Free City Loop dumped as part of new bus network
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Free City Loop dumped as part of new bus network

A free bus service looping around Canberra's centre will be dumped as part of a proposed restructure of the city's transport network.

The city loop bus service was launched ahead of the last ACT election,  as part of the 2016 budget.

The bus service runs approximately every 10 minutes around Civic, Braddon and Acton.

The bus service runs approximately every 10 minutes around Civic, Braddon and Acton.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

The distinctive pink and purple buses run every 10 minutes from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday, connecting Civic, Braddon and Acton.

But according to figures provided to the ACT's parliament, patronage has been underwhelming.

More than 163,000 people have used the service between its launch in July 2016 and March 2018.

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Of the 72 services a day, an average of 21 ran with no passengers and 12 operated with fewer than five.

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris noted the figures were "likely overstated" as they required manual validation from each driver.

However an ACT government spokeswoman confirmed the service would be axed when the new bus network begins operating next year.

"The ACT government is not planning to continue operating Route 101 as part of the proposed new bus network. This decision was made based on light rail plans and other network changes," she said.

Canberra's free loop bus. The service will be axed as part of the new transport network. 

Canberra's free loop bus. The service will be axed as part of the new transport network. 

Photo: Supplied

"Light rail will provide a similar option for commuters travelling between Braddon and the City. City Loop resources will be better utilised across other areas of the network, such as new routes in our growing suburbs."

The new integrated transport network will go live in January, following the completion of stage one of light rail in December.

There will be 10 rapid routes, including Gungahlin to Civic light rail, with services at least every 15 minutes along rapid transport corridors from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday.

There'll also be more evening and weekend services, and Sunday and public holiday service times will be extended to 10pm.

Transport Canberra deputy director general Duncan Edghill said the new network, including the extra rapid bus route, would be delivered within the directorate's existing budget.

That means some services, like the Xpressos and the city loop, have been dumped as a result.

The ACT government spent $901,000 on the City Loop service in 2016-17, $529,000 in 2017-18 and $84,000 to promote the service.

The service requires four full-time and two part-time drivers to operate.

Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Robyn Hendry said the low passenger numbers showed the service was not hitting the mark

"Either visitors are not aware of the city loop and are not creating enough demand or alternatively it's not meeting their needs," Ms Hendry said.

"At this point it doesn't appear to be meeting the needs of the visitor economy for either of those two reasons."

She said the bigger issue was light rail, and whether the second stage would travel through Barton.

"That would mean visitors staying in the city and anywhere up Northbourne Avenue could access all the cultural institutions located in the Parliamentary Triangle," Ms Hendry said.

"It would be a such opportunity lost if we didn't connect the cultural institutions to the accommodation providers."

Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum chairman David Marshall said his group had spoken to the directorate about running a service like the Centenary Loop, which ran between the institutions in 2013.

"Transport Canberra have already got 300 services going through the Parliamentary Triangle on a daily basis, the area is well served by ACTION," Mr Marshall said

"Our thought was the Centenary bus that ran in 2013 was extremely successful with visitors. That service went around the Parliamentary Triangle on the half hour and it was extremely popular, tens of thousands of people used it."