The decision to charge fares on the Gong Shuttle has “thrown the Premier under a bus”, said University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings.
The vice-chancellor pointed to a 2013 Mercury story in which the-then Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian stated “we want to make sure people use services where they're provided and obviously, the Wollongong shuttle has good patronage”.
“Ironically, Transport for NSW used high patronage to justify withdrawing the free service, betraying the Premier’s promise of just five years ago,” Prof Wellings said.
“This announcement is an assault on the integrity of the Premier. Transport for NSW has thrown the Premier under a bus.”
He called on Ms Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance to reverse the actions by “transport bureaucrats” and honour her 2013 commitment.
Prof Wellings was also unhappy the university had not been consulted on this decision, given it worked closely with Transport for NSW in limiting the impact staff and students have on traffic and transport services.
“We’ve worked in partnership with Transport for NSW over many years, investing heavily to provide free shuttle bus services to supplement NSW government-funded transport services, as well as sharing bus terminal infrastructure costs,” Prof Wellings said.
“As a longstanding partner, I would have expected to be consulted by Transport for NSW. Instead, the bureaucrats kept the university in the dark about this decision.”
The decision to charge Gong Shuttle passengers could have ramifications for university's own free shuttles.
This could mean something as drastic as stopping members of the public from boarding.
“To ensure the smooth running of UOW bus services, drivers haven’t been required to inspect student or staff identification cards,” Prof Wellings said.
“Members of the local community have been welcomed onto our buses.
“The demise of the free Gong Shuttle will drive more passengers onto our free shuttles, forcing the university to either invest even more heavily in these services, restrict access to them, or leave students worse off paying for transport services they used to enjoy for free or experiencing a less satisfactory service.”