Waiting game: John Barilaro makes surprise visit to Bombala over bus route

Mayor Bob Stewart and Member for Monaro John Barilaro with Marion Ingram, Marjorie Feilen, Lana Martin-McInnes, Val McClusky and Maureen Peisley.
Mayor Bob Stewart and Member for Monaro John Barilaro with Marion Ingram, Marjorie Feilen, Lana Martin-McInnes, Val McClusky and Maureen Peisley.

BOMBALA district commuters have asked Member for Monaro, John Barilaro, to provide a small, feeder bus to connect Bombala directly with Cooma to overcome major problems created by a decision to change the Trainlink bus timetable.

Mr Barilaro took leave from State Parliament yesterday to meet with Bombala mayor, Bob Stewart, and a small group of community members to hear their concerns about the bus service.

Residents, upset about the changes which came into force on June 30, have gathered 293 signatures on a petition that has been forwarded to Mr Barilaro to table in parliament.

Maureen Peisley, of Bombala, emerged from yesterday’s two-hour meeting at council chambers confident that they had delivered a strong message to Mr Barilaro.

“It was very congenial,” Mrs Peisley told the Bombala Times yesterday.

“Mr Barilaro has taken on board our concerns.

“He sounded quite hopeful he’ll be able to do something to help us.

“Now we will just have to wait and see,” she said.

Mrs Peisley said residents were most upset about not being consulted before the changes to the bus service, formerly Countrylink, were introduced.

She said that Mr Barilaro had believed he was doing the “right thing” by improving Jindabyne’s bus service, without fully understanding how those changes had such a detrimental impact on the people of the Bombala district.

Mr Barilaro said the meeting was an opportunity for him to meet with Cr Stewart and concerned community members to outline how changes to the NSW Trainlink service had come about.

“A recent Countrylink inquiry revealed that Jindabyne  was the most at need of a proper bus service connecting them to Canberra and the region,” Mr Barilaro said yesterday.

“As a result of including the Snowy Mountains community in this service, Bombala residents felt impacted by the changes.

“As I have maintained from the start, I will always advocate on behalf of the Bombala community to ensure a compromise is found to balance the needs of all communities.

“I will continue to fight for the options presented to find a positive way forward for all who feel affected by these changes.

“These  options include aligning the NSW Trainlink service with the Monaro Transconnect Service, considering a shuttle bus option between Bombala and Cooma that ties in with the NSW Trainlink service or rescheduling the current route,” he said.

Mr Barilaro said he was disappointed in the way the media had presented and portrayed his arguments. 

“I am disappointed by the way the media portrayed my absence at the public meeting that I wasn’t properly consulted about,” he said. 

Mrs Peisley said the 12-month trial period for the new bus timetable was too long.

She said commuters now had to be at the bus stop at 6.40am for a 6.50am departure.

The previous departure time was 8.05am.

Changes to the service means the bus now travels from Bombala to Cooma, via Jindabyne.

A small, feeder bus could take commuters from Bombala direct to Cooma where it would rendezvous with the service from Jindabyne.

“It’s too dark, cold and dangerous in winter to be catching a bus at this early hour,” she said.

“We had one person come from Tombong, on the other side of Delegate, to  the meeting.

“They have to leave even earlier to travel into Bombala to catch the bus.

“It’s not safe at that time of the morning in the dark and with so many kangaroos on the road,” she said.

Many commuters who rely on the service are elderly and/or ill, and cannot drive themselves.

This was the first time residents have met Mr Barilaro face-to-face over the bus timetable debacle.

A public meeting was held on July 24 to which Mr Barilaro was not invited.

He was on leave overseas at the time and was unable to attend.