra's community, loves its buses—even more so than the member for Maroubra's community because the last census statistics show that about 40 per cent of my community use public transport compared with about 20 per cent of his community. I would say that has significantly increased with the additional investments of this Government in his electorate. The member for Maroubra can say thank you—we would appreciate that. Before I speak more about how great this Government has been for public transport, and how much we love it, I want to speak about buses as my tribute to my almost two-year-old daughter, Eleonor, who is obsessed with them. Even when she is undertaking active transport as we walk along Military Road, she is shouting out, "Bus!" left, right and centre. "Yellow bus!" "Blue bus!" "Red bus!" She loves her buses. We love our buses in the electorate of North Shore. I thank the member for Maroubra for allowing me to make this tribute today on behalf of my daughter, Eleonor.
As I said, my community has some of the highest public transport use—buses, trains, ferries and we are soon to have the metro too. We love the extra services and investment occurring throughout our transport network and in my local community. For those opposite, that is record investment. Those opposite may not have noticed that this year's budget is making record investments, which means investments like those never before seen. Just so we are clear, that means Labor never, ever, ever—ever—spent as much on public transport as this Government is today and has in the years leading up to now. Labor never invested anything near the extent of the expenditure of the Berijiklian Government. Who are the parties—because we are a Coalition—for public transport? We are, the Liberals and The Nationals. But I love that those opposite want to give us this opportunity to talk about it.
I love hearing from those opposite when they carp and complain, because they are never entirely sure about the attitude to public transport investment. Because we are making the investment, they want to criticise, complain and carp. I am not sure if it is part of what they think their job description is or if the negativity is just in their nature. But I am a positive individual and I am positive about this Government and its investment in public transport systems and infrastructure, and so is my community. I want to talk through a couple of the examples of Labor's attitude towards public transport. We know those opposite carp and complain about us. We know they criticise light rail in south-east Sydney, in Newcastle and in Parramatta—and then they ask for more of it. They ask for it to be extended. They did not want it but now they want more of it, so they are not really sure of what they want.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER:
Order! The member for Swansea will come to order. The member will have an opportunity to contribute to the debate.
Ms FELICITY WILSON:
But then I think back to those projects that Labor backed, the Labor legacy, shall we say? Let's talk about the Labor legacy in public transport. When Labor was in Government it promised 12 rail lines, it had nine transport master plans, it had six transport Ministers but sadly, at the end of the day, after 16 years of failure it delivered only half a rail line at twice the cost. That is the Epping to Parramatta rail line which was meant to be all the way from Chatswood to Parramatta. It was half done and twice the price. Let's think back to the CBD Metro. Do those opposite remember the CBD Metro? They like the concept of metro before we delivered it. That was half a billion dollars wasted before Labor ended up scrapping it and not proceeding with it.
Labor complains about public transport investments from our Government but I think it is probably just a little bit of jealousy and a little bit of concern because we are able to deliver projects for people not just in my community with the wonderful B-Line and the Sydney Metro but also across Sydney and New South Wales. When we talk about Labor waste we can also talk about a number of different examples because those opposite had a whole pile of train lines they chose to cancel. Those opposite supposedly invested in the Chatswood to Parramatta rail line. They wasted $100 million on the T-card. That is okay—we brought out the Opal card and did the job for them. They handed back $81 million to the Commonwealth for the west metro because they reneged on it. They wasted almost half a billion dollars on the CBD or Rozelle metro.
Those opposite also failed to introduce air conditioning on trains that they had committed to on the 30‑year‑old non-air-conditioned trains. They only had about 72 per cent of the services air-conditioned, including in their own communities. Only half of the inner west and Bankstown line services were air-conditioned and there were no Cumberland or Carlingford line services air-conditioned. Labor likes to talk the talk and attack this Coalition Government but we are the ones who love public transport. We are the ones with record investments in public transport for our communities and for theirs, and we will never resile from that.
Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (16:08):
:43 I thank the member for Maroubra for tabling this important petition. Now more than 80,000 have signed petitions in New South Wales voicing their concern and discontent against this State Government's cuts to public transport. I thank all the residents of Coogee and around the Eastern Suburbs and people across New South Wales who have signed our petitions. I also thank the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and Unions NSW for their great advocacy for our constituents who desperately love these buses. I speak today on behalf of constituents in my electorate—people like Lindsay, a 76-year-old from my electorate who visited my office to tell her story of what the loss of the 373 from Coogee to Circular Quay would mean to her.
Most weeks Lindsay takes the bus to access cultural activities in the city because the 373 bus travels from Circular Quay via Museum. She is able to walk to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Sydney, the Museum of Contemporary Art and performances at the Sydney Opera House. She meets her two friends there and these trips are a big part of her social life and mean that she can stay vitally connected to her social groups. Losing this bus service will have a big consequence for Lindsay. She will need to take a bus to Randwick, cross several streets and wait for the light rail to take her to Circular Quay. The return journey home will take her an additional 20 minutes. Lindsay has also mentioned that she does not feel safe changing between the buses and the light rail either at Central or at Randwick Junction.
If the 373 bus service disappears it will have a huge impact on thousands of people just like Lindsay. This is just one bus service, and 16 bus services are slated to be removed, each with thousands of regular customers with their own individual story. Bianca is a small business owner in Randwick whose business was directly impacted by the years of light rail construction when Randwick became a no-go zone. Even now, as it is finished, she faces cuts to the bus services that bring clients to her salon and ensure her staff can turn up to work on time. Els is a resident of Coogee who came to see me to express her extreme concern and anxiety over the pending bus cuts. Els is visually impaired and cannot drive. She is completely reliant on the local services for her independent travel to access her medical appointments, attend social events and engage with her community.
The loss of these bus services will do far more than just inconvenience Els. It will critically impact her independence, which will dramatically reduce her quality of life. Currently the buses come to Els but with the lost bus service she will need to go to the light rail. Upon meeting Els, I wanted to do my own research over the disability accessibility of the light rail so I asked a couple of questions on notice. The first one was: Are there guards and/or support staff located at each light rail stop to support those who have a disability and other passengers needing support or assistance? The answer was that customer service officers are available across key locations during peak times. So at the majority of the stations for the majority of the time no-one is there to help the people that need the help. That is great! So billions of dollars have been spent on public transport infrastructure that is not disability accessible. That sounds fair, doesn't it!
I get it. I understand that this Government is running a protection racket for the Premier and it needs to justify the spend of this dog piece of infrastructure. I understand that the only way those opposite can justify it is by forcing people onto it, a piece of infrastructure that no-one wants to use. Why would they? It is double the travel time of the existing bus services. It does not take people where they need to go and it is unsafe, as we have just seen. It has no lifeguards on it and from day dot it has broken down. Within hours it had its first breakdown. Even for the New Year's Test it had a breakdown. It broke down twice. In my office we were able to get real-time information about this breakdown, as one of my wonderful staff, Jeremy, was trapped on the light rail. He was able to provide us with real-time information about the dangerous temperatures in the light rail as it was travelling. He missed the first ball of the test as well—what a shame!
Most recently, just last week, there was a huge malfunction when electricity infrastructure shattered a window. The electricity infrastructure smashed through a front window on the light rail service. After years of enduring disruptive construction the public was promised world-class light rail services but what they have been given is a complete and utter joke. No-one wants to catch the light rail, and rightly so. It is unsafe, it is slow and it does not go where people need to go. The Government has a responsibility to make the lives of people better. Removing these buses without any community consultation is doing the exact opposite. The Government is making the lives of people worse. People like Els who depend on these buses will have their independence stripped from them. Keep your hands off our buses and stay out of the Eastern Suburbs.
Mrs TANYA DAVIES (Mulgoa) (16:13):
:55 I am pleased to contribute to debate on this petition in relation to bus changes. It is well known that from 25 October bus services across Sydney and surrounding areas have changed. Some of those changes included new faster services on Parramatta Road and extra services on key routes, as well as almost 1,000 additional weekly bus services for the inner west. More than 530 additional weekly bus services were introduced in other areas, with many services added in the early morning and evening on some routes. Some minor changes to bus stop arrangements along Anzac Parade in Kensington were also included.
These changes will improve the frequency of services on key routes, improve travel times and give customers more choice around when they travel. Some routes will be withdrawn. The M10 and M50 are two routes that extend from the inner west to the Eastern Suburbs. Less than 4 per cent of customers on these routes travel between these two regions, and with other frequent bus and light rail services customers will be served better by using those buses on other routes. Customers travelling between the inner west and the CBD will have access to frequent services along Parramatta Road and Victoria Road, while other bus routes and light rail services between the CBD and Eastern Suburbs run every five to 10 minutes.
The CBD and South East Light Rail light rail passenger services are now operating on both the L2 Randwick line and the L3 Kingsford line. Regular services are running around every four minutes between Circular Quay and Moore Park, and around every eight minutes between Moore Park and Randwick and Moore Park and Kingsford in the 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. peak on weekdays. It also provides public transport to important health precincts for workers and the community. The 12-kilometre route features 19 stops, extending from Circular Quay along George Street to Central Station, and through Surry Hills to Moore Park precinct, which includes the Sydney Cricket Ground and Allianz Stadium. After this, it travels to Kensington and Kingsford via Anzac Parade, and to Randwick via Alison Road and High Street, taking in the racecourse, the University of New South Wales and the Prince of Wales Hospital. The stops are designed to service major transport hubs and create easy interchange points with buses, trains, ferries and the Inner West Light Rail. Each light rail service can carry around 450 passengers, which is as many as up to nine standard buses.
Opposition members interjected.
That there is the difference between Labor's perception of what government does with infrastructure versus the Liberal-Nationals Government's perception. How do they build infrastructure?
The DEPUTY SPEAKER:
The member for Coogee has had her chance to contribute to the debate.
Mrs TANYA DAVIES:
Those members opposite actually want to build for the population that we have right now, whereas this Government builds with vision. Believe it or not, this city is actually going to grow by another million people. We are building and futureproofing our network for the coming community.
Opposition members interjected.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER:
Order! The member for Coogee will come to order.
Mrs TANYA DAVIES:
With Sydney's population set to increase by another million people over the next 10 years, transport capacity needs to grow and flex. The new Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail play a key role in enabling the city's future transport needs by transporting thousands of customers between the CBD and Randwick or Kingsford in the south-eastern suburbs. Transport for NSW is developing a new integrated south‑east light rail and bus plan. A combined bus and light rail network will significantly improve public transport across the health precinct in Randwick, the University of NSW, TAFE and other major sporting and entertainment facilities at Moore Park and Randwick. Additional light rail services will provide extra capacity for major events. Before any changes are made to the south-east bus network, Transport for NSW is continuing to monitor customer travel behaviour following the opening of the L2 Randwick and L3 Kingsford light rail lines. This includes considering the impact of COVID-19 on travel behaviour.
More than 2,000 additional weekly bus services will be added in Sydney's Northern Beaches and lower North Shore in December. The new services include overnight B-Line services operating between Mona Vale and the Sydney CBD for the first time, and buses operating every 10 minutes on key routes as part of the creation of an all-day frequent network operating throughout the day, seven days a week, including between Dee Why and Chatswood. The new frequent routes operating every 10 minutes across the day, seven days a week, include route 100—Mosman to City, route 144—Manly to Chatswood via St Leonards and others. The new B-Line overnight services will be introduced, operating every 30 minutes seven days a week between Mona Vale and the CBD between midnight and 4.00 a.m. I could go on and on about the vast array of services that this Government is providing to meet not only the current but the future needs of the growing city of Sydney.
Mr RON HOENIG (Heffron) (16:19):
:05 The Government's response to this petition indicates that it is a tired, deteriorating 10-year-old Government. Unfortunately it is demonstrating the incompetence and arrogance of ageing governments dying like the embers of a discarded fire. In the last several months some 30,000 people, chiefly from the electorate of Coogee, signed a petition concerned about the loss of their bus services. Where is the transport Minister? Where is the courtesy and respect from the transport Minister to respond to 30,000 people? The Minister is not here in the Chamber. I will tell members what demonstrates this arrogance. The electorate of Coogee, represented by Dr O'Neill, is a must-win seat for whoever wants to be the government of the day.
Ms Eleni Petinos:
No, we govern without it.
Mr RON HOENIG:
It is a must-win seat. It is arrogance to dismiss tens of thousands of people from Coogee. No-one makes that political decision. Members would think that the Minister would at least stand in the House and respond to that significant portion of people. But what does the Government do? It sends down the member for North Shore, who represents Mosman, to try to give an explanation to the people of Coogee as to why it should cancel its Mercedes-Benz buses, while Government members get into their own Mercedes S‑Class cars to drive to wherever they want to go. I talk to members not only about the Government's arrogance but also its incompetence. On behalf of her constituents the member for Coogee—one of the outstanding local members in this House—took it upon herself to write to the transport Minister with her concerns about the loss of bus services with the withdrawal of routes M10 and M50. The response she received, dated 10 November, states:
A number of travel options remain available throughout the day for customers traveling between the Eastern Suburbs to the CBD or Central Station. Customers currently using route M10 in Maroubra, Kingsford or Kensington—
in my electorate of Heffron—
can access frequent services on routes 391, 392, 393,394, L94, 395 … 373 … 376, 377 …
This letter of a week ago to the member for Coogee was signed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads, Eleni Petinos. Those are the buses that the Government is cancelling! This is indicative of an incompetence that goes through dying and ageing governments. Apart from the services that it cut to my electorate, the worst part about the Government's decision-making process is that it is doing it in the middle of a pandemic on the hope and prayer that people will get into that empty tram—that $3 billion pilot project that does not work and that breaks down. People do not get onto it. No wonder Infrastructure NSW recommended against it. But the then transport Minister, and now Premier, went ahead and spent, firstly, $1.2 billion, $1.6 billion and, now, $3 billion on a project that does not work.
The member for North Shore represents Milsons Point and Kirribilli. She represents Luna Park. Let her take the light rail and move it to Luna Park to replace the ghost train—because that is all it is good for. Quite frankly, and realistically, if the Government believed that changing modes of transport between buses and this light rail actually worked it would wait, would it not, until after the pandemic. It would wait to see, before it changed services, how it could integrate them efficiently. In normal situations some 50,000 people go to the University of NSW; they are not going there now. Before the pandemic there were tens of thousands of people on Anzac Parade in Kensington leaving that university in the morning and the afternoon. The Government cannot make these decisions now. 
Ms ELENI PETINOS (Miranda) (16:24):
:21 I am delighted that Opposition members actually read the correspondence that Government members send them, although at this point I acknowledge that I am a poor substitute for the Minister.
Ms Yasmin Catley:
I don't think you do.
Ms ELENI PETINOS:
I am saying to Opposition members what I have said in response to every other petition on buses: The New South Wales Government is committed to delivering the best possible public transport network for our customers and that means delivering more services when and where they are needed. As outlined in the CBD & South East Light Rail Environmental Impact Statement in 2013, bus services in Sydney's south‑east will be adjusted to reflect changed customer travel patterns while express bus services will be retained to complement the light rail.
Planning for these changes is ongoing and is being informed by Opal data, changed customer travel patterns and feedback. The detailed plan has not been finalised and will be released to the public for feedback in 2021. However, I am advised that customer demand for public transport in Sydney's south-east has grown significantly in recent years, and the new integrated light rail and bus transport plan will provide much-needed capacity for those travelling into and out of the Sydney CBD.
Public transport capacity between the CBD and the south-east has increased with the introduction of the CBD & South East Light Rail. Our plan for an integrated light rail and bus network will cater for this growth, including extra capacity where it is needed most. Early modelling shows that overall capacity of a redesigned bus and light rail network will be increased by more than 30 per cent in the morning peak. Any changes to bus routes and timetables are designed to improve the frequency of services on key routes and give customers more choice around how and when they travel.
To help reduce duplication on the network and improve efficiency, some routes may be replaced by new routes or extra services on other routes, modifications to existing routes, and more express services. Again, the detailed bus plan for Sydney's south eastern suburbs has not been finalised and any planned changes will be informed by customer feedback, Opal data, and changed customer travel patterns. Before any changes are made customers in Sydney's south-east can be assured that they will be informed of any modifications to their services.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER:
Ms ELENI PETINOS:
We expect this plan to be released next year for public feedback before any changes are refined and rolled out. This will ensure that customers, the community and stakeholders are involved in the development of the network where possible and are adequately informed of the proposed changes. I appreciate the community's patience as this Government works to deliver a transport system to keep pace with Sydney's current and future transport needs. I am very disappointed we will not be here to do yet another bus petition next week.
Mr MICHAEL DALEY (Maroubra) (16:27):
:11 In reply: I thank the members for Coogee and Heffron for assisting the people of Maroubra in debate on this petition. It is disappointing that the Minister for Transport and Roads is not present in the Chamber, despite the discussion being centred on his project. Instead Coalition members from the North Shore, Mulgoa and Cronulla come into the Chamber to read carefully prepared notes that have been given to them by the Minister's office, but not him. It is ironic that this week the Minister for Transport and Roads and the Premier have been singing the praises of the newly opened NorthConnex, which saves commuters from Sydney's west to the Central Coast 20 minutes, whereas this Government has forced upon the people of Maroubra, Coogee and Heffron a light rail system that adds 20, 30 or 40 minutes to their trip to the CBD. It beggars belief.
While this debate was being held this afternoon the member for Kogarah brought to my attention that the Auditor-General released a report stating that the final cost of the light rail is not $3.1 billion but now is $3.3 billion. In other words, it has blown out by an additional $200 million. As at March this year, Transport for NSW under the auspices of Andrew Constance was still trying to work out how much it was going to cost. So it is open; it is up and running; there was no official opening; the ribbon was not cut because there was no fanfare—no‑one wanted to go near the thing when it opened—but it is operating. The Opposition asked Andrew Constance, "How much did this cost?" and he replied, "We don't know." Well, now we know—until it blows out again. It has now cost $1.7 billion more than its original $1.6 billion cost.
The blowout is bigger than the original cost of the project, yet Government members have the hide to tell this House that this is transport in the twenty-first century. This is an absolute joke. Andrew Constance was right—it is a dog. Leave it alone. Let it keep running and let the contract run out but let our buses run as well. That is what we want.