Ever since Victoria Wells rode her first red double decker bus in London in the 1960’s, she has loved buses. In 2023 Victoria completed her goal of travelling on all 64 Canberra bus routes, and here she shares her experience travelling on route 903 – the Kippax to Strathnairn loop.
“We approach Kippax. The library and playground look well used. People get off the bus and head to both. A few young women with small children head to the library. All the ACT libraries run reading sessions for different ages; maybe one is going to start at Kippax? As I work out where to stand to get the next bus, 903 to Strathnairn, it appears. I wait for the 6 people to get off and move forward to board.
The driver tells me she is having a 10 minute break but I am welcome to wait on the bus. I opt to wait in the sun until she comes back.
At the bus shelter a young man sits down with a hot pie in hand. One magpie, then a dozen appear. A young one, warbling to its mother, dares to peck the young man’s shoe tip. He reacts and the group take off as one. They surround him again once they realise he is not a real threat. He eats his pie, the magpies wait.
My bus appears. It is a small, new shuttle bus; no more than 17 seats. I board with another man. I try to use my My Way card but the machine tells me it has been turned off. The driver tells me this ride is free for anyone. She takes a bag of bread out and throws some of it, through the open door, to the waiting magpies. They turn their attention from the young man with pie to the bread sitting on the pavement. The driver tells me she does this most days and thinks she knows the magpie family well now.
I tell the driver I will do the loop and will not be getting off until we return to Kippax. She tells me this bus is known as “the Poncho” by the bus drivers. She tells me there is a worker at the Tuggeranong depot who names all the buses. She tells me the developer of Ginninderry (Strathnairn is the first suburb in this development) bought two buses that Transport Canberra manage and run. This is why the ride is free. This encourages people to use the bus. She tells me of the passengers she has had who really appreciate it and one who will not buy a car as the service is so good. She tells me that the PT service in Canberra is great; could be better but as far as Australian capital cities go it is good. She tells me the weekend service could be better and will be when there are more drivers who are being recruited and trained now.
It is a lovely drive. The new houses, many not finished, have fields and wildness around them. Strathnairn is on the north-western edge of the ACT looking over to NSW. It was only gazetted in 2016. I see more kangaroos sitting in the sun. Many of the new suburbs have fantastic playgrounds and this is no exception. An area that looks like a community gathering place with playground, tiered grass area and what looks like water play is situated in the middle of the development with walking paths emanating from it. Nice place to head to with small children, just needs a coffee shop on site and it would be perfect.
The man on the bus points out the one disadvantage. The suburb has been built around a huge electricity sub-station with pylons strung across and through the middle of the development. The driver asks him if he does not mind being so close to the power lines. He tells us that he is far too old to worry about such things. He has lived his life and is going to die of something, probably soon. He lives here because it is beautiful and he can get the free bus. The driver drops him outside his house.
Returning to Kippax the suburb looks more established but shabbier; the area around the shopping centre could do with a facelift. All went well today, despite the forgetting of the phone: got a coffee, buses turned up without too much of a wait, and I got to see parts of the capital I have not been to before. All is good.”
To read more about Victoria’s adventures on Canberra’s bus routes, check out her blog here.