The CAT Bus Challenge – Time for Local Member to go into bat for Freo

That City of Fremantle reinstate the Blue and Red CAT Buses back to 10 minutes in September 2023.

That was the one and only motion on the hot button issue of the CAT Buses put by irate residents and ratepayers at the recent Annual General Meeting of Electors of City of Fremantle on 6 June 2023, at the Walyalup Civic Centre.

South Ward Precinct co-Convenor Gina Blakemore spoke to the motion in these terms –

Good evening.

I am here to advocate for keeping the CAT Bus, as no alternative is in sight, yet.

I am here to speak for the businesses, disabled, elderly, locals, students and tourists, to ask that we don’t have a gap in public transport, if the Council cut the CAT.

Plans are needed for the community members who are reliant on public transport for their every-day amenities. Tourists can’t walk to all our marketed destinations. Locals would rather hop on a CAT than use their cars and pay parking. The South Beach businesses don’t want to be cut off.

Public transport should not be removed from our city’s budget. Our population will increase, and our tourism will grow, so will our cars. Cutting public transport is looking backwards, not forwards.

Council stated prospective CAT Bus funding bodies would be approached last year in March 2022.

South of South Street is devoid of buses to South Fremantle, as the 532 is once per hour off-peak, weekends and public holidays, and comes from Cockburn.

Recent local reports are stating two hour waits between the 532 buses. This will not cover our community and tourist needs.

If the CAT is cut, we will lose any service, until an alternative is put in place. This could take months or years. Surely, we can negotiate with the Port, the PTA, Notre Dame, our local member, and our current/and or future Ministers for Transport and Tourism?

We were told at the (recent) Politics in the Pub meeting, if we find another, equal, one-third partner, besides the Council and the PTA, we would be set. We could keep the CAT.

The Keep the CAT group had a meeting with Simone McGurk’s office last week, and they said they hadn’t heard about CAT Bus funding needs until it came up in Council recently. No one has approached them for funding.

The Keep the CAT group will also be attending the first CEO Reference Group this Thursday.
Even now, two weeks into a three-month funding reprieve from the Freo City Council, there is a very real chance that all CAT services will be gone, by the end of September.

Will the three months be enough time to do the job? A solution needs to be found, prior to the October local elections, as the City Council goes into caretaker mode.

As both the Fremantle Council, and the State Government, are currently saying, it is the other group’s problem.

Our community needs bus coverage.

A positive resolution will come if the funding groups talk, and hopefully a new funding model is decided.

Why can’t we keep the Blue and Red CAT Buses, (the preferred option), running past September this year, until permanent alternative, bus coverage is up and running to cover the community’s needs?

The motion was put, and passed.

Plainly, the issue is not one of principle – a public free community bus service should be maintained for all the reasons advanced by Gina Blakemore. The issue is just about money – and how much the State Government is prepared to contribute to the operation of the CAT Bus services.

We look forward to seeing just what results from the CEO’s Reference Group discussions with and representations to the powers that be – especially the Treasurer who is also the Minister for Transport and Deputy Premier, Rita Saffioti. Oh sorry – and the Minister for Tourism!

We also look forward to reporting that local Freo MP Simone McGurk has gone into bat for the continuation of the CAT Bus services in Fremantle, one of the safer Labor held seats in the State.

There are moments when a local community looks to its local member for real support – and this very much feels like one of them.

Watch this space.
* By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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