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Liberals plan ACTION overhaul to boost public transport use

The Liberals have announced plans for a complete overhaul of Canberra's bus network, promising six new express lines, a simplified timetable and routes designed to mirror commuter driving patterns.

Providing a $20 million boost to the ACTION operating budget, an incoming Liberal government would create a Tuggeranong to Canberra Airport bus route, link Canberra and Calvary hospitals with express services and increase weekend and summer service frequency.

Daily passengers would be rewarded with free travel after eight paid journeys as part of a "Friday free" plan adapted from Brisbane, more cashless routes would be created in peak periods and new buses would have colour coding and improved signage on rapid lines.

Very frequent routes would run every seven minutes on weekdays from Tuggeranong to Belconnen and Gungahlin to Fyshwick. At weekends and nights, the lines would run every 15 minutes.

Weekday 10-minute services would run from west Belconnen to the city, Tuggeranong to the airport, Tuggeranong to the city, Gungahlin to Belconnen, Woden to North Canberra, Woden to the city. A new Parkway Express would run from Woden to Belconnen.

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Outside peaks, these services would run about every 20 minutes.

Bus route numbers would operate across a 7 day timetable and late night services would run until about 1am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

New four-door articulated buses would be added to the fleet to increase capacity and a $2 million trial of electric buses would be launched. A Liberal government would build a new depot, possibly adapting plans for a tram facility to be built at Mitchell.

A separate annual $75,000 technology and innovation fund would also be established for future improvements.

The party has already committed to adding 50 new buses and hiring additional drivers.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson and transport spokesman Alistair Coe will release the public transport policy on Thursday, the Liberals answer to the government's 25 year plans to build a city-wide tram network.

The opposition has pledged to tear up contracts for the government's city to Gungahlin light rail stage one and say they will make further announcements about Northbourne Avenue before the October election. Last week the government shelved plans to extend tram services to Russell.

No patronage targets or firm timeline is attached the opposition policy, but Mr Coe said many of the changes would be in place within a year of a Liberal government coming to power at the October election. ACTION's budget would grow to about $160 million under the plan, including revenue diverted from the Capital Metro Agency.

Mr Coe said a Liberal government would not privatise ACTION, despite a 2015 report by transport consulting firm MRCagney saying a sale would save taxpayers as much as $47 million each year. Labor also ruled out privatisation, a move which would likely see opposition from transport unions.

"We think just selling off ACTION is a cop out. We think there are far, far better ways to get results through increased performance and better patronage," Mr Coe said.

The MyWay travel card could be made available for use in shops and other services, while the plan would also see bus priority measures added to some intersections and new infrastructure built at Manuka Oval and Canberra stadium to boost public transport use.

A full audit of Canberra's bus stops is also included in the plan. ACTION could be returned to a stand alone agency, replacing the government's Transport Canberra agency which will begin operating in July.

"What we're announcing is, we think, the most significant reform of public transport in Canberra ever released by an opposition or indeed by a government," Mr Coe said.

"What we're announcing is a new network, which is going to build on the best aspect of the rapid bus network and expand it to serve a considerable section of Canberra's population."

Mr Coe said better planning of buses for major events would be a feature of a new system. More performance data would be published, including some in real time.

Major parties' proposed bus changes

Below are the proposed route changes from the ACT Labor Party and the ACT Liberal Party.

ACT Labor Party:

The new bus network will deliver seven new rapid routes over the next four years.

The Labor Party plan for the new bus network promises seven new rapid routes over the next four years. Photo: Transport Canberra

ACT Liberal Party:

The new bus network will deliver seven new rapid routes over the next four years.

The Liberal Party plan for a new bus network promises six new express lines, a simplified timetable and routes designed to mirror commuter driving patterns.

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