Why Is No-One Riding this Regional Bus?

The Woodstock-to-Cowra bus has not yet had any passengers.
The Woodstock-to-Cowra bus has not yet had any passengers. (Image: Alison Rutledge)

Today was yet another bottomless bus-ride for the regional town of Woodstock’s hard-won bus service.

Transport NSW recently granted the initiative $12,000 for a bus service to get elderly passengers to town, but it has had no passengers, as reported last week by the ABC.

Despite further advertising from organisers and community groups, no-one rode the bus on it’s 4th fortnightly return trip between Woodstock and Cowra.

Pat Charnock, manager of Cowra Bus Service, spent years trying to get a bus service between the towns. He said he’d expected passengers after more than 75 people signed a petition.

“We were very excited when we saw the results of the petition,” he said.

“But unfortunately, the signatures haven’t come through to fruition with actual bottoms in seats.”

“There were some people who signed (that) felt it was a good thing for community and/or their ageing relatives in the village. I’m reasonably confident that a good percentage of the signatures were from people that we were actually targeting.”

Mr Charnock said many people in the town of 800 didn’t have access to transport for basic services, so he wasn’t sure why no-one was using the bus.

The “Woodstock Wanderer” might be cancelled within a year if it doesn’t get more than six passengers per fortnight, subject to review by Transport NSW.

Why aren’t there any passengers?

Alison Rutledge, Presidentof the Woodstock Progress Association, said people need to get to Cowra for food and services.

“You can’t even buy milk in Woodstock!” Ms Rutledge said.

“Well, you can if you go to the hotel and get some out of their fridge. There’s no milk, there’s no newspapers. There’s no bread. No doctor, no dentist. There is a visiting nurse who comes I think once a fortnight.”

Ms Rutledge said she thought she’d done enough to spread the word about the bus, short of knocking on doors. Flyers were put up at the local hotel and post office, as well as posts on local Facebook pages.

“I’ve shared it right across the Cowra pages that I’m personally a member of,” she said.  

“I did another post (early in the week) which was just for the village where I put pictures of the bus so they could see the bus. And then I wrote (the route). And I said if all else fails, if you need the bus to come to your door, ring Pat (of Cowra Bus Service) and he might be able to accommodate you.”

She said ideal bus passengers might not see the ads.

“The average age of Woodstock village is about 65. I know for a fact some of those people aren’t on social media. And then some of those people don’t go to the post office.”

Older passengers might need to plan ahead for the bus

Mrs Rutledge said residents might need to plan ahead for their day in Cowra.

“Perhaps somewhere we need to put a calendar and highlight the Thursday that it comes, so people could make appointments to match those Thursdays… Perhaps coordinate the dentist, the hairdresser and lunch with a friend.”

Woodstock residents on social media have suggested that a fortnightly bus route might not be regular enough. One Facebook user suggested promoting the school bus as an option.

“Although the initiative is very good, once a fortnight on a Thursday might not meet people’s needs at the time they need to go to town,” said one Facebook user.

“It may be a good idea to also promote the use of the school bus as an alternative.”

There are other options

The school bus runs daily from Woodstock to Cowra, leaving passengers in Cowra during school hours.

As for the Woodstock Wanderer, Mr Charnock said he was open to suggestions.

Everything we’ve set up is open to tweaking.”

The $9 return bus arrives at Woodstock Train Link at 9:40am, does a slow hail-and-ride loop of certain Woodstock streets, then drops passengers off at Cowra ALDI, medical centre, Woolworths, and main plaza before returning to Woodstock by 2pm.

The next service is Thursday, May 6.

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