Pas­sen­ger ser­vice be­tween towns la­belled ‘counter pro­duc­tive’

Southern Riverina news - - Front Page - By Han­nah Nichols

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.

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