Despite stating the decision to charge Gong Shuttle passengers was due to “complaints of overcrowding”, Transport for NSW won’t say how many complaints have been made.
In fact, it is unclear if any complaints have been made.
In the statement announcing the plan to charge standard Opal card fares for the Gong Shuttle, Transport for NSW implied the service was too popular – it attracted 3.3 million customers a year.
“However, this has also resulted in complaints of overcrowding while its cost to the taxpayers has continued to grow,” the statement read.
But, when specifically asked how many complaints were received, Transport for NSW declined to provide an answer.
Instead, Transport for NSW stated it began a review of the service in November 2016 partially “in response to feedback from customers”.
Transport for NSW data from the review found that, between 8am and 9am and between 1pm and 5pm on weekdays the shuttle was “just under the legal maximum capacity or a full service”.
While the region had a lot of questions, Transport Minister Mr Andrew Constance only had a two-sentence response to the community’s anger.
“The service hasn't changed and will continue to operate for as long as there is a demand,” Mr Constance said.
“Introducing Opal fares means people will pay a contribution for running the service just like people do in Kiama, Nowra, Batemans Bay, Bega and the rest of NSW.
“Why should Wollongong be any different?"
The Illawarra Business Chamber threw its support behind the Gong Shuttle, with executive director Chris Lamont stating it was an example of a service the government should be providing more of.
“We should be encouraging measures to improve the use of public transport as it not only reduces the cost of providing road and related infrastructure but is also better for the environment,” Mr Lamont said.
South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said the decision to introduce fares was nothing more than “payback”.
“A very clumsy and savage and ruthless get-square with the region that refused to lay down and die when they wanted to privatise our hospitals,” Mr Rorris said.
“We won that fight and and we will win this one too.”
Transport Workers' Union Southern Sub-Branch Secretary Rob Pirc said Gong Shuttle drivers “were at the forefront” and could bear the brunt of angry commuters if fares were introduced.
Mr Pirc also said there was a chance the fare introduction could see drivers lose their jobs.