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Bus service needs to communicate better with public, Ombudsman says

Better communication on bus cancellations is needed, says watchdog (File photograph)

The bus service needs to be better organised and develop clearer communication to signal cancellations to travellers, a watchdog has said.

Victoria Pearman, the Ombudsman, added that the service had been under pressure as economic problems had affected maintenance and the replacement schedule for buses.

She added: “The resulting bus cancellations have reduced the service available to the public and its effectiveness, particularly with the reliance bus users place on the system, as demonstrated during the Covid-19 public health emergency.”

The report said the Department of Public Transportation needed improved information systems for travellers, especially elderly ones, and less reliance on electronic communications to take account of the needs of the elderly.

Ms Pearman said that the department had to become more sensitive to the requirements of people who were not familiar with the internet.

She said: “Clear, effective and wide public communication is one of the underlying principles of this office and this report aims to bring about improved communications by the authority.”

Ms Pearman admitted: “Some improvements have been made already, including updates on cancellations that can be obtained using a designated telephone information system.

But she said: “In the modern communications age, there is an even greater need to utilise the full range of communication methods and platforms to reach the widest number of users and the public.”

Ms Pearman added: “I strongly recommend that the authority consider those who do not have access to, or proficiency with, technology and provide alternative means.

“These may also be the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society.

“They are often older. It is likely that there will be continued and greater use of technology for these purposes, but that fact alone does not mitigate or eliminate the authority’s obligation to ensure that information about bus cancellations and the bus service is provided to all its users.”

Ms Pearman said she had raised her concerns about the state of the service with the department.

She added that the Government had accepted her recommendations and she called for action to be taken.

Ms Pearman said: “I recommend that the department reconsider points raised on the use of broadcast media — radio — and the department provide information using all available communication methods and platforms, including radio.

“I recommend that the department review its disproportionate reliance on electronic communications systems and methods to ensure that the department uses all available means of communication to reach the widest number of bus users.”

Ms Pearman also highlighted a “lack of a full complement of mechanics” and the state of the bus fleet “due to retirement and maintenance programme not being accurately put into the system”.

She added that there had been “no maintenance manager in place” from 2012 until early 2018.

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Published February 22, 2022 at 11:45 am (Updated February 22, 2022 at 12:39 pm)

Bus service needs to communicate better with public, Ombudsman says

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