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Media release: Better Buses campaign unveils the truth in Minister’s announcement of “new” buses in the state budget

Bus advocates have today called out the Minister for Public and Active Transport, Gabrielle Williams, for re-announcing “new” bus routes.

Williams announced on Wednesday (22/5) that “Melbourne’s growing outer suburbs will benefit from more than 10 new or improved bus services, backed by $180 million worth of investments from the Labor Government in the Victorian Budget 2024/25 and the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution (GAIC) fund.” 

The GAIC fund is financed by compulsory contributions from landowners developing certain land zoned for urban use and development in the Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham local government areas. 

While this may at first glance appear like a win for residents of Melbourne’s poorly serviced outer suburbs, it is far from being a cause for celebration. Less than one month earlier (on 24/4), the Allan Labor Government already announced $150 million for new bus services across Melbourne’s north, west and south east through the GAIC fund. 

This indicates that of the $180 million announced this week, the government has only assigned a paltry $30 million in the 2024/25 budget to support new bus services. Of the $30 million, nothing was allocated for services in the west.

The “new” services for Melbourne’s west announced by Williams on Wednesday are the same as those announced in April: a bus route between Wyndham Vale station and the Harpley and Cornerstone estates, as well as a route between Tarneit and Laverton North. 

While the government has announced the new bus services twice, it has not yet provided concrete timelines for implementation. This raises concerns that residents will be left waiting indefinitely for these routes to begin operating. 

It is imperative that the government is fully transparent about the commencement as well as the scheduling of these services. Additional routes can only be considered an improvement to the network if they run frequently, seven days a week, on direct routes. 

They have also not indicated whether the new bus announced for Harpley and Cornerstone will have any benefit to residents in the nearby Mambourin estate, whom the Better Buses campaign have been working with closely for over a year. Residents of Mambourin are concerned that the new bus will not run through their area, meaning that some children will still face a 40 minute walk to their closest bus stop, and residents will continue to be forced to rely on their cars and/or costly rideshare services to get to the train station. 

“The state government needs to do much more to demonstrate that it is serious about ‘connecting communities and helping Victorians get around easily’”, said Sustainable Cities spokesperson, Adele Vosper “A good start would be to commit to timelines for the implementation of these new routes as well as provide more substantial funding from the budget to ensure that Victoria’s Bus Plan can be fully implemented.” 

Working families in the west have been bearing the financial brunt of a broken public transport system for too long. The current cost-of-living crisis is only exacerbating the burden, and better buses are the perfect solution, and one that the Labor can implement in this term of government.

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