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A brief history of Commonwealth Government Departmental Ownership of Canberra’s Buses

The first bus services commenced in October 1923 for the benefit of workers engaged in constructing the new city and for the conveyance of school children. Two charabancs were used by the Department of Works.

On 1 January 1925 the Federal Capital Commission was created and acquired the two Works buses, plus a third later that year. In 1926 four vehicles were purchased for use on a public bus service which commenced on 19 July 1926, trading as the City Bus Service.

Until the launch of the ACTION trading name in 1977, the ‘owners’ of the bus service had used, with little consistency, a great variety of names to describe the operation of public transport in Canberra. Among the more commonly used names were:

  • City Bus Service
  • Federal Capital Commission Omnibus Service
  • Department of the Interior Omnibus Service
  • Canberra City Omnibus Service
  • Canberra Omnibus Service
  • Canberra Bus Service

The trading name ACTION, an acronym for Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network, was introduced on 14 February 1977, replacing Canberra Bus Service.

In 2016, ACTION and the Capital Metro Agency were moved within the newly established Transport Canberra, with buses delivered late in 2016 the first to wear a new blue and grey Transport Canberra livery. While initial buses in this livery maintained a small ACTION logo (sans the wheel icon) on the roofline, it has disappeared from newer vehicles entirely. Likewise, driver uniforms now carry Transport Canberra branding. 

Since 1926, the activities of the bus service, under the above variety of trading names, have been administered by a succession of agencies and departments.

  • 1925-30: Federal Capital Commission
  • 1930-32: Department of Home Affairs
  • 1932-72: Department of the Interior
  • 1972-83: Department of the Capital Territory
  • 1983-84: Department of Territories and Local Government
  • 1984-87: Department of Territories
  • 1987-89: Department of Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories
  • 1989-Present: ACT Government

Originally published by ACTION, 11 May 1989. Updates have been made to the original text to cover more recent developments. 

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