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Union says driverless bus is a ludicrous investment

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The Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW says Newcastle’s driverless shuttle bus trial is ludicrous and out of touch with the community.

It believes millions of dollars have been spent on a project that does not create substantial jobs or contribute to the region’s high-capacity transport mix.

The union believes that community feedback has been lamenting savage cuts to Newcastle’s bus network for years, with route cuts, service cuts and stop closures meaning many are forced to catch three different buses to get by every day.

“This is quite simply an idiot project to pursue with a looming recession,” President of the Tram and Bus Division, Daniel Jaggers, said.

“We need substantial investment that will both create jobs and contribute to Newcastle’s public services and economy.

“For years, the Newcastle community has expressed deep anger and hopelessness about the hatchet job that [operator] Keolis Downer has made of their bus network.

“There are dozens of buses currently idling in the depot because Keolis Downer won’t pay to put them on the road.

“But I’m sure the residents on Newcastle’s outskirts who are now forced to take three buses to get to work every day will be comforted by the fact they can now take a leisure ride in a shuttle going less than 20 kilometres an hour.”

The union is also concerned that the shuttles are being marketed as safe.

“It’s absurd to suggest these buses are safe,” Mr Jaggers said.

“Drivers balance speed with safety. Current technology can’t do that, as evidenced by these snail-paced trials.

“Now, more than ever, is the time for governments to listen to the community about what they need.

“Only substantial, strategic public investment can see us to the other side of the economic crisis of Covid-19.

“These tiny, shiny, expensive toys, which are so small they’d be lucky to fit 11 people, don’t make the cut.”

The driverless shuttle, which launched on Monday morning, is set to mix with traffic along Wharf Road as part of a three-month trial.

Shuttle operator Keolis Downer’s encourages residents to take part in the trial by boarding the bus and completing a survey.

The free shuttle will run between the Watt Street and Nobbys Beach roundabouts on weekdays between 10am and 2pm.

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