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Knoll faces Liberal party-room revolt on bus cuts

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UPDATED | The Liberal party-room is approaching civil war over Transport Minister Stephan Knoll’s plan to scrap hundreds of bus stops and overhaul many routes – as it emerged the vast majority of weekend after-midnight services are set to be axed.

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The city’s network of ‘after-midnight’ services – designed to get city-goers home safely between 12am and 5am on weekends – will be substantially cut back, according to the Government’s consultation website.

It comes as ostracised former Liberal Sam Duluk – who suspended his party membership earlier this year as he faces a basic assault charge – spoke out publicly against the changes, warning they would adversely affect young and elderly commuters in his southern-suburbs seat of Waite.

Duluk, who posted a Facebook update “acknowledging and sharing the concerns of many in our community around the proposed changes”, told InDaily there were three specific bus services affected in his Waite electorate.

“I think there’s a concern once again that we’re creating a system where people need to be relying on mobile phone technology, especially the on-demand services,” he said.

“As always, good government reform comes from proper consultation, and I look forward to talking to the minister about how the changes impact on students and elderly alike.”

He added that if bus services were to be cut, “they need to ensure in my community there are additional train services to cover any loss of bus transport”.

Duluk’s comments follow fellow Right-winger Steve Murray telling his constituents in a leaflet that he was “vigorously pursuing additional facts from the Transport Minister” about the proposed changes – which he noted Liberal MPs learned about on the weekend “like everyone else”.

While Murray said he would reserve judgement, he told voters that “as a local, if I have to, I am quite happy to have a fight on your behalf with anyone on any issue, including public transport”.

It’s understood at least four MPs spoke out firmly against the cuts at a party-room meeting this week, citing social and political impact in their area.

These included Murray as well as three moderate-aligned marginal seat MPs – Paula Luethen in King, Carolyn Power in Elder and Matt Cowdrey in Colton.

None of the MPs responded to inquiries today, except Power who told InDaily: “What is discussed in the party room is confidential.”

Luethen later told parliament she was “strongly encouraging my community members to go to the Adelaide Metro website and explore if the proposed new zones, routes, times and changes will be beneficial to people currently using public transport, and… whether this might encourage more people in King to use public transport”.

“You have the ability to have your say, which is absolutely critical to this consultation process and critical to me to understand your feedback,” she said.

One insider though said there was exasperation in the party that Knoll planned to cut “hundreds of bus services in the most marginal seats” – putting the Government’s chances of re-election in peril.

“Stephan Knoll is the best-value Labor MP going around at the moment,” the source said.

“There’s some really angry people who just don’t understand it… the politics of it is dumb.”

The Government has been pointing critics to its consultation website for details of the changes.

The highly complex site shows that the current network of 14 late-night city routes will be rationalised.

The remaining four late night routes will travel to Tea Tree Plaza via the O-Bahn, Elizabeth via Mawson interchange and Salisbury, Seaford Centre via  South Road, the Southern Expressway, Old Reynella Interchange and Noarlunga Centre, and Mount Barker via Aldgate.

The western suburbs won’t be served by any after midnight weekend services under the current proposal with its single route to West Lakes given the chop.

The scrapped after midnight services include the N30, N178, N10, N21, N202, N254 and N262. The three routes serving the north-east would be covered by one.

The Government released a table to InDaily which it said showed the scrapped routes averaged between one and 14 patrons per service.

The Government has not published timetables, so it’s not clear if the rationalised late night services will run on a similar frequency to the current routes. The after-midnight services were suspended in early April due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Cuts such as this aren’t readily apparent, without detailed analysis of the current proposals and the existing timetables.

InDaily has asked Knoll’s office for a response.

Responding in parliament today to questions about the backbenchers’ critiques, Knoll said “in terms of re-election, we will put up our record on jobs, cost of living relief and providing better services to South Australians any day of the week”.

The Government’s consultation website has come under fire for not detailing the full list of 500 bus stops that will no longer be serviced.

To find out if your local bus stop will no longer be serviced, you must go to the website, find your current service, ascertain if there’s a replacement service or adjusted route, and click on the route map.

The Government says every bus stop on the routes mapped will be serviced.

While the focus of the Government’s changes are on increasing frequency of services in the inner and middle-rung suburban areas, there will also be changes in outer suburban areas.

Some services will be lopped or rationalised.

In the Hills, the loop buses in the growing town of Mt Barker will be scrapped altogether.

The town has on-demand buses, as part of a State Government trial. InDaily has asked whether the Government is committed to the long-term continuation of the service.

In the outer south, bus services from McLaren Flat to McLaren Vale will be cut, and others adjusted or shortened.

In the outer north, route changes include expressly removing an aged care village in Parafield Gardens from the 404 service.

In the CBD, the city connector route 99 service – one of the two free bus services that loops around key points in the CBD – will be scrapped and replaced with a single city route, running from North Adelaide, through the east end, Central Market district and Victoria Square. However, that service is co-funded by the Adelaide city council, with InDaily previously reporting that the council and the government negotiating changes to the route.

In the west, three loop services connecting surrounding suburbs with the West Lakes Centre Interchange will be cut.

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