Waiting over an hour for a taxi? The solution to Warragul’s transport problems might be right on our doorstep.
Slow going: There is need and support for the idea of a late-night bus in Baw Baw, but is it practical? Image: Author.
“TRYING to get a taxi home on a Saturday night is always difficult.”
It’s an issue faced by many of Baw Baw’s youth: getting home safely and quickly after a night out in Warragul.
Related: Warragul has ‘very poor’ bus service
Warragul woman Debbie Bates is just one person who has been caught out by a lack of public transport and high demand for local taxis.
“Recently I left the Commercial Hotel at close on a Saturday night with a girlfriend and we called a taxi,” Ms Bates said.
“It was at least an hour wait before a taxi finally came.”
Many other youth have mentioned similar wait times to The Warragul Citizen.
Public transport does not run late in Warragul. The only exception is one Traralgon-bound train leaving at around 1am on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
This missing link means youth must arrange lifts or wait for a taxi to become available.
But a solution to the problem could be right on Baw Baw’s doorstep. A group of concerned residents, police, Morwell MP Russell Northe and Latrobe City councillors started meeting after seeing the same transport issues in Traralgon.
Their meetings saw the rise of the Valley’s Night Rider bus service: a state-funded service which collects revellers in Traralgon early on Sunday mornings and transports them between Morwell, Churchill and Moe.
The service, re-introduced in June after a successful trial, seems to be working: Latrobe Valley Bus Lines Business Manager Anna Tyben said the bus is popular and no unruly behaviour has occurred.
“[The service, which runs three times per night] takes on average 45 people – that’s high patronage and we’re really pleased with that,” Ms Tyben said.
“The driver and two security attend on every service and we haven’t had any issues to date.
“It’s matter of getting people out of Traralgon safely – they’re not dwelling around the streets which ultimately reduces the risk for themselves and other people in town.”
Ms Tyben noted the role of MP Russell Northe, who made an election commitment to see the bus implemented. Cont.
Mr Northe’s local counterpart Gary Blackwood did not return requests for an interview.
Latrobe City council was instrumental in the introduction of Traralgon’s service, however new Baw Baw Shire Council Mayor Murray Cook said pushing for a similar service in Baw Baw was a low priority in the short term.
“The community have clearly stated that one of the main priorities they’ve put out is roads and drains,” Cr Cook said.
“That doesn’t mean we are not interested and we can’t facilitate something happening.
“It would be good [to] refer that sort of thing to the Youth Council and let them do some research.”
The cost of the Latrobe Valley’s service is a little more than a regular service.
The issue of drunken behaviour by people on Warragul’s streets led to the establishment of the Clean up Queen Street campaign by Warragul business owners earlier this year.
The group said antisocial behaviour, which has led to urine, faeces and vomit being left for Queen Street business owners to clean up, is getting worse and has pushed for improvements to late-night transport.
But Warragul Police Senior Sergeant John Brookes OAM said a Night Rider-type service would not work in Baw Baw.
“My personal view is that a night rider bus could not cope with the many and varied locations it would be required to transport people to,” Sgt Brookes said.
Mr Brookes said there is a risk involved in people loitering while waiting for transport.
“The adults leaving Licensed venues face the obvious risks of antisocial behaviour that occurs around these places and the places that attract their patronage afterwards, such as petrol stations and food venues,” he said.
Mr Brookes noted taxis are in short supply at other times of the day.
Mother Rhonda Despetovich said a late night bus service would help protect young adults.
“I drive down to collect my boys so trouble does not find them or my worse fears they could do wrong them selves,” Ms Despetovich said.
“Youth are youth and all can do wrong no matter how you raise them.”
Several club owners told The Warragul Citizen they have seen hour-long waits for taxis from their venues.
The Warragul Downtowner is combating this through a courtesy bus for patrons which is used by up to 60 patrons on busy nights.
“It (a bus to Drouin or Trafalgar) would help to take pressure off the taxis,” General Manager Jenny Smith said.
West Gippsland Taxis declined to be interviewed for this story.
First published in The Warragul Citizen Issue 8: OUT TODAY!
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