Despite a shortage of buses in Sydney, the beseiged New South Wales Government has laid on a special 448 bus service to chauffeur the staff of Fairfax Media to and from Sydney’s CBD and their harbourside offices in the inner city suburb of Pyrmont.
I caught the first 448 “Pyrmont Special” of the day at 7am. It was a wet morning. I was one of only four passengers who got on the bus at the CBD stop. The driver took us direct to Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, and set us down alongside the harbourside walkway that leads to Fairfax Media’s Sydney headquarters. The other three passengers got off and made their way along the walkway. I asked the driver if it was possible for me to stay on the bus and return to the CBD. “No.” “This is a Fairfax Express,” he explained. I was told if I wanted to return to the city I would have to cross the road and wait for the regular 443 service at the casino. Incidentally, this 443 service is the only alternative service that goes between the CBD and Pyrmont.
Even though I am not a Fairfax employee, I had no trouble in boarding the special 448 at the Queen Victoria Building. I discovered that anyone can get on the bus, providing they have a pre-paid ticket. The proviso is they can only get off the bus at the Fairfax stop. It does not set down at any other stop between the city and the Fairfax headquarters.
According to the official “Sydney Buses” timetable, the 448 “Pyrmont (aka Fairfax) Special” operates on weekdays between 7am and 9.30am when it travels from the CBD to the Fairfax building about every five minutes. The service resumes in the evenings when buses leave the Fairfax headquarters for the city every five minutes until 6.30pm. Again, anyone can join Fairfax staff and travel to the city on the 448 in the evenings, provided they have a pre-paid ticket and do not want to get off the bus at any intermediate stop.
But fury is reported to regularly erupt at the Queen Victoria Building bus terminus, especially on wet evenings. No wonder. After setting down their passengers, the Fairfax Specials quickly drive off to return empty for another pick up at the Fairfax headquarters. The drivers leave behind long queues of Pyrmont residents haplessly waiting at the stop for the comparatively infrequent 443. Because of the heavy demand for the 443 service, Pyrmont residents complain that they often wait 30 minutes before they can get on a bus home. The pocket-sized Pyrmont, with its dozens of high rise blocks of units, is one of the most densely populated of Sydney’s inner city “villages”.
Inside sources report that Fairfax subsidises the 448 special service. I have put a call in to the NSW Transport Minister, John Watkins, to ask him the amount of this alleged subsidy.
Yet whatever it is, can it excuse the fact that at a time of desperate concern about the shortage and cost of fuel, and ever-increasing queues for public transport, fleets of government buses are permitted to travel empty to and from Sydney and Fairfax each weekday? Furthermore, my observations this morning confirmed bitter complaints that the “Fairfax Expresses”, with a capacity for about 70 passengers, rarely carry more than a dozen Fairfax staff.
Surely, if the NSW Government laid on a special shuttle service for, say, the staff of the TAB at Pyrmont, Fairfax journalists would be the first to wag their fingers and send their photographers to capture the rage of “ordinary” Pyrmont commuters left queueing in the rain?
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