ACT Government updates

Update: Opening libraries and the AHPPC public transport principles

May 29, 2020

An update from Minister for Transport and Minister for City Services Chris Steel:

LIBRARIES

During this pandemic we know that many Canberrans have been staying at home, with many catching up on their reading.  Unfortunately, ACT Libraries have not been open during the pandemic to provide hard copy books and other resources.

This is now changing and on 18 May Dickson, Gungahlin and Woden branches opened, recoding over 10,800 visits in the first week.

I’m really pleased to announce today that all remaining library branches in the ACT including the Heritage Library will reopen from Tuesday 2 June – after the long weekend.

All libraries across the ACT will also resume normal trading hours.

We’re pleased to welcome back Canberrans into our libraries, however, we are asking the public to be careful to wash their hands, using the sanitiser provided, and to keep their visit to under 30 minutes – whether that is for browsing or borrowing, or using a computer.

Limits will remain on the number of people that can be inside the library. These will be enforced by security guards - and physical distancing must be practiced at all times.

To protect our staff and the public we’re also ensuring that all items returned to the library are placed in quarantine for a period of 72 hours before being available to be borrowed again.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Today the ACT Government is also pleased welcome the release of the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC) principles for the safe operation of public transport.

Alongside ACT Health advice, the principles provide clear guidance to the public and to transit operators on safety on public transport.

The ACT Government has been involved in consultation on the principles which are consistent with our approach and allow individual governments to tailor requirements to suit our local context.

The principles reinforce the safety measures that we put in place on public transport in March including:

  • Stepping up cleaning at light rail stops and bus stations as well as on-board vehicles, with more than 1300 hours of additional cleaning now undertaken each week.
  • cash-free public transport
  • use of bus rear doors where possible
  • automatic opening of light rail vehicle doors at all stops
  • the closure of bus front seats

SAFETY ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The ACT Government has been monitoring patronage on public transport closely as restrictions start to ease.

Last week, as school has started to return and we have seen a patronage increase of 28,197 journeys – or 38% more compared to the previous week.

The number of journeys is still down 73.51% compared to the 384,000 journeys taken in the same week in 2019.

However while restrictions are easing from today - the ACT Government’s key message about the use of public transport remains the same as it has throughout the pandemic  –

Reconsider your need to travel on public transport, particularly at peak times.

Definitely don’t use public transport if you feel unwell.

And of course, maintain good hand washing and cough hygiene. Passengers may carry their own hand sanitiser or cleaning wipes if they wish.

Whilst we’re not welcoming people back on to public transport, we do expect to see more people using public transport – and so today we’re reminding Canberrans who have to use public transport to avoid contact with others by spreading out and keeping at least 1.5 metres from other people.

Try not to sit or stand next to another person while on a bus or a light rail vehicle.

This week we have installed orange dots on the floor of our buses and light rail vehicles as visual reminders to help guide physical distancing.

The ACT Government and the AHPPC is not recommending that people wear masks on public transport. However, some members of the public may choose to wear masks in situations where it is not feasible to maintain physical distancing, such as public transport. The AHPPC has said that in this circumstance this may provide some additional protection.

But the best way to reduce the risk, and avoid the crowds is to avoid using public transport at peak times.

I’d like to thank Canberrans for heeding this message - with 45% of trips now taken in off-peak times compared to just 35% in February.

Our message about avoiding public transport at peak times is the same for students as it is for adults. We’re asking parents to reconsider their child’s need to use public transport.

Parents will need to consider other options such as walking or riding if possible, or the use of private vehicles to get children to school.

We recognise, that as a result we may see more traffic during pick up and drop off times at ACT schools.

So we’re asking parents to please consider using safe alternative pick up and drop off points at their local school.

This may incorporate dropping children a little further from school, so that they can walk or ride the rest of the way.

The ACT Government will work closely with schools to provide some guidance on alternate locations and make maps available next week. 

For adults, the AHPPC has advised that where possible, employees should seek the agreement of employers to adjust work hours to enable travel during off-peak times and enable passengers to more easily observe physical distancing.

And finally, all passengers on public transport should also download the COVIDSafe app to help facilitate contact tracing.

To find out more about how Transport Canberra is responding to COVID-19 visit: www.transport.act.gov.au