SWAN Hill’s Margaret Cooper has swapped her campaign for a new bus stop from polite petitions to all-out war with Public Transport Victoria.
The feisty 86-year-old walked local streets armed with her petition and with more than 700 signatures collected, handed it to The Nationals Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, to take to State Parliament.
Ms Cooper said she has now received a letter from Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll rejecting her appeal for the bus stop on the grounds it would require changes within local bus services and because there was another stop close by.
“To say I am angry doesn’t get the message across,” Ms Cooper said.
“I am pretty fit and there is no way I would want to walk from the ‘alternative’ stop back to the Murray Gardens Retirement Village with a load of shopping at any time, let alone in summer,” she said.
“When I rang PTV the person I spoke to clearly had no idea where Swan Hill even was, she thought it was an hour north of Kyneton – and these are the people making decisions about us; it’s ridiculous.
“I’m not giving up here, I will keep fighting because this is something a lot of us need.”
Mr Walsh, who delivered the petition and spoke in Parliament about the frustration in waiting for the Victorian Government to sign off; said he was also at a loss to explain the department’s reluctance to make the change.
He said it was an easy fix that would not cost the department anything.
“Margaret Cooper had successfully won the backing of Swan Hill council to pay for, and install, the shelter – all PTV has to do is agree,” Mr Walsh explained.
“She has also liaised with the local bus providers and they told her they did not have a problem with any route adjustments necessary to include the new stop,” he said.
“Our senior citizens should be our community’s most revered – they have done the hard yards, helped build the local economy and now they can’t even get something as simple as a free bus shelter approved by our city-centric Victorian government.
“I called on then Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne to immediately intervene and of course, nothing happened. Now I am asking Mr Carroll to come to Swan Hill himself and see what we are talking about – but I would like it to be a 45C day, give him an armful of shopping and get him to walk to Margaret’s location in the retirement village and see how much he enjoys it.”
Swan Hill council’s infrastructure director Svetla Petkova has been pushing for a sign-off from PTV for almost a year – and Ms Cooper’s submission was received in July 2019.
At the time she confirmed many of Swan Hill’s senior citizens faced walks of more than a kilometre to reach the nearest bus stop.
She said, “residents use the service regularly as a way to gain social contact that they would otherwise not have”.
“Access to bus services means residents are able to maintain a degree of independence and a feeling of self-worth.”
Media contact – Andrew Mole (03) 5482 2039 firstname.lastname@example.org