As the ACT starts to ease restrictions put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), Minister for Chris Steel is calling on Canberrans to thank rail staff and other public transport workers.
“This is group of people who have been quietly and proudly delivering the important services that our community has relied on during the pandemic, and they deserve our thanks,” said Steel.
“While there’s been less people using public transport, each journey has been important to keep our society functioning and Canberrans moving.”
During the pandemic and associated lockdowns, Transport Canberra ran a full timetable across light rail services as well as bus services in the ACT. With work from home directives and restrictions on the use of public transport only for essential travel, patronage figures have decreased by 85 per cent. In the first week of term two 2020, April 28 to May 1, Transport Canberra recorded a daily average of 8,873 journeys. In the comparable period in 2019, 66,766 journeys were recorded. The busiest day since the end of March was Monday, April 28, with 9,793 journeys.
In April, Transport Canberra hired extra cleaners to sanitise buses, light rail vehicles, and public transport stops. Steel said the government has been working with unions to ensure workplaces are safe.
“The ACT Government has been working closely with union representatives from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) during this time to ensure the wellbeing of workers is at the forefront of Transport Canberra’s response to COVID-19,” said Steel.
“We’re looking at how social distancing and other measures can be promoted on public transport as more people start travelling, but we are still asking Canberrans to reconsider the need to travel at this time.”
Union delegates at the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union said the government had been listening to workers’ concerns.
“Transport Canberra has been receptive to the union’s concerns, establishing weekly meetings and making changes in accordance with workers’ feedback. This has been integral to ensuring both worker and commuter safety.”
While some authorities have been concerned that following the lifting of restrictions public transport patronage would drop as people commute via car, Steel said that maintaining a full timetable throughout the crisis will help ensure people return to public transport.
“Canberrans have been able to rely on public transport during the crisis, because we’ve been delivering the same services week in week out on buses and light rail,” said Steel.
“We are in a much better position than many other cities having delivered constant reliable services throughout the pandemic to support more people back on to public transport once restrictions are eased at an appropriate time.”