All aboard the night rider

THE late-night bus, which gets weekend pub-goers safely to their home towns from Traralgon’s entertainment precinct, will be perpetually funded if a local politician’s push is successful.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe has flagged his intention to lobby for the support of his government to include the night rider bus as a permanent fixture on the region’s bus timetable.

“I can’t pre-empt election commitments at this point in time, suffice to say I’ve already flagged for the bus to become a long-term service so it’s not reliant on a specific budget request each year,” Mr Northe said.

“I will certainly be putting forward a budget submission, but I also anticipate I will put (more permanent funding) as part of an election pledge, provided I have the support of my party.”

Mr Northe said he had “some confidence” of getting such support.

The bus was trialled in 2009 with funding from the Transport Accident Commission, but failed to attract permanent financial support.

It was revived in June last year following a pre-election commitment by Mr Northe and is funded until June 2014.

“While there may be some fluctuation in passenger numbers from time to time, the statistics and use of the service are strong,” Mr Northe said.

Latrobe Valley Bus Lines business manager Anna Tyben said bus patronage fluctuated in line with events and opening hours of the licensed venues and increased in summer. She said an average of more than 40 people used the service each weekend over the past four weeks, with one evening attracting 72 passengers.

“It’s a very safe mode of transport for everybody,” Ms Tyben said.

The bus was initially implemented in a bid to prevent drink-driving and curb alcohol-fuelled violence, which had become a major issue for the Traralgon central business district as large groups of people spilled onto the streets at closing times.

“There’s been a lot less convergence of people hanging around the streets when they’re socially excited because they’ve got a known time and known place to be picked up, so they’re actually ready to go at that time,” Traralgon Police Station Senior Sergeant Brendan Scully said.

“The bus, along with other factors like better security, increased patrols, lighting and CCTV have helped contribute to the reduction in street violence.

“When you get all these factors together, you get a synergy out of them that works.”

The bus departs from the Stockland Plaza, Franklin Street terminal on Sunday mornings at 2.30am and 4.30am to take pub-goers to Morwell and Moe.

A 3.30am bus goes to Churchill.

Two security guards monitor the bus as part of the service.

Patrons are charged less than $4 to use the service and need a Myki Card which can be purchased from the bus driver at the time, or from Australia Post, V/Line stations and online.