IAP2 Cocktail Catch-Up with Tegan Hughes – Keolis Downer

IAP2 and Social Pinpoint held a Cocktail Catch-Up event at the Novotel at Newcastle Beach after an IAP2 training event last week.  Tegan Hughes with Keolis Downer spoke about her experience engaging the community with revamping the Newcastle Bus system.

Tegan is a community engagement professional with extensive experience working on major infrastructure projects for the government and private sectors for a range of clients including Transport for NSW and Australian Rail Track Corporation.

She has expertise in developing and maintaining positive relationships with stakeholders and local communities through strategic management of key issues and the early identification and implementation of community initiatives and proactive engagement. This ‘no surprises’ approach to communication minimises complaint escalation and avoids program delays and reputational damage.

Tegan emphasized that although she used digital engagement, it was essential to use traditional offline engagement strategies as well. She also found that when she received pessimistic feedback from stakeholders on certain decisions, it was extremely helpful to be able to use data from her online engagement strategies to explain and justify why decisions were made.


With a growing population, Newcastle’s bus system which had not been touched since 2008 was in need of restructure to better service public transport users in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. In order to best meet the needs of the community, it was essential to find out who uses public transport, why they use it, where they are going, when they are using it, and what changes they wanted to see. This information was acquired through extensive market research and community engagement efforts.


Public transport is not generally part of daily conversation because such a small portion of the population uses it (3.9% in Newcastle compared to 20% in Sydney). The most common types of public transport users are seniors and school children. These are two very different types of people, so when coming up with an engagement strategy to reach them all, Tegan realized that it would be essential to use both traditional and online engagement strategies.

Engaging the Community

Three strategies were used to ensure that the broadest possible section of the community would be able to participate. Keolis Downer encouraged residents to participate by using paid social media ads, radio, and word of mouth.

1) Face to Face – Consultations were conducted at the Newcastle Transport Hub, shopping centers, and through customer service officers at Keolis Downer.

2) Digital – With such a large area to be covered, a Social Pinpoint interactive map was used to show the entire network and allow participants to share what they want and need from the bus system. The digital engagement platform also incorporated surveys to enable those who couldn’t attend face to face consultations to still have their say.

3) A citizen jury was randomly selected to assess the new potential route plan. These citizens worked through the entire process with all transport groups to determine the best possible outcome for public transport users.


Tegan was pleasantly surprised that the majority of engagement came from their digital strategy. With a total of around 800 responses from the community, 600 of them were from their Social Pinpoint map and survey. They found that a digital engagement opportunity was more popular with residents because they could participate from the comfort of their own home. With so much engagement from residents, Keolis Downer was able to construct a new route system which was launched in January of 2018. Since the release of the new routes and route numbers, they have received over 3000 pieces of constructive feedback and will be continually refining the system. As expected, some stakeholder where unhappy with the final decision, however they were able to defend their decisions using comments and data from the digital engagement platform.

Receive the latest Community Engagement insights each month