'Insulting': bus route changes hit elderly, defence personnel
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'Insulting': bus route changes hit elderly, defence personnel

Crace residents protested against the ACT government's proposed 2019 changes to Canberra's bus routes on Wednesday.

About 40 protesters gathered at the route 54 bus stop near the Crace shops, temporarily stopping a Belconnen-bound bus.

Residents of Goodwin Retirement Village and supportive neighbours in Crace hold a silent demonstration to protest the government’s proposed changes to their bus route. They briefly stepped out in front of the 11.22am bus.

Residents of Goodwin Retirement Village and supportive neighbours in Crace hold a silent demonstration to protest the government’s proposed changes to their bus route. They briefly stepped out in front of the 11.22am bus.Credit:Karleen Minney

The protests mark a tide of growing anger against the government's flagged changes, following on from cancellation of dedicated bus services for Canberra schools.

In Braddon, older locals are concerned the routes will confine them to the inner-north. Another proposed change would force defence personnel in Campbell Park to walk a kilometre on the side of an unlit road to catch a new bus from Fairbairn Avenue.

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The Crace protesters, mainly elderly residents of the nearby Goodwin Retirement Village, currently catch the 54 bus directly to Belconnen.

But the government's proposed changes would mean the 54 stop at the shops would be axed, forcing travellers to walk nearly one kilometre to Gundaroo Drive to catch a bus into Gungahlin before catching a second to Belconnen.

Crace residents committee secretary Sue Brudenall said most of the village residents travelled to Belconnen for their doctors and medical appointments, shopping or just to see the movies.

"There's a lot more at Belconnen than at Gungahlin at the moment," Ms Brudenall said.

Ms Brudenall said there was no shelter on the way to the new stop at Gundaroo Drive.

"That's too much for a lot of people who are in their 70s because it's about a kilometre walk, plus they're doing all the roadworks," Ms Brudenall said.

Ms Brudenall said the bus was also used by University of Canberra students.

A small group of the residents will be back at the Crace chops on Saturday to collect signatures for a petition they plan to hand to ACT Opposition Leader Liberal MLA Alistair Coe.

A transport directorate spokesman told The Canberra Times on Thursday confirmed the government had received a submission from the village.

It admitted alternative stops for Crace residents were a further walk but said the government's "flexibus", a free community shuttle for older Canberrans and those with mobility issues, could take them to the stops.

In Braddon, Jennifer Bluhm - a resident of retirement village Girrahween Lodge - said potential changes to the route seven bus expected in 2019 were insulting.

Lodge residents are able to catch the route seven bus right outside their door on Girrahween Street, but changes would force them to either walk three blocks south to Cooyong Road for a route 52 bus or six blocks west to Northbourne Avenue for the then-completed tram.

Ms Bluhm said one of the lodge residents was an 82-year-old woman with a walker.

"She's not going to walk to Northbourne Avenue in any event, she said 'I may as well walk to Civic'," Ms Bluhm said.

While the route seven bus takes the lodge residents straight to Belconnen, the 52 bus travels to Dickson shops where they would take a second bus to Belconnen.

"Who ever heard of two buses connecting?" Ms Bluhm asked.

Ms Bluhm said her gym and her doctor were based in Belconnen, and she normally travelled to her doctor on weekends, when the 52 bus doesn't operate.

The government has suggested inner-north residents use the "flexibus".

But this free service only takes them to Civic, Dickson or Ainslie.

"How would you feel if someone says you can only go to Civic?" Ms Bluhm said.

Ms Bluhm said while she might be able to accept it, she doubted ACT government ministers would. Transport staff had told Ms Bluhm the changes may be reviewed but it's possible they would stay as flagged.

"I put it in the insulting category. I think it's very poorly considered and just a mess," Ms Bluhm said.

Ms Bluhm said perhaps she had been naive but this was never raised when the government began constructing the tram.

"It was never said that the whole bus network would be upset to accommodate the tram," she said.

Ms Bluhm said no one had considered the social cost of these changes either, confining people to suburbs, forcing medical personnel to travel to them and friends who no longer drove to be separated.

The Braddon locals are meeting on Friday at St Columba's Church from 1pm where they expect local opposition MLAs and transport heads to attend.

A transport directorate spokesman said the government would meet with Braddon residents but said they also had alternatives of the flexibus or a subsidised taxi scheme.

Elsewhere, a bus stop outside the defence offices in Campbell Park, opposite Duntroon, would be cut under the route changes.

Staff would be then forced to walk down Northcott Drive, an unlit road with no footpath, to catch a bus off Fairbairn Avenue.

A Transport directorate spokesman said they would meet with Campbell Park staff to discuss the changes but said the route seven bus only is only used modestly during peak hour on weekdays.