Free Gong Shuttle to become a paid service next year - Illawarra Greens

Free Gong Shuttle to become a paid service next year

Users of the free Gong Shuttle have reacted angrily to news they’ll soon have to pay for the service. Comments from Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi and Councillor Cath Blakey said it was a "stab in the back for the local community".

Read the article by in The Illawarra Mercury, 1 November 2017

Free Gong Shuttle to become a paid service next year          

Fairy Meadow man Michael O’Connor, 68, says many people - particularly the elderly - will be disadvantaged by a move to charge users of the free Gong Shuttle. Picture: Georgia Matts
Fairy Meadow man Michael O’Connor, 68, says many people - particularly the elderly - will be disadvantaged by a move to charge users of the free Gong Shuttle. Picture: Georgia Matts

Users of the free Gong Shuttle have reacted angrily to news they’ll soon have to pay for the service. 

The Mercury delivered the news to commuters at one of the city’s bus stops on Wednesday afternoon, with the majority up in arms over the shock announcement. 

“It’s bulls--t,” one woman said, after questioning whether Transport for NSW was serious about introducing standard Opal charges from January 29 next year.

Michael O’Connor, who catches the free bus from his Fairy Meadow home to the CBD twice a week, said a lot of people would be disadvantaged by the decision.

“It’s very sad for the people that use it, a lot of older people use it,” Mr O’Connor, 68, said. “It’s a shame that they’re going to stop it and charge people for it.

“It’s an outing for people, too, to come in here [the CBD]. If you’ve got to pay for it, people … won’t use it.”

Students and those on lower incomes will be among the hardest hit by the changes.

“I use it three or four times a week, at least, it [charging for the service] is a joke. I don’t know what I’m going to do about it,” a University of Wollongong student, who didn’t want to be named, said.

Donna Doniger, a pensioner and single mother-of-two, worried about how she would get around. Ms Doniger uses the free bus everyday because she has osteoporosis and can’t walk far.

Under standard Opal fares, adult Gong Shuttle passengers would have to pay between $2.15 and $4.61.

Even a few dollars was too much, Ms Doniger said.

“A couple of dollars is everything to me, that could go towards the bread,” she said.

“I pay $620 rent a week and I only get about $1000 a fortnight. I borrow money off my parents, so every little cent counts.”

People board the free Gong Shuttle at a Crown Street bus stop on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: Georgia Matts

People board the free Gong Shuttle at a Crown Street bus stop on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: Georgia Matts