In a radical move, Willoughby City residents have taken the issue of rapidly declining bus services into their own hands and chartered a ”Pirate Bus”. The concept came from Captain Ken Wilson, who has tirelessly campaigned on the matter, and tells here the tale of how and why the Pirate Bus came about…
“The idea for a Pirate bus came from “Pirate Radio Caroline” which, in 1964 set up on a ship in international waters, broadcasting rock and roll music into the UK. The Pirate Bus project aims to bring back the much loved 272 bus service along with three other routes and services cut in the run up to, and since, bus privatisation.
Angry that Transport for NSW failed to consult the community before making the cuts we set about lodging petitions for each service, making submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry into bus privatisation and even appearing as a witness at the inquiry. There we found many others, in almost identical circumstances, protesting the same issues. I learnt that we were not the first to hire a bus. Indeed fourteen citizens from Region 9 (southeast) drove their bus to Bega where Andrew Constance refused to meet them and discuss their issues.
The 272 ran during the peak hour between Willoughby and Wynyard and its cancellation immediately led to the bus network not meeting the demand to the city. While the government members were at sometimes sympathetic to our pleas, the inquiry was followed up by the removal of another three services leaving us with just 23 (down from 33).
Late in 2022 the government responded to the inquiry and claimed that privatisation had led to “improved customer outcomes being delivered”. We were getting nowhere so, in a change of tack, I set up a Gofundme to raise money for a pirate 272 service and posted the URL on Willoughby Living and soon we were in the papers and on radio. Funds streamed in and our first Pirate 272 service departed from outside the Incinerator Café at 8am on Wednesday February 1, stopping once near Garland Rd.
This will not be our last service, the funds for the gofundme are now rolling in from all over the country. We now have the attention of the government and would encourage them to resist the temptation to improve our services by cutting others. Instead, we hope they choose to work to restore the recently reduced inner city services and then develop a plan to acquire more buses to meet the needs of the growing population living these areas.
Also, that they start planning for our growing population including new dwellings that come without car spaces. Even if you have a space at home, often there is nowhere to park at your destination, so our bus services are like treasure for many commuters and not something to be stolen from here and put there depending in the mood of the public or even the need to please voters in a particular electorate.”
By Ken Wilson
If you’d like to contribute to: Bring back the 272 Willoughby Wynyard bus service, you can find the Gofundme by clicking here
You can follow Ken and the Pirate Bus here: https://frankenzan.wixsite.com/pirate-bus-lines-wil