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An on-demand bus service could become a permanent fixture in the Adelaide Hills in a bid to tackle growing public transport woes, but there’s little political support for local calls for passenger rail.
The State Government announced on Wednesday it would extend its Keoride On Demand trial to June 2022, with the possibility of making the service permanent.
It came only hours after the region’s first public transport meeting in Mount Barker on Tuesday night saw residents lobby for the reintroduction of passenger trains.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Corey Wingard, who was not among MPs at the meeting, said Keolis-Downer’s Uber-like bus service had been overwhelmingly welcomed by the community.
He said Keoride currently operated five buses in Mount Barker, Nairne and Littlehampton and has been used by more than 128,000 customers since the trial’s start in January 2020.
Evie de Jager Helen de Jage of Mount Baker enjoy using the On-Demand Bus Services from Mount Baker Park & Ride.
“This service makes public transport a more attractive option and helps get cars off the road and customer research has found that almost half of respondents use the Keoride On Demand service to connect to Park ‘n’ Rides and transfer to Adelaide Metro services,” Mr Wingard said.
“The most common destinations for people using the service have been hospitals or medical centres, shops, entertainment precincts, retirement villages and links to other public transport.
“We will use the next 12 months to work with the operator, Keolis Downer, to determine what is required for a permanent on-demand service.”
The extension was announced as Mr Wingard ruled out reintroducing passenger rail services to Mount Barker.
He said the cost of a new rail line would be up to $12 billion and was “not a good use of taxpayers’ dollars”.
His department was instead investigating the possibility of a high-performance Bus Rapid Transit system, connecting Mount Barker and surrounding Adelaide Hills townships to the Adelaide CBD, he said.
The announcement comes after about 100 Hills resident gathered at Wallis Cinema at Mount Barker to make their case for improved transport services.
SA Transport Action Group members Maurice Parry, Gary Field, David Thackrah and John Hill before the start of the meeting at Wallis Cinema Mount Barker. Picture: Lydia Kellner
Independent Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie, who attended the meeting, was also hesitant to back passenger trains though.
“I think we need to have a study done to work out what it is that we actually need,” Ms Sharkie said.
“We’re talking about everything from O-Bahn, light rail, standard rail, dedicated bus lanes … I am open to all of it as I want as many people as possible to get onto public transport as they possibly can.
“But I’m also thinking that it’s a second bus ticket to Strathalbyn – so we need to make it accessible and affordable for everyone.”
This article first appeared on www.adelaidenow.com.au
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