Rally says: ‘Fix Newcastle buses’

Any one of the 1000 people who attended a rally at Belmont on February 19 could have told their own horror story of bus privatisation.

Speaking on behalf of many, several community members exposed the lie that privatised bus services make it easier for people to get around.

New mother Kimberley Anderson described how she and her three-month-old baby, on the way to a medical appointment, waited in the rain for a bus that never showed.

For another parent, Bec Cassidy, the new timetable and service cuts meant she had to change her daughter’s primary school.

Jack Fonti, a final year high school student, recounted how thousands of students like him now have to travel up to two hours to get to school, and spend just as long to get home. In Jack’s case his trip time had doubled.

The crowd also felt for the drivers, who are taking the brunt of the public anger. Chris Preston from the Rail Tram and Bus Union described how many drivers still have not been paid by Keolis Downer, the new private operators, for hours worked last year.

Visually impaired Veronica Shaw once prided herself on her independence. But Keolis Downer has undermined this by failing to print and distribute the new timetables, forcing her to walk much further to the bus stop. She now has to catch multiple buses to get to her destination, where previously just one bus had got her there.

Signalling how upset people were with the new complicated routes, the meeting repeatedly broke into spontaneous chants such as “bring back our timetables”.

In November 2015, then-Premier Mike Baird had promised “if we don’t end up with a better [bus] service for the people of Newcastle it [privatisation] won’t go ahead”.

Privatisation has clearly made services worse.

The meeting called on NSW transport minister Andrew Constance to conduct a thorough, transparent, consultative review of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie’s new bus timetable.

Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp called a Fix Newcastle Buses rally for 10.30 on Sunday March 18 at Gregson Park, Hamilton.

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