By Kirra Grimes
V/LINE bus passengers are happy to hear that bus stops across the region will soon be upgraded under the State Government’s $22.5 million Road and Rail Minor Works Program, but they say more could be done to improve safety and comfort for bus travellers.
Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing recently announced that the bus interchanges at Koo Wee Rup and Leongatha will be upgraded and that more bus shelters will be installed in Anderson, Wonthaggi and the Latrobe Valley.
Ms Shing said the upgrades, due to be completed by late 2018, will include improvements to seating and line marking at the Koo Wee Rup and Leongatha bus interchanges, as well as the installation of a new self-cleaning toilet at the Leongatha interchange.
Bus travellers waiting at the Leongatha Interchange last Thursday welcomed the proposed upgrades but suggested the government could do more to make bus journeys smoother and safer.
Colleen, a resident of Korumburra, said the Leongatha Interchange “definitely” needs an upgrade, suggesting the bus shelter needed to be more “closed in”.
“The roof leaks, so you can’t sit under the shelter when it rains. Often you can’t even sit on the seats because they’re all wet. [The shelter] hardly protects you from the rain at all, it just blows in,” she said.
Colleen was happy with the idea of a new self-cleaning toilet, saying the toilets at the Leongatha Interchange are “always” locked, meaning bus travellers either have to “hold on” or “go up the main street”.
Colleen said Korumburra’s bus shelters are even worse than Leongatha’s, letting even more rain in and with very limited space and seating.
Sybil Leris, a resident of Loch and a frequent user of V/Line services, agreed with Colleen, saying the upgrades “need to happen”.
As well as redesigning the bus shelter to take the weather into consideration, Sybil said cleaning and maintenance at the Leongatha Interchange need to be improved, as the seats are often dirty and broken.
“Don’t just build something and leave it,” she said.
Sybil described Wonthaggi’s Biggs Drive bus stop as “a shocker”.
“It’s completely open to the elements and it’s on a really busy street. It’s not safe and it’s not user-friendly,” she said.
She said Korumburra’s bus stop at the Caltex service station on Commercial Street is also unsafe and should be relocated, to avoid the safety risks posed by cars “rapidly” exiting the service station car park.
Lachlan Lysk, a Foster resident, agreed the Leongatha bus shelter needs improvements but said in its current state, it’s already “better than Foster”, which he says has no shelter at all.
One Leongatha resident who was not at all impressed by the promised upgrades was public transport advocate Max Semken.
Max questioned why the Leongatha Interchange was getting a new toilet but Wonthaggi was not, saying that “what the government is going to spend in this region is virtually nothing” and that South Gippsland and Bass Coast Shire residents are being “treated been in a manner that is less than rubbish”.
“It’s time they got off their ***** and did something in this region,” Max said, calling for more bus services, major upgrades to the Leongatha and Korumburra railway stations to turn both into bus stations, as well as the return of rail services from Melbourne to Leongatha and Inverloch.
“The government wastes more money every four years than what it would cost to return rail to Foster and Inverloch,” Max said.
He said the Leongatha and Koo Wee Rup bus interchanges haven’t been upgraded for 10 to 12 years and that the current bus shelters are “useless”.
“They’re designed for somewhere else, not for South Gippsland,” he said.