Australian National University students are angry they have lost the bus service that runs through campus, in the ACT government's new bus network, which begins next year.
Student Nathalie Johnstone is worried about how she will get to medical appointments and even do her shopping. She lives on campus and is unable to drive or ride a bike due to a disability, so is completely dependent on public transport.
The first-year policy studies and law student said without the Number 3 bus route, grocery shopping and medical appointments would be very difficult to access.
“I’d have to change a lot of buses in order to get to medical appointments. It would add about an hour to that process,” she said.
The Number 3 bus route currently travels from Woden to Belconnen through the on-campus housing hub Daley Road on the Australian National University campus.
The government plans to scrap it, with no buses to traverse the campus under the controversial network, which has sparked outcry on a number of fronts, including the plan to cut a number of school bus services.
Belconnen resident and university PhD candidate Chris Cabuay does not live on the campus, but he, his wife and four-year-old daughter say they will be seriously disrupted by the scrapping of the route.
The family, who moved from the Philippines earlier this year, don’t have a car and rely on the number 3 bus to go to work and university and to drop and pick up their daughter at child care.
Mr Cabuay only heard about the proposed removal in October and found the advertising of the new routes and the consultation confusing.
“The way they advertised it was 'more buses, more frequently, more networks',” he said. “I don’t think it came across clearly that they were planning to scrap some networks.”
Ms Johnstone became aware of the proposed scrapping of the bus route in July, after seeing a post in a Facebook group for ANU students with disabilities.
The ANU Postgraduate and Research Student Association president Zyl Hovenga-Wauchope said it was "completely unacceptable" for the ACT government "to ignore significant community concerns and build further barriers to accessibility for already vulnerable students”.
He said women and LGBTIQA+ students, and students with disabilities as particular groups who would be vulnerable under the change.
Students had been given no specific reason for the bus change, he said.
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the government had consulted in 2017 with the ANU, including with the undergraduate student association. Ms Fitzharris made no mention of consulting the post-graduate students group.
The undergraduate group said it was disappointed at the decision, which would negatively impact many undergraduates.
“While we acknowledge that Transport Canberra did hold a briefing attended by some students during exam time at the end of last year, we believe that longer term, meaningful consultation was required in order to accurately ascertain how these changes will affect students,” a statement from the group said.
“The expansion of residential accommodation on Daley Road has meant an increased number of students will be affected by these changes.”
Asked why the route was being scrapped, Ms Fitzharris’s spokeswoman did not answer the question directly, but said the ANU provided a free shuttle bus for staff and students within the campus.
Transport Canberra would promote bus shares as an “alternative way to move around the campus, and the city, more easily”, she said.
A university spokeswoman said the university had made a submission to the ACT government in August raising concerns about the changes, especially in light of the increased numbers of students expected to live on campus.