Buses: route 509

I wish to raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Public Transport. The action I seek is his urgent intervention to ensure the continued operation of bus route 509, or as it is affectionately known, the Hope Street bus. Over recent weeks many members of the community have contacted my office, concerned and anxious over news of the closure of bus route 509. This bus route provides a vital public transport link for many members of the community, particularly senior citizens and those with limited mobility, for access to essential services such as shopping, appointments, community and social organisations, and transport from Sydney and Melville roads to adjacent areas.

The news of the sudden withdrawal of this bus route has caused significant distress.

It is of great concern, and many passengers and members of the community have said that they first heard about the closure of the route from bus drivers. There was no formal notification and no communication to nearby residents. The absence of communication is not only contemptuous, it points to the likelihood that the government thought it could get away with shutting down this bus route by stealth and no-one would notice. As late as today the Public Transport Victoria website had no notice of the closure of the service. In fact, the site lists the timetable as relevant until 31 December 2012. However, Joe Piccolo, the owner of the Hope St Bus Line, has publicly stated in media reports that Public Transport Victoria has ordered him to cease operating next month.

The news of the closure of the Hope Street bus has been a call to arms for the members of the affected community. A petition has been circulated by concerned citizens and has already gathered hundreds of signatures.

This is not surprising given the affinity the community has with this local service, which has been in operation for over 50 years. To quote some of the reactions to the news, Joe Piccolo has said:

A lot of elderly people take the bus and they’re going to be devastated if it goes.

Local resident Helen Cattapan said:

I’ve been using it for 10 years so I’d hate to see it go.

Cheryl Richings, also a local resident, said she would be ‘absolutely devastated’ and Vic Guarino, a spokesman for the Australian Pensioners Voice, said it would be ‘wrong’ to take away the service.

I have had many young people contact my office. Selflessly they have said that they know through their use of the route the number of elderly people and people with mobility issues who rely on the service. They are gravely concerned about what these community members will do in the future if the service is removed. This is just one way of demonstrating how this bus route is deeply embedded in the community — indeed, the people who use this service are a community in themselves.

While there have been calls in the past for the removal of the route, the previous government resisted these calls, acknowledging the service this route provides to the community.

In fact in addition to the government continuing this service, the previous member for Brunswick advocated for it to be one of the local bus routes to be upgraded, expanded and have its breadth of hours increased.

On behalf of my community the action I seek from the Minister for Public Transport is that he urgently intervene to put to rest the anxiety of the community, particularly those elderly and disadvantaged members of the community who rely on this service, reverse this decision and ensure that the bus route will continue.

Hansard, 2012