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B-Line blues

Think Local

Angst over the impending arrival of the new B-Line bus service continues in Pittwater, where Mona Vale residents are angry about many aspects of the multimillion-dollar project.

The state government has promised a fleet of 38 double decker buses running every five minutes in peak times between the CBD and Mona Vale, and 10 minutes at other times, beginning this year.

The $500 million project includes new bus stops at the route's nine key stops at Mona Vale, Warriewood, Neutral Bay, Spit Junction, Manly Vale, Brookvale, Dee Why, Narrabeen, and Collaroy, and six commuter car parks.

But the project has been met with resistance in Mona Vale, with a campaign waged by Friends of Mona Vale, which has staged a series of community rallies. Concerns have been aired over the relocation of a bus stop, along with fears the bus service may be privatised or could pave the way for extensive development of the suburb.

The rallies have attracted turnouts of up to 200 peninsula locals, and attendees have included former Labor NSW premier Barrie Unsworth and the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop.

Friends of Mona Vale interim chair Mark Edwards says his group is concerned about how the project is being implemented - particularly a plan to relocate the central northbound bus stop from the corner of Pittwater Road and Waratah Street to beside Village Park on Barrenjoey Road.

Pittwater MP Rob Stokes says the move would resolve long-standing safety issues at the intersection and has been “independently assessed to be a safer location".

But Mr Edwards rejects this, arguing the same left-turn conflict would occur at the corner of Barrenjoey Road and Park Street.

The group says Village Park is a poor choice for a central bus stop because there is no shelter and commuters will need to walk through the park at night, which raises safety issues.

Group member Phil Walker says he is worried about the impact on existing bus services, which already serve the peninsula well.

He claims the group has been asking the government for two years to explain how the new buses will integrate with current services, but is yet to receive the answer.

"They don't know how it's going to work,” he simply states.

Meanwhile, former NSW premier and Pittwater local Barrie Unsworth claims the B-Line is a "Trojan horse" designed to bring higher density development in.

"Those of you that were involved in the Mona Vale Place Plan will know what they have in mind for Mona Vale," he told a rally in March.

"Well, we don't want Kings Cross in Mona Vale, that's for sure," Mr Unsworth adds.

Now, there are rumours the government wants to privatise the B-Line service, following Mackellar MP Jason Falinski writing to NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian suggesting the government put the operation of the B-Line out to tender.

Mr Falinski told Peninsula Living the State Transit Authority (STA) has the option to bid for the tender, plus points to a 2015 report by the auditor general that finds the STA's performance in punctuality and other indicators is "generally below that of private operators".

At a rally hosted by Friends of Mona Vale in April, Labor transport spokesperson Jodi McKay slammed the Idea.

"We categorically oppose the privatisation of the B-Line," she said.

“I think the federal member who has suggested this, Jason Falinsky, is completely out of line in weighing in a state issue."

Mr Falinski responded to the comment by accusing Labor of "wanting to cancel the only public transport project this area has got in the last 50 years".

In April. Transport for NSW said, "a decision about the operator for the B-Line services will be made in due course."

Pittwater MP Rob Stokes says he's not aware of privatisation plans but adds,"I see no reason why it can't be operated by the public sector or by the private sector”.

In mid-May, Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced the B-Line would be contracted to the STA.

"My focus is on getting better bus services and more efficient bus services," he adds.

Mr Stokes has also dismissed the Trojan horse claims.

“It’s nonsense frankly - the state government has taken no action to change the zonings in central Mona Vale so there is no evidence to support the claim.

"My plea to the community on this is that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the bus service. I think we should embrace it."


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