MINISTER MOVES ON BUS CHAOS
By LEONIE BRANN
TRANSPORT Minister John Watkins is dispatching his top man to Lismore to fix the Kirklands Buslines' timetable chaos ? and he wants answers within 48 hours.
Mr Watkins said yesterday the Director-General of the Ministry of Transport, John Lee, would be in Lismore tomorrow for urgent meetings.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport added Mr Lee had the right within the transport contract to take whatever action necessary to resolve the issue.
Yesterday, Mr Watkins said this action had been prompted after representations made by the Member for Lismore, Thomas George, and growing community discontent.
He said Mr Lee would meet Mr George, parents of affected schoolchildren, school principals and Kirklands management during his visit today.
"My priority is to ensure that school students are transported to and from school in a safe and reliable manner," Mr Watkins said.
"I have therefore instructed the director-general to find out what has gone wrong, and put in place a swift plan to correct it.
"The Ministry of Transport was advised by Kirklands that changes would improve the passenger network. But I've heard reports of children being left stranded at bus stops and buses being overcrowded ? and I want those complaints addressed immediately.
"That's why I've sent in my most senior public transport official, and told him to fix it.
"He will be ensuring Kirklands resolves the problems with the new timetables and bus routes. The director-general will report back to me on his visit within 48 hours."
Mr George is pleased Mr Lee is coming to the area to see for himself what is happening.
He said he had received more than 1000 letters from residents opposing the changes.
"I am pleased, after the pressure from myself and the community, that the Ministry of Transport is getting involved and want to resolve the matter," he said.
Ahead of Mr Lee's visit the Ministry of Transport's regional director, Phil Sullivan, has been in Lismore since Tuesday meeting the Lismore branch of the Bus and Coach Association, Mr George and local schools.
Tomorrow Ministry staff will observe bus operations in Lismore, including the efficiency of bus transfers at the Brewster Street bus interchange.
Kirklands management could not be contacted for comment yesterday.