The campaign for better public transport links throughout the Lake Macquarie area has been ongoing and is one which I will continue to drive.
Among the services needed is a bus service between Morisset and Wyong Hospital because links between the hospital and the southlakes area of the electorate need to be addressed.
The combined bus and rail trip residents are currently forced to make to Wyong Hospital is time-consuming and physically challenging for seniors, people with mobility problems or mothers with prams. Available community transport options are expensive and do not adequately fill the gap, as many people do not meet the eligibility criteria.
Western and southern Lake Macquarie need more bus services, particularly to areas such as Rathmines and Wangi.
Access to train stations is also a big issue, and I have petitioned the Transport Minister for urgent improvements to Fassifern, Dora Creek and Wyee stations.
The Fassifern car park and bus interchange area needs substantial improvements to ensure commuter safety. Access to both Dora Creek platforms is dangerous and difficult for mobility-impaired patrons, and a ramp is needed on the northbound platform. Wyee Station should have a lift, as the steep stairs there are also a hazard.
The rollout of the Opal electronic ticketing system was poorly managed in the Lake Macquarie area. While I’ve been able to secure some additional Opal card retail outlets for the electorate, I’ve been appalled by Transport's decision to begin charging commuters for using the 273 'The Train' bus under the Opal system. The bus was provided as a free replacement service when the Toronto rail line was cut in 1991 and that commitment has been honoured by every other Government since. We all need to continue campaigning for the free service to be reinstated.
I also believe that the creation of the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange at Glendale will play a key role in boosting public transport usage and improving services in the region, and the inordinate amount of money the Government has committed to replacing Newcastle's inner-city rail line with a light rail just two blocks away would be far better spent advancing the interchange project.
I’ve long supported the concept of an autonomous regional public transport authority which would provide a system to better meet the community’s needs and expectations.
Decisions made by Sydney-based authorities have failed to provide the Lower Hunter with an efficient public transport system that offers a viable and attractive alternative to private travel, which is why patronage remains low, especially in Lake Macquarie.