Major changes have been announced to Northern Beaches public transport from December.

Two of the major announcements made today include the introduction of a 24/7 service for the B-Line, plus an express Dee Why to Chatswood service via Warringah Road that will run every 10 minutes.

Hub and spoke strategy

The changes indicate a continued strategy by Transport for NSW towards a hub and spoke public transport model, supplemented by on-demand services such as Keoride in the upper Northern Beaches.

Rob Stokes MP

Rob Stokes

Member for Pittwater Rob Stokes said the changes were being made in response to changing travel patterns, many of which had been evident before COVID-19 had impacted the way people use public transport.

While many people will benefit from the increased flexibility offered, the move to a hub and spoke model will see some people lose services that took them directly from their local area to the city or another destination.

One example of a service that will cease is the 189X (known by many as the E89) which runs from Clareville and Bilgola Plateau to the City. It will be replaced by increased frequency of the 191 ‘feeder’ service that will run every 10 minutes at peak times.

A spokesperson for Mr Stokes said that even allowing for the impact of COVID on demand, it was hard to justify almost empty buses running through back streets when they could be used to increase services on trunk routes.

Data from Opal cards showed on average, only 7 people per day are catching four buses from the start of the 189X route to the city.

The spokesperson claimed the increased frequency of feeder services would provide people with more flexibility when they leave for work and arrive home, which is increasingly important since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Changes announced

Key changes announced today include:

  • The B-Line will run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Late night services will be extended to the QVB.
  • The 199 service (Palm Beach to Manly) will run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week every 10 minutes during the day.
  • 10 minute frequencies during peak times for ‘feeder’ services. This includes the 191 service (Avalon-Clareville-Bilgola Plateau), 185 service (Warriewood-Narrabeen), and 182 service (Mona Vale-Elanora Heights-Narrabeen).
  • The 190X (Avalon Beach to City) will be a reconfigured service to replace the current 188X. It will run every 10 minutes during weekday peaks.
  • New 181X service operating between Narrabeen and the City every 10 minutes during the peaks.
  • New 160X high frequency rapid service (Dee Why to Chatswood) using Warringah Road every 10 minutes throughout the day.
  • Routes 154X, 183X, 185X, 188X and 189X will be removed or reconfigured.

“Almost 3 years since its successful launch — these changes will be a big birthday boost for the B-Line,” said Mr Stokes.

“These changes reflect the significant shifts we’re seeing in how people are using our public transport network. A lot has changed recently with new routes, new technology, new on-demand services and new travel habits. It’s important these factors are echoed in timetable updates.

“The sight of empty buses trundling along back streets obviously isn’t responsible or sustainable. We need to see more buses allocated to where they’re needed most, and more people given flexibility to travel at different times of the day.

“Even before COVID, Opal card data was showing a gradual shift in people commuting outside the usual peak periods, and the rising appeal of high-frequency, turn-up-and-go services. By providing improved connections to our local transport hubs, and rapid services throughout the day along our main transport corridor, we’re quickly moving towards a point where timetables are becoming unnecessary.”

East-West ‘B-Line’

Mayor Michael Regan

Michael Regan

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan expressed delight at the introduction of the express 160X service from Dee Why to Chatswood, saying a final piece of the puzzle had been delivered after many years of effort.

“Credit to the Greater Sydney Commission for prioritising this and to the state government for committing to deliver it,” said Mayor Regan.

“When I was first elected in 2008, one of my priorities was addressing traffic and transport issues in Warringah. I worked with the Mayors of then Pittwater and Manly Councils’ as well as Mosman Council to lobby the state government.

“Our first goal was to get the rapid bus line to the city which has proved to be a huge success – as we thought it would be.

“Then as an amalgamated council we shifted to the east-west link. This is truly a great day for the community of the Northern Beaches and in December I’ll be joyfully tapping on with my Opal card.”

On-demand here to stay

Mr Stokes reflected on the success of the on-demand Keoride service which operates in his electorate of Pittwater.

“The uptake of Keoride among commuters has certainly exceeded all expectations,” he said.

Keoride say that two-thirds of the passengers have been registered for more than a year, and three-quarters have recommended the service to a friend.

David Franks

David Franks

Keolis Downer CEO David Franks said their customer culture ‘Think Like a Passenger’ is a major part of the success of Keoride.

“Our drivers are part of the community, and go through extensive training to enable them to deliver an optimal passenger experience. They are committed, and go above and beyond to keep our customers happy,” said Mr Franks.

Keoride is carrying around 20k passengers per month on the Northern Beaches, and according to recent research the company conducted, 78 percent of trips are for connection with the B-Line and 57 percent of passengers would have driven their car if Keoride was not available.

Region 8 bus tender

Originally a trial, the on-demand service was recently announced to be permanent, and will be operated as part of the upcoming Region 8 tender for public transport services.

In response to queries from the Northern Beaches Advocate about whether the Region 8 tender would further impact or reduce services, the spokesperson for Mr Stokes said the government, not the operator, sets routes and timetables and today’s announcements reflected that.

Electric buses

Transport for NSW will be working with Northern Beaches Council on further shelter enhancements at local transport hubs to help support the changes and is looking at the introduction of low-pollution electric buses.

“We could also see exciting opportunities coming up to help reduce the carbon footprint of our bus fleet by introducing quieter, cleaner and more efficient electric buses on our feeder routes – and even solar charging infrastructure at the Mona Vale depot,” said Mr Stokes.

The changes are due to commence on 20 December. Specific information on impacted routes and changes are available at the Transport for NSW website.

Community concern

Some local residents have expressed concern about the planned changes. Cerian Griffiths-Brondum has created a ‘Save the 189X’ petition.

Image: Northern Beaches Advocate