Get ready to pay to ride the Gong Shuttle

From January next year, the Gong Shuttle will no longer be free.

The bus service has been popular with Illawarra residents since Labor Transport Minister David Campbell introduced it in 2009.

But the Berejiklian state government has decided to make people pay to ride the shuttle.

As of January 29 next year standard Opal fares will apply on the Gong Shuttle.

This will mean passengers will be forced to pay anywhere between $2.15 and $4.61 for an adult fare.

“The Wollongong Shuttle has attracted on average 3.3 million customers each year for the last five years,” a Transport for NSW spokesman said.

“However, this has also resulted in complaints of overcrowding while its cost to the taxpayers has continued to grow.”

The spokesman said some commuters are using the free Gong Shuttle instead of a closer paid route.

“Introducing a fare on the Wollongong Shuttle will encourage these customers to make use of the other services available to them, helping to spread the load across these services for the benefit of the entire network,” the spokesman said.

According to the spokesman the extra revenue made by charging for what was a free service “will be reinvested in the local network so we can make improvements when and where they are needed”.

Keira MP Ryan Park said this was a “kick in the guts”.

“Charging standard Opal fees is shameful,” Mr Park said.

“Locals will find this announcement appalling. This government really doesn’t understand public transport especially in our region.”

Wollongong City Councillor Jenelle Rimmer branded it a “bad decision”.

“This fee will see a decline in people using the service,” Cr Rimmer said.

“This means we will have parking congestion significantly increase at places like UOW.”

The Gong Shuttle hit the road for its first city circuit at 3pm on March 18, 2009, and was estimated at the time to cost $3.4 million a year to run.

It immediately proved popular with locals, with more than 5000 people were taking a ride each weekday.