Last week in parliament Mr Tilley called on the Victorian Transport Minister to increase funding for Wodonga’s public bus network in keeping with the growth of the city.
The Member for Benambra cited the concerns of a rapidly growing West Wodonga medical practice and Dyson’s bus company, as well as a Department of Transport commissioned report from 2011 that warned the situation would deteriorate if not addressed in the short term.
Mr Tilley is available for comment in Wodonga today.
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Mr TILLEY (Benambra) — (11 680) I raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Public Transport. The action I seek is for the minister to provide funding to extend the bus services in Wodonga and at the very least conduct a complete review of public transport in the city. The minister will have on her records previous correspondence calling for the extension of an existing bus route that includes Western Park, Oakmont and Wodonga TAFE. In part that was to meet the needs of elderly patients of the Daintree Medical Centre that sits in the middle of this rapidly expanding growth corridor. At the time of those representations just over a year ago the centre had some 11 000 patients. In the past year the clinic has added almost 3600 patients, so that figure now stands at about 15 000. The centre’s business director, Dr Arjit Varghese, tells me that many of these patients are elderly and without transport. Some use taxis as well as Red Cross transport to get to the medical centre, while the clinic has in the past been forced to send its own staff to collect those in need of transportation. As one of the fastest growing regional cities in Victoria, this is simply unacceptable.
In the same vein, Wodonga also finds its only train station isolated from existing bus routes. It is a constant source of concern for constituents and also the Independent federal member for Indi. The station was relocated from the CBD as part of a major rail project and now sits approximately 3 kilometres from the city centre. When the station was first opened, a bus service was put in place on a trial basis. However, the patronage at that time did not justify the ongoing cost of such a service. Since then, patronage of the rail has increased as people returned to using the rail services after a lengthy absence during the station’s relocation and refurbishment. Although a specific shuttle service may not be feasible, the railway station should be added to one of the existing bus routes.
The minister will also find within Public Transport Victoria a report on the Wodonga bus network, commissioned by the then Department of Transport and published in April 2011. That report acknowledged the limitations of existing bus routes and warned the situation would only deteriorate as planned subdivisions and population growth extended the city’s boundaries. The regional manager of Dyson’s North-East, Brett Drinnan, advised me that there has been no increase in funding for more than 15 years. Mr Drinnan said that White Box Rise, a 1200-lot housing development, had no established bus routes to get schoolchildren to Wodonga’s main high schools and TAFE. He said an additional 20 per cent would allow their company to provide bus routes in high demand areas in new estates and in advance of further expansion into the Leneva Valley. It does not require extra buses, just the funding for the kilometres and the extra driver hours.
Previously the minister has failed to acknowledge the need to fund the extended bus routes and referred the matter to Public Transport Victoria. We know they have the Booz & Company report that supports our call for additional funding. There is a plea from the Wodonga community: it is time for some decisive action from the minister.
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