A vital Balgowlah and Balgowlah Heights bus service 171X will be reinstated following a six month community campaign.
Balgowlah resident Graham Lugsdin said he spent probably close to 60 hours writing emails, making phone calls, presenting and fighting his way through bureaucracy to have the City service returned after its sudden demise at Christmas without proper community consultation.
Essentially most (if not all) direct to City or North Sydney buses servicing the Balgowlah region had been gutted over Christmas, replaced with what Transport Minister Andrew Constance referred to as “hub and spoke model”, where buses feed into one interchange (in this case Seaforth) to go to other major hubs.
“I can understand the hub and spoke model but no one is going get on the 162 to go four stops to Seaforth and then sit there waiting bus for the city, adding another 20 minutes to their trip. They’ll just drive,” Mr Lugsdin said of the original changes.
“They made the change, there was no community consultation and no face to face ability to talk to anyone about it. Hearing the frustration in the community about this made me realise this is worth fighting for,” he said.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to see they’ve listened, and the service is coming back. There will be a lot less traffic.”
A NSW Transport spokesperson confirmed a number of services would be reinstated or amended following community feedback.
“Customers in Balgowlah Heights will receive direct bus services to the city, with the reintroduction of 171X services during weekday peak periods. There will also be adjustments to some route 162 services operating between Seaforth and Manly, to support the reintroduction of route 171X and to improve connections with ferries at Manly during the afternoon peak period.”
The departure time of route 707n will also change in the morning peak to operate 15 minutes later than it currently does. This dedicated school service, which was reinstated in February, will depart Woodbine Street Shops in North Balgowlah at 7:25am to arrive at Milsons Point by 8:15am to improve accessibility for students travelling to the lower north shore.
Customers are encouraged to check the changes, which will be made available online from tomorrow, 29 June, through Transport for NSW’s Trip Planner. For more information visit transportnsw.info.
Huge community campaign
Manly Observer understands the bus changes involved not just considerable lobbying from residents such as Graham Lugsdin and neighbours, but also Northern Beaches Council Manly ward councillor Sarah Grattan, a team at Council, and Manly MP James Griffin.
Cr Grattan said she was delighted common sense had prevailed but was disappointed the community wasn’t consulted in the first place, which would have saved six months of exhaustive community pressure to see things right.
James Griffin said his lobbying for the changes put him on a “collision course with government bureaucracy.”
“Being a member of the government gives me a direct line to the Minister for Transport and senior Transport Officials and I took every advantage of that relationship to lobby relentlessly for these services to be reinstated. It was very helpful to share the consistent and constructive feedback from Balgowlah Heights residents and commuters who were impacted adversely by the bus changes with Transport Planners,” he said.
“In addition to reinstating the 171x, we have also resolved the safety issues in and around Urunga Street. The community advocates in those streets worked incredibly hard to outline their concerns and possible solutions.”
Changes also for North Balgowlah
Transport for NSW Acting Deputy Secretary for Greater Sydney Howard Collins said to help reduce the number of 172X buses operating in some local streets such as Urunga Street – which was shown by residents and Council’s own safety assessment to be a collision concern- the 168X will be reinstated, operating via Bangaroo Street and Brook Road during peak periods.
In addition, some 172X journeys will start from Wakehurst Parkway during the busiest part of the weekday morning peak, while two 172X trips will finish at Wakehurst Parkway in the busiest hour of the afternoon peak period. Fewer articulated – or ‘bendy’ – buses will also be used on route 172X services operating via Urunga Street.
“These service adjustments will result in a reduction of services using Urunga Street compared to the current timetable. These changes address some of the main concerns raised by residents following the wider network changes introduced in late 2020,”he said.
Mr Collins said while the number of 172X services operating via Urunga Street will be reduced, the combined frequency of routes 168X and 172X will maintain overall service levels for customers travelling from Seaforth towards the city.
The 168X returns 11 July.