Bus services in Balgowlah will be modified from Sunday 11 July 2021 in response to community feedback following a network review late last year. In particular, these changes have been designed to address significant community concern surrounding new route 172X.
Changes from 11 July 2021 in Balgowlah include;
Timetable adjustments for route 172X, predominantly during weekday peak periods, with a reduction in the number of services operating via the Urunga Street area
Reinstatement of peak hour route 168X between North Balgowlah, Seaforth and the City on weekdays
Reinstatement of peak hour route 171X between Balgowlah Shops, Balgowlah Heights and the City on weekdays
Timetable adjustments for route 162 between Seaforth and Manly, to support the reinstatement of route 171X, and to improve connections with ferry services at Manly during the afternoon peak period
There are a number of benefits that will be achieved from the introduction of these changes. Those living in Balgowlah Heights will regain direct peak services to the City on route 171X, those living in North Balgowlah will have a more direct service to the City on route 168X and there will be less services onroute 172X using the narrow Urunga Street during peak periods, addressing a key community concern. There will be the same number of buses between North Balgowlah, Seaforth and the City as now, as all removed on route 172X are being directly replaced by new 168X services.
These service changes are a big win for the Balgowlah community and come after a protracted community consultation period held in May 2021. This set of changes illustrate that community campaigns for service changes can be effective, and that Transport for NSW does actually listen to community consultation when it is conducted. The concern here is why there was not community consultation prior to the original set of changes, community consultation which might have addressed the problems identified before they ever occured.
In May 2021, the NSW State Government announced that the bus network in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs would be modified from later this year. You can find more details of those changes here. As part of this proposal, Transport for NSW has been conducting community consultation to gauge community sentiment towards these changes. The deadline to complete the community consultation survey has been extended to June 30. We urge you to review the proposed network and have your say before June 30.
Over 7000 responses have been made to the survey, which Transport for NSW will use to refine the proposed changes before they are implemented later this year. In particular, Transport for NSW has noted that access to St Vincent’s Hospital and Taylor Square from the Eastern Suburbs is a major concern that has been raised in feedback and that they are investigating solutions to improve access to the precinct. A spokesperson stated ““They have let us know off-peak services to Taylor Square are very important.” It was also noted that a large proportion of the feedback related to misunderstandings of the changes. For example, commuters concerned about the removal of popular cross regional routes 353 and 400, despite the fact they are being replaced by the very similar routes 350 and 390X respectively.
Transport NSW Blog believes that there are three main areas that need to be improved from the original plan before the changes are implemented later this year – access to Taylor Square, bus-light rail interchange at Randwick Junction and better delivery of information.
Improved access to Taylor Square should be a key priority when reviewing the proposed network. There need to be two ‘All Day Frequent Routes’ from the South East to Taylor Square and St Vincent’s Hospital, in addition to the ‘All Day Frequent Route’ 333 from Bondi. A frequent route along both the Maroubra/Kingsford corridor and the Coogee/Randwick corridor to Circular Quay via Taylor Square is the best solution that would help to improve access to this precinct. Redirecting Route 374 from Coogee to the City via Taylor Square and improving both Route 374 and Route 396 from Maroubra to the City via Taylor Square to ‘All Day Frequent Routes’ is the best option to ensure proper connectivity. Retaining Route 372 services along Cleveland Street would allow for Route 374 to be redirected via Taylor Square.
The interchange between buses and light rail services at Randwick needs to be improved to ensure the success of the proposed network. Currently, for those changing between buses and light rail travelling inbound, the bus stop is located some 300m away, which does not allow for easy transfers. There needs to be a new inbound stop implemented either on Avoca Street or Belmore Road at High Cross Park in order to ensure easy transfers between services at Randwick. In addition, the level of services between Coogee Beach and the light rail terminus in Randwick under the proposed network is significantly lower than the level of service today, which will further reduce the ease of transfer. Currently, there are 16 buses an hour off peak between Coogee and Randwick, which will be reduced to 8 under the proposed network. Ensuring frequent links to the light rail is important, and improvements such retaining Route 372 between Coogee and Railway Square via Randwick would be useful in achieving this aim.
There needs to be a better delivery of information in relation to the changes when the final network is implemented, to ensure that misinformation does not circulate and commuters in the Eastern Suburbs understand how to use the new bus network. The way that the information regarding the proposed changes has been circulated has allowed for a misinformation campaign and has meant that many people do not fully understand what changes are actually occurring. Using online mapping technology to compare the level of accessibility from any address within 30 minutes has been used overseas to much success, and information campaigns with proper printed booklets and a well set out website with all the information about the changes can help to ensure that people understand the new network.
This is the first set of major changes that Transport for NSW has actually engaged in meaningful community consultation, and it is hoped that the feedback received will actually lead to an improved version of the new network. Please complete the community consultation survey before June 30, and make sure you educate yourself on the full set of proposed changes here.