SHOPPERS heading to Warrnambool’s Gateway Plaza by bus would no longer be dropped off near the shopping centre doors under proposed route changes scheduled for early next year.
Instead the new drop-off sites would have no shelter and be half a kilometre away beside busy Gateway Road traffic.
Concerned residents have circulated a protest petition and sought help from Premier Denis Napthine and city councillors to find a better deal under the major city-wide transport review.
There are predictions some elderly and disabled clients who regularly frequent the plaza will go elsewhere for their shopping rather than suffer the inconvenience of negotiating a busy road, walking about 300 metres to the plaza boundary and through the car park to reach shops.
The plaza controversy follows previous protests by schools and parents about proposals which would force young children to change buses at the busy Koroit Street depot.
“It’s outrageous — for regular users this will put them off going to the plaza for shopping,” Cr Jacinta Ermacora told The Standard after airing her concerns during Monday night’s city council meeting.
“On one hand Warrnambool will get a good new commuter service into the CBD for workers, but we won’t get a service directly to Gateway Plaza.
“Residents are concerned there will be crowds of commuters in front of their homes, messed-up nature strips, abandoned trolleys and rubbish.”
Concerned commuters, schools and business operators aired their views at an east Warrnambool neighbourhood meeting with Cr Ermacora yesterday.
‘‘There were many concerns expressed about lack of consultation,’’ Cr Ermacora said.
‘‘It was decided to do another petition and hold a public meeting on November 22.’’
Dr Napthine’s South West Coast electorate office yesterday confirmed a protest petition had been received and a copy sent to Public Transport Victoria (PTV).
“We are working with all stakeholders to find a suitable solution,” a spokeswoman said.
“Ideally a site within the plaza precinct would be best.”
She said Dr Napthine had met residents, Warrnambool Bus Lines officials and the transport authority.
A PTV spokeswoman told The Standard yesterday the revised routes were yet to be finalised before the restructure was introduced early next year.
“We have taken all community submissions on board,” she said.
“In coming months we’ll have the network improvement information available for public release and are aiming to announce details six to eight weeks before introduction.”
Warrnambool Bus Lines spokesman Sam Lucas said the proposed Gateway Road stops were “clearly not the ideal locations for our customers who want to access the shopping centre”.
“Unfortunately, operational and location issues are forcing us to explore different stop locations,” he said.
“PTV, Gateway Plaza management and ourselves are still trying to find a way for buses to service the shopping centre.
“I’m calling on the government to change the plans so a proper accessible bus stop is located inside the plaza boundary which can be safely accessed by shoppers.”
Cr Ermacora said up to 300 children could be forced to swap buses at the Koroit Street interchange.
“This doesn’t please schools and retailers,” she said.
“Business operators would prefer the interchange to be moved — our council submission to the review also raises that suggestion.
“There will be $750,000 spent by the government on building compliant bus stops across the city, why not spend more on additional services?
“Warrnambool had a very efficient system except for the lack of commuter services before and after work,” she said.