Having recently moved from Melbourne to Bass Coast (and having spent some time on the iconic Phillip Island including being affected by long traffic jams getting to and from the island), I would like to put forward some observations to your readers regarding public transport to and around the Island and Bass Coast.
To put things in context, the attractions on Phillip Island are mostly grouped together and are easily accessible by road.
Furthermore, the nearby towns of Inverloch, Wonthaggi and San Remo, the waterline settlements and other towns such as Kilcunda are relatively close to one another with a considerable amount of inter-town traffic between them.
Phillip Island is served well by a good two lane highway from Melbourne with the exception of the bottleneck at San Remo and the single lane road to Cowes.
In terms of vehicles, South Coast Bus and Cleeland’s have an excellent and modern fleet of low floor buses and coaches which would be an attractive proposition to the intending passenger.
Finally there is the inter-island ferry which currently in my opinion has a completely inadequate timetable for the potential patronage on offer and cannot operate in all conditions.
The scenario outlined above can pave the way for a complete rethink on developing a viable public transport network not only for tourists, but local commuters and students.
The Island Explorer initiative operated in collaboration with South Coast Bus, Bass Coast Shire, Destination Phillip Island Regional Tourism Board and other key stakeholders is to be commended as a first step to get people out of their cars and onto a bus to access the sights and attractions of the Island.
However, I would like to propose that the current timetable should be boosted to offer at best an hourly service on a memory timetable including additional trips during weekend peaks.
As has been demonstrated in Melbourne with the SmartBus service and increases in off-peak rail frequencies, more people will travel on public transport if they don’t have to wait more than 10 or so minutes for a journey that might take 20 minutes.
As I mentioned earlier, the coastal towns in Bass Coast are quite close together and there appears to be a considerable amount of inter-town traffic between them.
An hourly bus (with extras during peak times) service running from Inverloch to Cowes via Wonthaggi, Kilcunda and so on with connections to a waterline bus servicing Corinella and the communities would I believe see a marked reduction of cars off the roads.
This Bass Coast ‘Inter-town link’ for want of a better word could connect with the Island Explorer at San Remo or Newhaven.
Finally, a better coordinated V/Line express coach service from Melbourne (with all services terminating at Southern Cross rather than Dandenong) would be welcomed.
Then there is the issue of the ferry service to French Island and Stony Point.
I have often mused to myself ‘so near but so far’ when standing on the jetty at Cowes.
The current timetable is completely inadequate for half day trips to and from the island or the mainland.
Ideally, the ferry should at best connect with every Stony Point train from Frankston and be able to operate in all weather conditions.
The ferry should be able to carry bikes (as should the buses with external bike racks fitted) with ease to encourage more cyclists to visit the Island.
In summary, an effective public transport network with high frequency services connecting with services to Melbourne and elsewhere should, I feel, address some of the issues relating to traffic particularly during peak times.
I have spoken to some people who simply will not visit the island during summer due to the traffic jams.
Yes, an expansion of the bridge at San Remo is probably a good idea but let’s also consider what benefits can be obtained with a great public transport network that Bass Coast and the Island can be proud of.
Steven Grant Haby, Wonthaggi.