JOHN Reilly is spending up to $50 a day on taxis because his town bus services have changed — that’s almost as much as he gets in travel allowance for a fortnight.
The 39-year-old Port Fairy disability pensioner found himself in a predicament when the Warrnambool and district bus network was given a major revamp late last month.
Instead of the 7.50am public bus which he had caught for the past 20 years to get into Warrnambool for his 8.30am work, there is now a 7.05am service, which means a long wait outside the front gate of his workplace.
Or he could take the 9.30am bus, which means being late for work. It was a prospect his retired mum and carer Kay Reilly didn’t like because of concerns about his welfare.
So they opted for taxis which cost $25 a single trip, although there is a chance the Port Fairy taxi may be able to do a group deal for about $10 each with several other Port Fairy disability residents who also find the bus service unsuitable.
“Either way you look at it, this is a lot more than $2 a day for the bus,” Mrs Reilly said.
“The way it’s going all his pension money will go on taxis.”
John’s return trip after 4pm when work finishes had been partly in taxis on days when he had social engagements and the rest in buses, but the new timetable is proving problematic.
He can either wait to catch the network bus home, leaving Warrnambool at 6pm, or find his way to the railway station to catch the 4.45pm V/Line bus which drops him in Port Fairy centre about two kilometres from home.
The ConnectU service, which uses spare pool cars to transport people with special needs, has received several requests for assistance like the Reilly’s case in recent weeks.
ConnectU operations manager Brenda Hampson said her ability to help was limited because of a shortage of vehicles. Another disability pensioner, Gloria Redmond of Warrnambool, has also opted for taxis after her regular bus stops on McGregors Road were discontinued.
“The nearest stop now is about a kilometre away and I’m unable to walk that distance,” she said.
“Whoever made all these changes didn’t have the right criteria. Public Transport Victoria has said there would be a review in 12 months, but people can’t wait that long for changes to be made.”
Meanwhile, residents of the Gillin Park retirement village in east Warrnambool are signing a petition calling for a more suitable bus timetable to the venue.