UOW offers three years’ co-funding to retain free bus
The University of Wollongong (UOW) has stepped in to help resolve the continuing Gong Shuttle impasse, offering a substantial three year financial contribution to retain the free service under a co-funding arrangement.
In a letter delivered today (Wednesday 6 December 2017) to NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian MP, UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings, CBE, has offered to contribute $350,000 per annum for three years – from 1 July 2018 until 30 June 2021 – provided matching funds are contributed by Wollongong City Council and the NSW State Government provides the remainder of the funding needed to maintain the service from 29 January 2018 until 30 June 2021.
The University has reserved the right to withdraw its financial support if Transport for NSW changes the service’s schedule or route during this period without prior negotiation.
This offer follows lengthy consultation with Wollongong City Council and comes as the council prepares to debate a motion at its upcoming meeting that is substantially aligned with UOW’s proposal.
“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.
As a result UOW is willing to assist in breaking the current impasse,” Professor Wellings said.
Although still disappointed with how the NSW Government announced its decision to replace the free Gong Shuttle with a service charging Opal Fares, Professor Wellings said he hopes the Premier, Transport for NSW and Wollongong City Council will be supportive of the proposed approach to short-term co-funding.
“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,” Professor Wellings said.
Transport for NSW announced its intention to replace the free Gong Shuttle service with a paid service charging Opal Fares on Wednesday 1 November 2017, with the change to take effect from 29 January 2018.
The Gong Shuttle is the most popular public transport service used by University staff and students, accounting for nearly half of all public transport arrivals on campus. Staff and students represent about 20% of the three million annual passenger movements.
UOW already spends more than $1 million per year on public transport, including providing its own free bus services, conducting transport studies, providing transport information and employing support staff.