UOW funds could save Gong Shuttle

Shuttle saved?: The University of Wollongong will commit to paying $350,000 a year to keep the Gong Shuttle free - as long as Wollongong City Council does the same. Picture: Georgia Matts
Shuttle saved?: The University of Wollongong will commit to paying $350,000 a year to keep the Gong Shuttle free - as long as Wollongong City Council does the same. Picture: Georgia Matts

The University of Wollongong is prepared to pay to keep the Gong Shuttle free.

Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings has written a letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian offering to contribute $350,000 over three years.

The offer comes with a condition – that Wollongong City Council provide the same amount over the same time.

Councillors were already planning to discuss the issue at Monday night’s meeting, with both Labor and Liberal keen to explore funding options.

Liberal councillor Cameron Walters wants council officers to investigate funding, while the six Labor councillors plan to go a step further and call for $350,000 over three years to go to the green bus.

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The combined funds from the university and council is aimed to cover the shortfall in funding after the NSW government’s decision to reduce its subsidy from 100 per cent to 75 per cent.

The extra 25 per cent was originally planned to come from the introduction of fares on the shuttle.

The decision from the University of Wollongong comes just two days after a spokesman said the body was still in discussions with council and was not in a position to state when a decision would be expected. 

UOW is willing to assist in breaking the current impasse.

Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings

“The University of Wollongong believes that this bus service is a critical asset for the public transport service in the Illawarra and an important component in the move to a sustainable system,” Prof Wellings said.

“As a result UOW is willing to assist in breaking the current impasse.”

Prof Wellings said he was disappointed with the government’s decision to introduce fares, he hoped the government would be supportive of this funding approach.

“It will allow an important model of public transport to continue to deliver a key service to citizens in the Illawarra and the many visitors to the region,” Prof Wellings said.

The government is waiting on the outcome of Monday night’s council meeting before making any comment on the suitability of any funding arrangement.

While the university spends more than $1 million a year on its own free buses, the Gong Shuttle is a vital part of its transport network.

The green bus accounts for nearly half of all the public transport arrivals on campus.

Students and staff account for  20 per cent of the three million Gong Shuttle passenger movements each year.