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Newport: To B or not to B

The terminus for the State Government’s new $500 million B-Line bus service remains up in the air after disillusioned residents and community groups based north of Mona Vale agreed to reject the ‘Newport solution’ and resolved to push for the service to radiate south from Mona Vale.

Representatives from the Newport Residents Association (NRA), Palm Beach & Whale Beach Association (PBWBA), Avalon Preservation Society (APS) and the Clareville and Bilgola Plateau Residents As-sociation (CABPRA) met with Transport NSW representatives in late June to reject its three permanent options for turning around buses at Newport, as well as two interim options that would enable the January commencement deadline to be met.

Attendees at a meeting at Newport on June 21 passed a resolution demanding: “… that no B-Line service is extended to terminate in the village of Newport and that it be terminated at the town centre of Mona Vale.”

Responding, Pittwater MP Rob Stokes told Pittwater Life: “My job as local member is to secure the funding for better public transport. It’s now up to the community to determine whether they want these improvements or not – or how they want them delivered.

“The government is determined to improve public transport from the northern beaches to help alleviate congestion – particularly during the peaks,” he said. “Our objective is to get more cars off the road which will make Newport a more liveable and walkable community.”

He said it was a “rare opportunity” for effective change and stressed it was crucial the community didn’t dismiss it out of hand.

“However, we’re flexible and we’ll continue to work with the community to get the best outcome,” he said.

Following last month’s publication of the detailed services delivery of the B-Line, Pittwater Life sought comment from community groups.

Newport Residents

NRA President Gavin Butler said the B-Line team had informed his executive of options for terminating and turning around 100 buses a day in Newport, which included queuing three buses at a time to meet the schedule.

“They included three permanent scenarios each of which would have a significant impact on either the Newport Surf Club car park or on the shopping centre Bramley Lane car park,” Mr Butler said.
“The project team also told us of two interim options to allow the B-Line to commence at the end of this year – one in ‘The Boulevard/Ross Street/Bramley Lane’ and the other at Porter Reserve (Rugby Park).”

The first option made no sense as it funnelled buses onto residential streets; the second appeared doomed due to its use as a sports site, he said.

Mr Butler added that the NRA wrote to Council a year ago with concerns about the po-tential impact the B-Line would have on residential streets and the Surf Club.

He concluded: “Whilst having a bus service leaving every 10 minutes (instead of 15 minutes) from Newport can be flagged as an improvement to bus services, we don’t believe the permanent impact on the Village of Newport can be justified."

(*The Newport Chamber of Commerce supported the NRA position, said Chamber Presi-dent Margo Strong.)

Newport SLSC

Upon being told the B-Line would terminate at Newport, with the surf club as an option, NSLSC President Rob Emerson said he told the B-Line team of the severe impact it would have on the club.

“We explained we have over 1400 community members, outlined the voluntary services we provide on and off the beach, plus the fact we operate Nippers on a Sunday through summer to over 400 kids,” Mr Emerson said.

He further explained the club had plans to modestly increase the club’s footprint into the car park and they had been advocating that the southern end of the car park outside the club should be replaced with parkland to improve the pedestrian circulation dangers of children crossing the car park between the playground and the public toilets and the playground and the beach.

He said the car park was already under pressure throughout the year.

“When we run Nippers the car park is fully utilised,” he said.

“Plus we operate at least six surf carnivals and other events to assist the club and local businesses with income generation and these uses fill the current car park to capacity.

“Proposing such significant bus infrastructure on the absolute beach front land seems completely inappropriate for the local beachside environment and people that use the car park for the coastal walk, visiting the beach… even netball training.”

The apparent lack of detailed planning for the Newport extension was a major concern.

“If as suggested the Newport option is to go ahead for January there will need to be a temporary bus turning solution (we don’t know what that is) whilst a design and Review of Environmental Factors (REF) is prepared for a permanent solution.

“If the buses are running to Newport in January it doesn’t provide confidence that the REF for the permanent solution will receive unbiased consideration.”

CABPRA

President David Owen said his association worked with the APA, NRA and PBWBA, listening to more than 400 residents’ concerns, before drafting a solution that supported the NRA in targeting Mona Vale as the terminus for the B-Line.

“We want express buses into the city,” Mr Owen said. “We don’t want to have to change buses when going such a long distance. The resounding sentiment was that lots of buses terminating and turning in our villages will ruin them and cre-ate car parks of our villages.
“The solution is simple: have three routes which extend to where people live – i.e. the suburbs – and then go basically express from Mona Vale, with one set-down into the city, and one pick-up going out of the city at Neutral Bay.”

The solutions were an ‘E90’ (a bendy bus or a double-decker B-Line bus), which “goes around the Palm Beach area via Avalon ever half-hour all stops into MV then stop-ping only at Neutral Bay Junction and the City”; an ‘E88’ (normal size bus), which “goes around Careel Bay area via Avalon (Avalon Pde, not Central Rd) every half-hour with all stops into MV then stopping only at Neutral Bay Junction and the City”; and an ‘E89’ (normal size), which
“goes around Clareville/Bilgola via Avalon ever half-hour all stops into MV then stopping only at Neutral Bay and the City.”

He added the new 199 service from Manly to Palm Beach was “an interesting route, obviously aimed mainly at the tourists”.

PBWBA

Association President Dr Richard West said the B-Line would result in a downgrade to the L90 ser-vice operating to and from Palm Beach, causing inconvenience.

“The L90 is the longest com-muter bus trip in Sydney, taking at least one and a half hours to cover the 44km to Wynyard,” he said. “Now residents will have to change buses at a B-Line hub.”

“The L90 will only operate during the weekday off-peak (9am-3pm) and weekends (7am-10pm), with a frequency of 60 minutes. The present frequency is 30 minutes on weekdays and 15 minutes at weekends. This represents an unacceptable reduction in frequency."

PBWBA welcomed the introduction of the 199 to Manly but insisted it should not be at the expense of the L90 service.

(The 199 will operate as a full-time, all-stops service with frequency of 30 minutes on weekdays and every 15 minutes on weekends between Palm Beach and Manly via Avalon, Newport shops, Newport loop, Mona Vale, Narrabeen, Collaroy, Dee Why and Warringah Mall.)

Dr West continued: “Northern Beaches Council together with the community are currently working on a parking strategy for Palm Beach with an emphasis on encouraging visitors, residents and tourists to use public transport, as parking in Palm Beach is extremely limited.

“The Council and the NSW Government are spending $1.7 million on building a walkway from Palm Beach Wharf to Governor Phillip Park which will be a major visitor draw-card. It is essential that the L90 bus service be maintained, not downgraded.”

Dr West claimed the proposed changes to the L90 service would make city com-mutes even longer in the morn-ing peak hours, as it would be necessary to catch the new 199 from Palm Beach and change to either the E88 at Careel Bay (where it started) or the B-Line hub at Newport or Mona Vale.

“On the return journey from the city in peak hours it will be necessary to change to the 199… this could involve a half-hour wait for the bus to come from Manly. This will make the longest trip even longer.”

He added the Association supported the NRA in their op-position to the “inappropriate and unacceptable use of the car park at Newport Beach”.

APA

The APA supports improve-ments for a faster, more comfortable and more reliable service to the city and to Manly, with major intermediate stops – but without the need to change to another bus.

“Any need to change buses is unacceptable being disruptive, time consuming and inferior to what we have now,” said APA President Peter Mayman.

“Our current service to the city and to limited stops is every 15 minutes which is adequate but until there is a 24-hour bus lane from Mona Vale to the city, the service is unreliable and congested,” Mr Mayman said.

“We support our neighbours in Palm Beach and Clareville facing inadequate services and oppose 100 large buses per day turning around in absolutely prime beachside location.

“Together with other community groups north of Mona Vale, we have met with B-Line staff and made clear what people expect and suggestions on how this can be achieved so that services are in fact improved.

It is not yet clear how well this is being heard and we will certainly be following it up.”

Mona Vale RA

Association President Marcia Rackham said the area had waited a long time for an improvement to buses and travel times.

“To get more people off the road and travelling by bus is a positive move, however our travelling patterns have changed and no longer do we all travel to the city for work,” Ms Rackham said.

“Many people are moving in an east-west direction and the B-Line does nothing to service this need.”

She said MVRA had lobbied government to utilise the Mona Vale Bus Depot.

“It makes perfect sense for additional parking requirements and bus turn-arounds,” she said. “No trees need to be removed to utilise this area.”

She added residents had made suggestions in relation to timetabling and bus routes but that this “seems to have largely fallen on deaf ears”.

“These community members are the people who currently use bus services now, who have a very good local understanding of the pros and cons of the current services and who have made very valid suggestions in relation to public transport improvements.

She said a positive was the fact the B-Line would not be privatised.

– Nigel Wall

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