the lack of drivers causes delays and cancellations

“We only became aware of the problem when we went to the bus stop ourselves to catch the city bus and our daughter was still waiting.”

Lane Cove Councilwoman Rochelle Flood said many parents are now driving their children to school every day because they cannot rely on the bus.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said the reduction in bus services had prompted an increase in “negative comments” towards operators and on social media.

“Adjusted timetables allow operators to offer more reliably predictable route services rather than canceling services on an ad hoc basis, giving commuters more peace of mind when planning their journey,” she said.

The spokeswoman blamed Australia’s low unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent for the driver shortage, which has left more than 500 vacancies out of a workforce of around 7,000. It is expected to last throughout 2023 – despite efforts to recruit drivers with free public transport and subsidized training.

Ongoing cuts in bus services are adding to the frustrations caused by the Sydney train disaster earlier this month, which caused the entire rail network to grind to a halt.

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The Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW tram and bus department secretary, David Babineau, said the state government had removed thousands of journeys from the timetable because it could not provide quality service to commuters.

“We are seeing incredibly long queues at bus stops and bus drivers being abused because of the government’s decision to shut down services,” he said.

Babineau said bus privatization is making driver shortages worse: “On top of all the other problems caused by privatization, they are now struggling to attract and retain bus drivers, which means operators are cutting hundreds of services every day.”

Since the introduction of new timetables at the end of January, Lola Sharp has been late for many appointments and has waited up to half an hour for the buses from Coogee, which usually run every 10 minutes.

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“When we interviewed bus drivers, some said, ‘There is no timetable,'” she said. “Others have said, ‘We just do what we’re told.’ Others just shrugged.”

Sharp also expressed anger at the fact that their bus route terminates at Museum Station instead of Circular Quay: “As an elderly person, I can forego access [and] Getting off two buses instead of one.”

Orla Burke usually takes a bus from Bronte to Bondi Junction, where she changes to a train into town.

But unreliable buses and inaccurate timetables have forced Burke to ask a neighbor to take her kids to school so she can leave at 8 a.m. to make sure she’s on time for her meetings.

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“It’s possible to do a 9am meeting if everything is on time,” she said. “However, it is currently not possible to have meetings at 9am as I am often late, which makes me feel unreliable.”

Labor transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen also blamed privatization for the deterioration in bus service.

“[A cancelled service] is forcing passengers back onto our streets and reducing trust in our public transport system.”

Haylen said a Labor government would set up a taskforce to tackle driver shortages and work to return services cut as a result of bus privatisation.

“This is about putting the needs of passengers at the heart of our bus network after years of liberal neglect,” she said.

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Justin Scaccy

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