Ninth life is just three months
FREMANTLE’S CAT bus service has been given a three-month lifeline.
Fremantle council’s monthly meeting was packed with residents on Wednesday, with many forced to watch proceedings from outside the chamber, as councillors faced a committee decision to stop funding the service from the end of June.
But following several passionate pleas to save the CAT during question time, and a packed community meeting in South Fremantle last week, councillor Adin Lang convinced his colleagues to extend the funding until the end of September.
Cr Lang later told the Herald he’d been moved by residents who’d made it to the meeting despite mobility issues, to tell how the sudden closing of the service would affect their lives.
Artist and activist Susan Allwood reminded the council about the aspirations of its Access and Inclusion Plan which was to help people with disabilities get around the city easily.
“My story is that the first CAT buses were a great help to me getting around Fremantle,” Ms Allwood said.
“Being wheelchair-bound over six months, I was able to continue to live my life; I was able to get to Coles, the doctors, the physios and the Fremantle Arts Centre where I worked until my multiple sclerosis halted my working career as an artist.
“I’m lobbying council and our community to demand inclusion for us, those people with that little voice.”
Transport expert and South Fremantle resident Peter Newman told the council he had convinced the state government to undergo a midyear transit review and was anticipating a trackless tram being trialled in Perth by August.
“That process would bring a trackless tram down through Samson, Hilton, Beaconsfield into the city,” Prof Newman said.
“The last thing we should be doing is shutting down our CAT as part of that process.”
Small business owner Sue McCracken said she was representing a group of businesses along South Terrace between Orient Street and Douro Road.
“We all got together and are pretty devastated to hear the CAT bus might be stopping,” Ms McCracken said.
“I think it affects small business down there in more ways than people realise.
“It’s been a lifeline between us and Fremantle for the tourists coming on the train, but there’s also staff getting to work who come in on the train and come down to South Fremantle.
“There’s only a bus once an hour, so it makes it very difficult for them to get to work on time.
“Then there business owners who need to do business in Fremantle, who catch the bus to go to the bank, all those kind of things,” she said, noting that catching the CAT meant they weren’t adding to parking and congestion in the CBD.
Cr Lang said it was a high-risk strategy to pull the CAT funding in June in the hope the Public Transport Authority would fill the void.
“We’ve got no plan in place, I bet you guys have got no plan in place for what you’re going to do for transport,” he said, gesturing to the public gallery.
“It’s somewhat distressing for me and I can’t imagine how you feel at the moment.”
He moved several other amendments calling for the council to negotiate a new memorandum of understanding with Notre Dame University which included a discussion about a CAT contribution, look at an e-scooter hire service and a beefed up lobbying of the state government, but couldn’t get support for those.
Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge also moved an amendment to create a reference group including community members to convince the PTA to improve regular bus services in South Fremantle.
by STEVE GRANT