Brisbane-Mount Isa bus service reduced from daily to five days a week

Sally Gall
By Sally Gall
December 14 2021 - 4:00am
Greyhound is offering a reduced service on the route between Brisbane and Mount Isa, sparking concerns for the timely transportation of pathology and other freight from the west, as well as for patients discharged from metropolitan hospitals.

Western Queenslanders are discovering that, contrary to state government claims that new regional transport service contracts signed in November would give them stronger route connections, some are suffering from a reduction in service.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey announced that a new package of five-year contracts would provide regional communities with long-term certainty around local travel options, ensuring the future of seven long distance air routes and 20 coach routes.

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It has since emerged that changing the government contract for the bus route from Brisbane to Mount Isa and return from the Queensland-owned Bus Queensland to Greyhound has reduced the service from a daily one to one that runs five days a week.

Outback Queensland Tourism Association chairman and Blackall-Tambo Regional Council mayor Andrew Martin said he had been told the reduction was due a lack of people travelling on the bus service.

"It was never meant to run on numbers - it wouldn't be a regulated route otherwise," he said. "It's there just as much to provide a route for pathology services, for freight, and for patients needing to travel."

Blackall-Tambo mayor Andrew Martin.

As people trying to book seats have been discovering since the change of service provider in December, it runs between Brisbane and Mount Isa from Monday to Friday, and between Mount Isa and Brisbane from Wednesday to Sunday.

"I'm not happy and I've told (Transport Department director-general) Neil Scales that," Cr Martin said. "The good thing is that they've said on numerous occasions that the routes will be under constant review."

Gregory MP Lachlan Millar said it was vital that any new contracts ensure that as a bare minimum the current level of service is maintained.

"For the bus routes that includes the capacity to carry freight. We also need a seven-day service as the bus transports all the blood samples from the Longreach Hospital pathology lab.

"This underwrites our hospital services and must be done daily."

The state government is providing $5.1 million a year for the long-distance coach service and $11.7 million a year for the regional air services under the new contracts.

According to Mr Bailey, contracts had been negotiated through a competitive open market process, with independent legal oversight of offers from 16 different transport providers.

Cr Martin said that while he remained to be convinced that the cut in bus services was the right move, Blackall would have its Monday QantasLink flight to and from Brisbane reinstated.

That would restore the schedule to its pre-COVID lockdown status quo.

Cr Martin complimented Translink personnel, saying they had made a much greater effort to consult users in rural areas than ever before.

"I'm glad they've indicated there's room to move on the bus timetable, that they're willing to consider changes going forward," he said.

"I also believe, from discussions with TMR, that there's an appetite to trial new air routes such as a triangulated route from Rockhampton to Longreach, which would incorporate Blackall and Barcaldine.

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"I am waiting with bated breath for that announcement to be made."

A study undertaken by the Central Queensland Airport and Aerodrome Owners group in 2019 found that a minimum business case to make an airline profitable on a CQ east-west run was 12,000 seats per annum, and that 17,000 seats could be filled.

An aerial route between Rockhampton and western Queensland has been mooted for some years and business cases developed to support the lobby.

"That survey's a couple of years old now - given all the economic changes, I believe less seats would be needed to make such a service economical," Cr Martin said. "It's really a case of build it and they'll come."

MAKING NEWS:

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Sally Gall

Sally Gall

Senior journalist - Queensland Country Life/North Queensland Register

Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.

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