Open Letter - Proposed changes to the Yarra Valley Bus Network

Published on 29 April 2022

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Open letter to The Hon. Ben Carroll, Minister for Public Transport regarding proposed changes to the Yarra Valley Bus Network 

I am writing to express our dismay about the consultation for the proposed changes to the Yarra Valley Bus Network, specifically Route 684 Melbourne to Eildon via Healesville.

  1. Council first became aware of the proposed changes due to a post on the Alexandra Newspapers Facebook page, which generated a high number of comments from the community. We note that the same level of commentary does not appear on the PTV’s own post. This indicates that was it not for our local media, our community would be unaware of the proposed changes and the opportunity to provide feedback. The proposed changes were not advertised in locations accessible to service users (for example, through advertisement in local papers).
  2. After trying to contact PTV via phone, we emailed to let them know our concerns. PTV did respond quickly, and we assisted them to provide information to our community via paper surveys and a face-to-face consultation in Alexandra. While PTV representatives have ‘noted’ our concerns, they have not engaged, nor answered, any of the questions we have asked about the proposal. PTV have apologised and recognise that the consultation has not been ideal, but are unwilling to review the information provided or change the approach in light of our, or our community’s, concerns.
  3. Our community has told us that they are angered by the consultation, stating:
    • The online form is not flexible enough to allow them to say what they think, the commentary boxes are character limited to a point where they cannot make their thoughts known.
    • The face-to-face consultations had originally been arranged in Healesville, ironically, a two-hour bus trip (one way) for those residents who rely on public transport to get to Healesville.
    • When phoning the number referenced in the Facebook post, residents have told us the initial customer service operator has been unaware of the consultation in progress and in all instances have been put through to at least three different people before reaching someone who could assist them. This has taken, on average, 35 minutes to provide their feedback.

Our community has formed an opinion that the consultation is a ‘tick and flick’ exercise, not designed to generate meaningful feedback. On review of their concerns, I can understand their position.

With regard to the proposed changes, we have raised the following concerns within our submission:

  • The changes are proposed because of ‘low patronage’ on this service. The data provided is pre-COVID, however the numbers provided do not accord with our community’s experience of using the service.
    • Over which period was the data averaged?
    • What work has PTV undertaken, to understand the needs of the service user to increase use, prior to making these decisions?
  • A long term view of this service sees that over time, PTV has made changes that are convenient for it, the service provider, but that are inconvenient to the service user. This approach leads to a downward trend in use and then to further reduction in service. This is an unacceptable approach to the provision of public services.
  • Many service users are traveling for medical appointments. Popular destinations are to Ringwood or the Eye and Ear Hospital stop. The proposed changes will negatively affect both travel times and convenience for those who most need it.
  • Many health services are within walking distance from the Eye and Ear/St Vincent’s Hospital stop. The proposed changes could mean an additional 2 hour transit (current travel time is approximately three hours, one way).
  • A delayed train service on the return trip could lead to passengers being stranded in Lilydale causing issues for older and younger service users.
  • People with limited mobility currently travel directly to Southern Cross station where they can access assistance through the Travellers Aid service to link to other transport options.
  • Currently, those travelling to the airport can make one transfer from the bus to the airport bus without navigating an unfamiliar train network while carrying luggage items.
  • Parents feel safe putting their children on the bus, to be met by friends or relatives at a prearranged stop. They would not feel confident to do this if the child needs to transfer one or multiple times. Currently, parents travelling with prams and young children do not have to negotiate multiple transport changes that will pose added risk to the family’s safety while in transition.

As a matter of urgency we ask that PTV:

  • Put on hold any decision about the bus service
  • Review the consultation methods and process for this significant change to the service, and
  • Extend the consultation period to provide more genuine opportunities for a meaningful conversation
  • Conduct a thorough review of all bus services in the Murrindindi Shire, in order to achieve your Government’s election platform promises, namely to:
    • ensure access to efficient and reliable public transport between regional cities and Melbourne and improve connectivity for other regional centres and towns;
    • provide more frequent, reliable and connected bus services to increase regional public transport options.

The level of community concern, with both the consultation method and the proposed changes, is sufficient to warrant us writing this open letter to you.

Council would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss any proposed changes to this service, which is the only public transport option for many of the residents in Murrindindi Shire.

Yours faithfully

Cr Sue Carpenter


Murrindindi Shire Council

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