IT TAKES more than three and a half hours to travel by bus from Yarram to Southern Cross Station in Melbourne – and not much less to journey from Welshpool, Toora, Foster or Fish Creek. So to travel on a coach without a toilet does not make for a comfortable trip. Yet that is what the V/Line service on this route now entails, since a new contractor took over on July 1.
“The Department of Transport assured us that it would be a seamless transition from the old contractor, Dysons, to the new, Westernport Road Lines,” said Fred Boreham, who co-ordinates the Transport Connections Project at South Gippsland Shire. “That, however, is not what has transpired. There has been a reduction of the service for travellers.”
Dysons, he said, had five new state-of-the-art vehicles on the Yarram to Southern Cross service, each with toilets and hoists for disabled access. The coaches also had reclinable seats. The new coaches have none of these.
There are toilets at the bus interchange at Koo-Wee-Rup, but the scheduled wait there is only seven and a half minutes, there are only a handful of toilets and several coaches stop there at the same time.
Westernport Road Lines are understood to be purchasing new vehicles, which will be progressively introduced between November and May, but that is several months away.
“The contract specifies that these facilities – toilets and disabled access – have to be provided, but the new contractor has been allowed to start the service without them. They have committed to provide similar standard vehicles, but these have to be ordered from overseas. It’s not good enough,” said Mr Boreham.
He is concerned that travellers, in particular older members of the community, will opt out of using the coach service because of the lack of toilets. People with disabilities will be even more marginalised than they are already.
“Regarding the disabled access, the bus company is understood to be offering alternative transport on booking requests, but that’s not good enough. Putting people in taxis isolates them from the rest of the community using the general system.”
Concerns about the reduced service have been raised at recent meetings of the chambers of commerce at Foster and Leongatha, and several people have discussed the matter with Mr Boreham, who plans to write to the Department of Transport.
“I’ll be saying that it’s not a good enough service and that it disadvantages our community and we believe they will lose passengers.”
The Department of Transport has invited people who wish to discuss the matter to ring Fiona Xuereb at the DOT regional office, tel. 03 5172 2668.