SHIRE BUS RUN
Passenger service between towns labelled ‘counter productive’
Finley Chamber of Commerce has labelled a bus service initiative by Berrigan Shire Council as ‘‘counter productive’’.
Council has revealed plans to implement a bus service to connect all shire towns, which is expected to start in the September school holidays.
The aim of the service is to allow for better access to social and community events, and improve shopping opportunities.
It is also designed to link with VLine services to metropolitan centres.
While developed to benefit regional residents and boost the local economy, Finley Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rand Wilson said it could be potentially detrimental.
‘‘It seems to be counter productive,’’ he said.
‘‘(Council is) spending money on events promotion within the towns, and organisations are spending money too.
‘‘Then we have a service which draws numbers away from the towns.’’
Mr Wilson said he raised the issue with Berrigan Shire through a formal written submission.
Berrigan Shire community planning officer Jo Ruffin admitted that while most community groups supported the initiative, there were concerns the service would impact negatively on local retail providers and health services.
She said while the concerns were taken on board, council believed the project would only benefit the region.
‘‘Residents and community service agencies told us that a growing number of people were reliant on family, friends and neighbours for transport between our towns and as a consequence their independence, ability to connect with family and friends is being diminished.
‘‘Young people, like their city counterparts, will be able to move throughout their communities and visit friends in neighbouring towns.
‘‘Older residents reliant on family, friends and neighbours for social outings and appointments will be able to retain or regain some measure of independence.
‘‘Residents who do not have access to any transport — those who are isolated or feel unable to ask for assistance with transport — will be able to move about and between our towns.
‘‘Berrigan will be connected to VLine travel to Shepparton and Melbourne.’’
The proposed bus service will link all shire towns - Finley, Tocumwal, Berrigan and Barooga - and also provide a service to Cobram.
It will be run as an ‘‘orbital’’ route, meaning it operates in both directions at the same time.
The trial is expected to last 26 weeks, operating one day a week.
Mr Wilson says it was originally set to cost $800 a day to run.
The bus service was a recommendation in the Berrigan Shire 2022 process, which was developed in consultation with the community.
Ms Ruffin expects the service to be launched in the first week of the September school holidays, and the cost of travel will be a gold coin donation per trip.
An exact running schedule for the bus service is yet to be announced.
Ms Ruffin said the Shire Transport and Reference Group and the Berrigan Shire Youth Development Committee aim to finalise a timetable at a joint meeting on August 18.
The bulk of the service is being funded by a NSW Community Transport Grant, with matching funds from Berrigan Shire Council through the Shire’s Youth Transport Connector Project.
Ms Ruffin said the progress of the project and community reactions would be surveyed during the course of the pilot program.