Public transport mess hurts Coast’s young, elderly and sick

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into regional transport access has heard Kyogle TAFE students are missing classes because bus timetables are a mess and that disadvantaged groups are being stranded.

The Northern Rivers Social Development Council's submission said updating public transport routes to better encompass major service and employment areas could be a fix, along with running smaller commuter buses.

"Currently, students cannot get to TAFE via public transport because a connecting service leaves 30 minutes before the arrival of the service from Kyogle," NRSDC transport development officer Alex Lewers wrote.

"This put students in this area at a significant disadvantage to students who live in Lismore."

TAFE students were not alone in their commuting difficulties.

Northern NSW Local Health District health promotion manager Jillian Adams said the North Coast had "significant transport disadvantage", with households on average earning a third less than their city counterparts.

She called on Transport for NSW to reconsider its recent rejection of funding for a trial of the group's Commuter Bus Plan 2016 that focused on improving public transport options for tertiary students and elderly people.

The Lismore Base Hospital and health precinct, Lismore city centre and TAFE campus and Southern Cross University East Lismore Campus all fell under its scope.

"The plan proposes to add two express bus lines for commuters, from Lennox Head via Ballina to Lismore return, and from Casino to Lismore return," Ms Adams said.

"These lines will have limited stops and will be run in times that will deliver commuters to Lismore for office hours."

Northern Rivers Guardians president Scott Sledge advocated for a move towards light rail to reduce fossil fuel reliance.

"We believe that light rail is a viable and safe option for the future of transport in our region," he said.

"Not only do trains serve to reduce traffic and parking problems, the general public can all use trains: including people who can't drive or don't have access to private vehicles, such as young people, the aged and the infirm.

"Please accept that government is needed to provide services for the whole community, not only for the wealthy investors here and overseas."

Tweed, Byron and Ballina Community Transport chief executive officer Phil Barron said renal dialysis patients' transport needs had gone unmet on routes between regional towns and hospitals in Lismore, Ballina and Tweed Heads.

He said the group received limited funding from NSW Health to provide renal transport within Ballina, but the support was unusual and not available in most areas.

"Outside of this arrangement, TBBCT is able to provide very limited renal transport because the needs of each individual would tie up significant resources, which would therefore be unavailable to other clients," Mr Barron said.

"Additionally, it is difficult to attract volunteer drivers who are willing to make this regular commitment, as it requires them waiting around for up to five hours at a time."

The inquiry is ongoing with a report due to come before parliament by November 30. -ARM NEWSDESK



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