FREMANTLE council is poised to pull the pin on its CAT buses, while trying to find a private operator for a hop-on/hop-off service for tourists.
The council’s finance and policy committee on Wednesday night voted to stop funding its 60 per cent contribution to the CATs from the end of June, which will almost certainly see the Public Transport Authority cancel them altogether.
Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said it was clear a lot of locals were using the bus for public transport reasons, such as getting their kids to school, but it had originally been devised as a way of moving tourists between the city’s attractions.
“The CAT bus is hard,” she said of the decision to stop funding the service, “but when you boil it down to public transport, it makes it easier.”
Ms Fitzhardinge said if the council ratifies the committee’s decision in two weeks, she and CEO Glen Dougall were ready to talk to the PTA about making sure standard buses covered South Fremantle better.
The mayor said the council believed shutting down
the service would create an opening for a private operator to offer a hop on/hop off bus service for tourists linking entry points to the city such as the train station and car parks, to major destinations such as the prison, arts centre and Victoria Quay.
The council has explored special rates for people living near the CAT routes, introducing fares and funding it through extended paid parking since it scaled back the service during Covid, but Cr Fedele Camarda said nothing stacked up.
“We have explored every option, and it’s just not viable in its current format.”
South Fremantle precinct convenor Gina Blakemore said locals who turned up to this week’s meeting were dead against axing the CATs.
“The CAT bus is 25 years old and it makes Fremantle unique,” Ms Blakemore said, adding that its removal could have a major impact on some people’s ability to move around the city for basic necessities.
“If you can walk 20 minutes it’s ok, but for elderly people … this will be life-changing,” she said.
I was on the original CAT Bus committee and we worked long and hard to try and make it the best for Freo – just like the City Cat. It is not about who takes the bus but getting residents and tourists from one place to the next easily, quickly and for less vehicles to be in the city. Thats what it was all about. What’s wrong with residents using the cat to take their kids to school? one less car on the road – that’s the whole idea. Do you just see tourists on the Perth CAts? of course you don’t. you get a large group of people using one vehicle. The CAT should have been expanded in FREO to get a larger loop and you would have even less vehicles in Freo. That was the eventual plan.
As a frequent Fremantle Cat Bus user, I am extremely disappointed by our council’s decision to terminate our Cat Buses. The benefits to both our local community and our tourist trade are enormous. Our Cat Bus Service decreases the number of cars on our road, reducing both traffic congestion and parking issues. They provide a vital connection between South Fremantle and Fremantle, not just for tourists, but also for our elderly and more vulnerable residents. The Cat Buses provide links to our tourist hubs and businesses and the service encourages people to explore our wonderfully unique city. I thought we had a forward thinking, environmentally aware council and if our city is to grow in a sustainable way, we need more public transport options, not less! I believe the decision to axe our Cat Buses is very short- sighted and that while the council will make some initial savings, the economic and social impact is likely to be a negative one for the whole community in the longer term. Freo Council should at least have confirmed that Transperth WILL provide alternative links between South Freo and Freo and that a company has committed to providing a Tourist Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, BEFORE pulling the pin on our much loved and needed Cat Bus Service.