THE Cook government has agreed to increase the frequency of the 532 bus service through South Fremantle to make up for the end of the city’s CAT buses.
Late Thursday transport minister Rita Saffioti announced that the Public Transport Authority’s CAT bus funding would instead go into running the 532 service every 15 minutes in both directions.
Although it will mean the end of the circuit route that takes in the WA Maritime Museum and the Esplanade reserve, the 532 will be more frequent than the CATs, which were reduced to 20-minute intervals during Covid.
The higher-frequency 532 will be introduced from the beginning of October, when the CAT bus funding runs out.
“I understand the disappointment around the City of Fremantle’s decision to discontinue funding for the CAT, but the state government will be reinvesting its contribution towards supporting enhanced bus services in the Fremantle area,” Ms Saffioti said.
“The enhanced 532 route will see buses running every 15 minutes in both directions along South Terrace between Fremantle Station and Douro Road in South Fremantle.”
Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk said her focus had been ensuring the government stepped in to support transport options for the community.
“I understand the CAT was much loved, however with this solution we have more frequent buses on the same route, which maintains an important connection between Fremantle and South Fremantle – a good outcome for residents and visitors alike,” Ms McGurk said.
“I would like to acknowledge the hard work of community groups like the South Fremantle Precinct in ensuring that Fremantle has the public transport services it deserves.”
Keep the CAT founder Gina Blakemore, who sat on a council reference group that was looking into options to either save the service or find an alternative, said it was the end of their campaign as well as the CAT.
“It’s not a CAT bus, and I am really sad for the CAT bus and the community, but it does provide reliable transport to Fremantle and anyone who needs a bus can get around,” Ms Blakemore said of the minister’s announcement.
“The thing I worry about is the tourism; the West End is cut off and I am hoping the council will remedy that with some transport options.”
But Ms Blakemore said those options hadn’t really been explored by the reference group, which was suddenly canned by the council when the PTA offered up the 532 solution.
She and fellow campaigner Ian Ker – the only two community representatives – say they weren’t fully briefed on what was going on behind the scenes with the PTA either.
“It was a really strange situation,” Ms Blakemore said, adding she thought the membership should have also been a bit broader to include an advocate for people with disabilities.
Mr Ker said there was no mention at the reference group that it would be disbanded if an agreement over the CAT was reached, and in an open letter to the community signed also by Ms Blakemore he said it was a “very disappointing end”.
“We worked with the council to the best of our ability from the beginning, but it became apparent they had an agenda to can the CAT, and not find a solution for funding.
“This is a very sad example of not reading the room and not listening to their community.”
Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge was pleased with the outcome.
“We welcome this announcement that will see more frequent services to South Fremantle, extending all the way to the South Fremantle Marketplace shopping centre.
“Fremantle people are enthusiastic supporters or public transport and we know this service will be well used by the community.”
by STEVE GRANT