PHOTO: Parents and landholders in the Hollywood area are asking for a return of the bus run to its previous end point on the Hollywood Lane to support the families of current and future school children.
A GROUP of families on the northern edge of Coonamble Shire are campaigning to have their school bus run extended to reduce the pressure on families whose children have to travel some of the longest distances to school.
The Hollywood bus run is thought to have started in 1969 and up until six years ago it would travel along the Pilliga Road and turn at the Hollywood Lane to continue on to the junction of the Colrose Road and the Hollywood Lane, known to locals as the Hollywood Crossroads.
“For the few years before the route was shortened, it ran to the crossroads for just one child,” said Steph Borowski. “When that child went away to boarding school for high school, the route was shortened by 20 kilometres and now only goes to the Floddenfield turnoff.”
There are now six children from four families who would benefit from having the run returned to its original route, with more preschoolers in the area and babies on the way, but annual applications since 2019 to Transport NSW’s Western Area Rural and Regional Bus Team requesting the extension have been rejected.
As the company holding the contract, NRC Buses is responsible for making the application to the Department.
“We are supportive of the application and our driver Wayne Phillips is happy to do the extra hours and kilometres,” said Director Naomi Coghill.
“The difference is nearly 20 kilometres and adds up to almost 80 minutes a day.”
“The parents approached us so we got the information together and did the applications,” Ms Coghill said.
“I also wrote a letter explaining why the families need it.”
NRC Buses currently manage 11 school bus runs in the Coonamble and Walgett Shires and Ms Coghill says that she has seen routes shortened, but never reinstated after they’ve been cut.
“We used to travel that distance with just one child but when they left there wasn’t a kindergarten child the following year, so it was cut,” she said.
“In their letter the reason given for not reinstating the route is ‘due to the excessive cost of the scheme’. It says Transport NSW ‘aims to find an appropriate balance between meeting customer needs and expectations and managing costs’.”
“It is definitely a cost to Transport NSW to subsidise children’s bus travel and I don’t know that they take other factors, like remoteness or the time people have to travel into account.”
Ms Coghill says staff in the department have indicated that she should stop applying unless circumstances change substantially.
However, the families using the Hollywood bus, and other landholders in the area, maintain that there are many reasons that the longer bus run is important and they’re not giving up yet.
Steph and Josh Borowski drive 38 kilometres one way – so a total of 152 kilometres and almost two hours driving a day – to put their young daughters on the Hollywood bus.
“We understand that distance is part of where we live and that they do pay a small subsidy to families to travel to meet the bus, but that subsidy is only for a maximum of 20 kilometres a day,” Mrs Borowski said.
“They don’t take into account wear and tear or the cost of being away from the farm for two hours, especially in busy times like harvest.”
“During the drought it was tough on people’s mental health and it was a worry leaving your partner alone for long periods. When we tried to ask for support with the bus they just dug their heels in,” she said.
“There are more children on the way – including twins – and we’ve even had people on other properties say that if they want to attract a family to work on the farm or even to sell their property they need to have decent access to a bus.”
“We’ve been trying to jump through all the official hoops,” Mrs Borowski said. “We’ve spoken to everyone and we just can’t understand the reasoning. We can’t work out what’s blocking it.”
Hugh and Janie Johnston’s trip to the bus would be cut from the current 27 kilometres to a more comfortable 5 kilometres if the bus returned to the Hollywood crossroads.
“I have always said that we are not trying to get the bus to our doorstop,” Mrs Johnston said. “Although it would be lovely, we are just trying to get the bus back to it’s original destination, to help service the area.”
The group say they are being supported by Barwon MP Roy Butler but are still waiting to hear back from the Minister for Transport Paul Toole and Nationals Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders.