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Route 47 Belconnen to Denman Prospect


Date: 26 April 2023

Route: 47 Belconnon to Denman Prospect

Sights: Brindabellas

Weather: 10 C - 22 C warm and sunny

Time taken: 6.5 hour round trip including crochet group



Some journeys I take on the bus are not very eventful. Some days people do not want to chat, and I am happy to just ride the bus and look at the scenery. This day most of the adventure happened before I even got on the bus and the completion of the journey was uneventful.


To get the 47, a new route started in January this year, I have to get to Belconnen. This is not hard at all. I walk the 100 meters or so to the bus stop and board one of two buses to Belconnen. That went off without a hitch. I had a chat with a woman, also going to Belconnen, about the stunning weather we are having currently, and how nice it is to enjoy the last of the autumn sun.


The weather has been outstanding; warm, sunny days with no rain. The last few months has seen an unusually high amount of rain fall that has stopped the nature and median strips, garden lawns and surrounding hills from turning the grey brown of Autumn. The biggest benefit has been for the trees; none of them are looking stressed and have bloomed into full autumn colour. The view from our window is stunning; browns, reds, yellows and lime greens of all hues and shades. This is a portent of the coming winter but my fellow passenger and I agree we have to enjoy it while we can. We hop on the 30 to Belconnen. The angst-inducing part of my journey was still to come.


We rode the bus to Belconnen, also without a hitch; the driver stayed on the route and did not deviate or forget, the bus stopped at each stop it was hailed at, and the driver was considerate enough to allow passengers to sit before he took off again. That does not always happen. We arrived at Westfield Belconnen interchange.


The interchange is not complicated; two stops either side of a street, Platforms 1 and 2. Not difficult or hard, you’d think. As I disembarked at Platform 2 I spied a 47 arriving at Platform 1. I hurried to cross the road but the red man was flashing and there was another bus approaching. I stopped hopping from one leg to the other urging the bus to drive past. Another bus behind. Finally, I get across the road, racing to get the 47. It drove off. Missed it by a whistle.


I check Next There. The next one is in one hour. On the screen there are three platforms listed: Platform 1, Platform 2 and Platform 2 Set Down only. I scroll through Platform 1 to see the exact time of the next 47; 11am. I have nearly an hour. I will investigate the shopping centre.


After wandering around for about twenty minutes, just about my limit in a shopping centre these days, I head back to the interchange to see if I can have a chat with someone. Before I settle myself I check Next There. No 47. I look again. Nope, no bus listed. I don't panic, yet, as I have noticed glitches on this app before. I get the large timetables at the bus stop. No 47 listed. This is a new bus route and Transport Canberra have clearly not had enough time to add a timetable. I check the map next to the timetable. (I have a small version of this map in my bag but the 47 is not listed and new maps have not been published in this small form yet). The 47 has a nice yellow line showing the route with the addition (not in my map) of Whitlam, the newest suburb. I am not going mad, I know the bus will come.


I sit for a bit and check the app again. Still no bus listed at either of the platforms. Then a thought strikes me; what if the 47 I saw was just setting down and it does not stop at Westfield going to Denman Prospect. Maybe it leaves from somewhere else? There is another bus interchange just off the main street, down the hill from the shopping centre. I check Next There; 47 listed at Belconnen Bus Interchange Platform 6. I walk down the hill, I still have 20 minutes.


The interchange has 6 platforms; 1,2 and 3 on one side, 4,5 and 6 on the other. Of course 6 is the furthest away. I check the signs on the bus stop. Is the 47 listed. It is, huge relief. It is now 10.50. I check Next There to see where the bus is. I get this…


Oh shit! What do I do now? Trust Next There or the bus stop information. Not sure I trust either.


There was a time, when I lived in London, the first 27 years of my life, when I would rock up at a bus stop and wait. Sometimes I would wait for a very long time, but a bus would always come in the end, sometimes three at one time. I am sure there was a bus timetable but I never looked at one and there are so many different ways to get around London that if I got bored waiting I could always seek out another way: walk, tube, different bus with slightly different route. This is not possible in the ACT. If I want to get somewhere I have to wait for the one bus that takes me and it is always wise to have access to an app, timetable or something that assures me that the bus will come.


Many buses passed me on their way to other platforms. I could see, on Next There the bus, I was waiting for was stationary. A 44 was also stationary parked just beyond platform 6. Sometimes the buses disgorge their passengers as one bus, have a rest then change numbers to start a new route. I was hopeful this was the case for this 44, it would magically, once its allotted time came, change into a 47. It did not. The driver opened the bus doors, got behind the wheel, started the engine and remained a 44 picking up passengers at platform 5.


11am. Checked the app. Bus is on time. No bus. I wait. 11.04. Checked the app again. Bus is still on time. No bus. 11.06. Check app. Bus has moved, but not arrived. On time (!). No bus. This is now the longest 6 minutes of my life; trusting the bus stop signage, and checking the app. 11.07. Bus appears over the hill. It’s the 47! I could cry.


I hail the bus, and for one heart stopping moment, I think the driver is not going to stop. She does. I hop on with a very cheery good morning; so pleased the bus is here.


The bus then drives up the hill, that I walked down not 20 minutes ago, to the Westfield bus interchange to stop at platform 2. No one gets on.


I am the only person on the bus the entire route. We travel roads on the western side of Canberra, past paddocks with horses and cows, fields with sparse trees and large boulders. The roads are undulating to steep. The steepest road down to Coppins Crossing over the Molonglo River. The bus detours from the main road for a loop around Whitlam.


Whitlam is the newest suburb, not marked on my bus map. Named for the great Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (1916-2014) who was dismissed by the Governor General, as representative of Australia’s head of state, the Queen, in 1975. A moment in Australian history known as The Dismissal. As we drive along Hazel Hawke Way (wife of another great Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke) I wonder if the great man would approve of this suburb bearing his name. I think he would. He believed everyone had a right to free education, free healthcare, free legal advice, good housing and good public services; education, health. These things are a right and enrich all lives; no one should be left behind. Tax was not a dirty word, it contributed to equity.

Most of Whitlam looks like this

 

Image: The National Archive


The Whitlam Government (1972-1975)


The achievements of the Whitlam government were huge, and all in a very short time frame and most of this happened in the first 100 days.


The legacy of the Whitlam Government

  • Extracted Australia from the Vietnam War

  • Abolished conscription

  • Recognised China for the first time diplomatically

  • Medibank, precursor to Medicare (universal healthcare) established

  • Social benefits for:

    • Homeless people

    • Single parents

  • Equal Pay

  • Post-master General’s office divided into Telecom and Australia Post

  • Australian Legal Office and Law Reform Commission established

  • Community Legal Centres funded for first time

  • Established Legal Aid

  • Community Health Centres established

  • Family Law Court and no blame divorce

  • Needs based funding for schools

  • Tariffs cut, establishment of early versions of Productivity Commission and ACCC

  • Australian Assistance Planning established to allow regional councils to continue the ideas of community development and social planning

  • National Sewage Program that reduced homes not on the sewage grid from 160,000 to 95,000 in Sydney and 160,00 to 88,000 in Melbourne before it was axed by the Fraser government (Liberals)

  • Reduced voting age to 18

  • Gave two Senate seats to territories

  • Replaced the national anthem “God Save the Queen” with “Advance Australia Fair”

  • Established Department of Aborginal Affairs

  • Land title deeds given to some aboriginal groups in NT

  • Australian Film and Television School established

  • Papua New Guinea became independent

  • Abolished death penalty for federal crimes

  • Funded standard gauge railway lines between states

  • Order of Australia replaced British awards

  • Purchased Blue Poles for the newly established Australian National Gallery



We still live with many of these legacies. We have much to thank the Whitlam government for.

 


The bus slows to less than 25km/h to drive down the very steep stretch of road towards Coppins Crossing. This is tricky driving for any vehicle but for the bus it must be exceptionally difficult. I admire the driving; not a heavy foot on the brake but a steady speed to make the descent smooth. The bridge is being worked on so it does not have to close every time it floods, and that has been often of late. One of the workman, Stop/Slow lollipop in hand, waves me hello as we pass. The other side of the bridge is just as steep and the bus is still slow. It is hard to remember we are on the edge of a city, not just any city, but the national capital, when all I can see are a creek, boulders, narrow roads and green land.

Coppins Crossing


It is not long until we edge into more man-made structures. High and low density dwellings along John Gorton Drive (another prime minister). Two cranes are working lifting concrete panels into place. I am sure that building was not there last time I was here.


The final destination is opposite the Denman Prospect shops, and the bus driver yells “This is the final stop. Where did you want to go?” I tell her back to Belconnen and I am just here for the ride. I move forward in the bus to give her a card and tell her what I am doing. She tells me I have been on her bus before; I am not sure. She tells me she has been doing this job for 7 years. She tells me I must see interesting people, then changes it to horrible people. I respond with no-one horrible but just interesting. “You should have been on my bus on Monday!”. I ask if she has driven one of the electric buses yet. She tells me she only does Northside and the electric buses run out of Tuggeranong, but she has seen them and knows they are noiseless. She tells me when they go below 20 kms they make a noise like a doorbell. She tells me her partner is also a bus driver but has been doing the job longer. She shows me a photo of him on her phone.


We are joined on the bus by another passenger. The driver puts the bus into gear, I know the conversation is finished and I return to my seat. The return journey does not seem to take as long. Maybe I am more familiar with the setting so time does not slow.


Getting from Belconnen to the City is much more straightforward; a number of buses to choose from. I end up at the city interchange so I can join my Wednesday crochet group at Smith’s Alternative. We sit outside. I have a prime view of the tram stop and cross roads at Alinga Street. I watch people walking across the road against the red walk light to be beeped at (urgent sound not like a doorbell) by one of the electric buses as it turns right into Northbourne Ave. The same thing happens again an hour later. Those buses are silent. Maybe we will all be trained to walk across this road when the green icon tells us it is safe?


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