Sunday, November 06, 2016

Greyhound buses, the decline of inland New England and a challenge to Adam Marshall

The decision by Greyhound Australia to close its New England Highway bus route marked another stage in the relative decline of inland New England. It means that there is no longer an inland bus route between Sydney and Brisbane.

In a statement, the company said without the numbers the service, which runs through Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Guyra, Armidale, Uralla, Tamworth and down through the Hunter, could no longer continue.

“Despite trying multiple initiatives, in order to improve passenger volumes so we can continue to service the local communities on this route, they have proven to be unsuccessful,” National Sales Manager Dan Smith said.

“Our load volumes have been consistently under our breakeven point, which is the definitive reason for the suspension.

“So with this in mind, Greyhound Australia can no longer financially justify operating the daily inland service between Brisbane and Sydney via the New England Highway.”

I can understand the company's position. It also improves the viability of Glen Innes based New England Coaches three days a week Tamworth Brisbane service. That's not a bad thing, although its not a substitute.

Interesting on-going discussion on a Whirlpool forum about the relative speed of travelling between Sydney and Brisbane via the two routes. The Pacific route is shorter and with road improvements is now faster, if with some terrifying spots. So if it's a straight time choice, people tend to choose the Pacific. Mind you, the Thunderbolts Way route with its Pacific/New England combination is faster still, but we don't want to mention that too widely. It wouldn't be if everybody took it!

But what's really difficult is that choice has been withdrawn, that people no longer have the choice to wend their way along the New England by bus, stopping and going on. Its another blow to the tourist industry. Over the years there have been attempts to promote the the New England Highway route, but they suffer from the standard problems of Sydney governance that bedevils so much New England tourist promotion - too little, too late, too unfocused, too irregular.

A few weeks back, I persuaded a colleague to come back from Brisbane via the New England, over-nighting in Armidale. She and the children enjoyed the trip and loved Armidale. It was everything I had said. Obviously I liked that.

Responding to the Greyhound decision, Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the service loss would be felt by his electorate.

“It’s always disappointing to see the loss of services to regional NSW,” he told The Leader. “The coach service has had dwindling numbers as more people choose to drive, or fly or catch the train.

“I have no doubt constituents in my electorate will feel the effects of this.”.....Mr Marshall said he understood it was a business decision but said it was unlikely such a service would return.

“Once we lose services in regional NSW it’s very hard to get them back,” he said

That's not good enough, Adam. I know that you work hard and have achieved individual results, but you have not defined anything approaching a coherent strategy to address continuing structural decline in inland New England.

You don't have to accept my solution, self government, but you do need to offer more than a series of town by town small initiatives that at the end of the day get swamped in broader changes. What is the framework, the vision, you offer that will energise and provide a base for action? Its not going to be perfect, but we so need that base. So how about it, Adam? What have you to offer?  

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