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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Buses taking up the public transport slack: Page

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Nationals Ballina MP Don Page says more bus services are being offered in the northern rivers than in 2013.
Nationals Ballina MP Don Page says more bus services are being offered in the northern rivers than in 2013.

Hans Lovejoy & Chris Dobney

Additional bus services are now in place on the north coast, according to retiring NSW MP Don Page (Nationals).

The announcement came after The Echo asked Mr Page what his government was doing about the lack of public transport in the region.

Quoting the Northern Rivers Regional Transport Plan 2013, Mr Page said the ‘better way of meeting the public transport needs of the region is increased bus services.’

‘Since that report, I can advise in the Byron area, for example, that 24 additional bus services have been put on. Through improved connections passengers also have access to 125 more trips than in 2013, between Byron Bay, Ballina, Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby. I acknowledge there is a need for more public transport, but the study released in 2013 found buses were a better and more cost-effective option.’

But Echonetdaily can reveal that, owing to a bizarre anti-compete clause included in commercial bus contracts, the government’s own CountryLink buses are not allowed to pick up passengers travelling less than 40 kilometres.

A passenger travelling from Byron Bay to Bangalow, for example, cannot use the CountryLink service that traverses the route – often with empty seats –  even if it runs outside the times of ‘competing’ commercial services.

TAFE subsidy cut

And additional buses won’t help north coast high school students who travel to TAFE courses in Lismore or Kingscliff.

A subsidy that assists in their transport costs will be scrapped next year by Mr Page’s Liberal/Nationals government.

Mr Page has taken the odd position of both defending the cuts but also calling for the subsidy to return.

He told The Echo he is actively lobbying for the travel subsidy to be retained, ‘even though the cost of the scheme has increased by 78 per cent over the past five years.’

‘While I welcome these measures to reduce the need for the travel subsidy, I strongly believe it should still be available for those school students who need it.

‘TAFE advise that they have taken a number of measures to reduce the need for the subsidy, ie TAFE courses being delivered in schools, concentration of TAFE courses to reduce travel requirements, carpooling through schools and more online TAFE courses for school students. I have made representations to the [education] minister expressing my views and strong support for the retention of the travel subsidy for school students doing TAFE courses.’


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Exactly James, while other countries are upgrading their already, far superior rail networks, we are begging for a BUS? Honestly. A 1st world country with a vastly underdeveloped bureaucracy. Wouldn’t U think a few corporates would have some foresight even though we’re all having to deal with this. Either their businesses transport or our lowly needs for interaction.

  2. What a farce. Let’s solve the local traffic issues and improve public transport by putting more large vehicles on our roads – some of which can’t even pick up paying passengers. Doh! Bring back the train.

  3. After an eye check-up after an op, I travelled to Mur-bah by Countrylink bus. On arrival at the Mur-bah railway station, asking, Do I pay for my return ticket now or later, to the bus driver? Answer was, Where do you have to go? Billinudgel.The bus driver wont pick you up. Why not? my question. He could lose his job. Sort of ‘warned’ from a station I had rung to book a seat to go to Mur-bah; cannot do that. I couldn’t be picked up. Just hail the bus driver, he might pick me up. At Mur-bah, I said to the travel chap, well that is great isn’t it & that makes me mad! When mentioned this at my eye clinic, they offered if I could not get on the bus, ring them! I had an hr to wait & windy, hot, no seats. Fortunately, another opportunity came up & I did not have to wait.
    As I was reminded by a friend in Lismore, those Countrylink buses were to go to all the railway stations [which they do!] where the trains went! Billinudgel was certainly a train stop.
    I have said over & over, our MPs need to really have a go at travelling on those Countrylink buses to find out what they & the trip is really like! Jillian Spring

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