EXCLUSIVE: Political puberty blues

How politics is played out over coming months will have a bearing on where the next wave of growth buses will appear

EXCLUSIVE: Political puberty blues
<b><font color=red> EXCLUSIVE:</b></font> Political puberty blues

By David Goeldner | July 13, 2011

Bus deliveries broke the double ton in June for the first time this year with 210 vehicles recorded, but falling a long way short of where the industry sat at the same time in 2010.

Just over 12 months ago, the industry took 359 new buses for the month of June, wrapping up the last of the Federal Government’s post-GFC small business stimulus incentive schemes which resulted in boom times for the industry in 2009-10.

As soon as the 2009-10 financial year had passed, so too had the wave of new vehicles, slumping almost immediately from July 1 last year when just 114 vehicles were delivered in that month.

A year later, the 210 vehicles in June 2011 appears a good result during a financial period which saw little by way of growth in the bus industry, in spite of determined campaigning by the Bus Industry Confederation and others to get Australia’s Federal and State Governments backing public transport and ‘incentivising’ the sector.

The ‘baby steps’ taken by two new Governments in Australia’s two most populous states – NSW and Victoria – hasn’t helped the cause.

In Victoria, the Brumby Government was unexpectedly beaten at the ballot box which bustled in a largely unprepared Ted Baillieu conservative Coalition Government last November.

So unprepared were they that Victoria’s Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder is just get around to saying something about the bus industry more than half a year after the election.

In NSW Kristina Keneally did her best to stop a sinking ship, and threw plenty of red Metrobuses at Sydney commuters hoping they would jump on board and vote ALP-red on election day.

They didn’t, and Keneally’s NSW Labor Party Government was sent packing for what could be a very long time in the wilderness.

The new man at the top, Barry O’Farrell, and his transport lieutenant Gladys Berejiklian made public transport an election issue, promising to ease commuter pain in western Sydney.

While there has been a lot of rail-talk, not much has happened about buses, so the NSW budget due in August could deliver a more strategic growth plan for the heavily populated and vehicle dependant western Sydney, and that could mean good news for bus suppliers.

Further north in Queensland where everything is so much bigger and brasher, construction projects have been green-lighted, and infrastructure is on the go with busways pushing further into the suburbs.

But still, even in Queensland, the recent state budget couldn’t find extra bucks for bus growth.

The statistics suggest that there actually is national growth in the bus industry being felt in the first half of 2011, but it’s been slow and isolated in pockets.

What often happens at this time of year is that immediately after June 30 there will be a dip in deliveries, but let’s make a short term prediction for July and forecast a figure slightly above June’s worthy 210.

BCI is steaming back and likely to see a sales boost in July. Volvo keeps booming along in the lead, reporting new contracts almost monthly.

And Asia Motors’ Hyundai (11) and Daewoo (7) deliveries, most of which went to DECS in South Australia, boosted the Korean chassis importers overall position into 18 units, effectively taking fourth spot behind Volvo (78 ), Scania (40 ) and Mercedes-Benz (36).

Over the next few months it could be time to look west again with some big events of a political flavour planned for WA including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the requirement for shuttle buses.

Buses are still heading west into the mining sector which will continue to boom, despite the Federal Government’s best efforts to stymie the industry with its carbon tax and acquiescence to the Green Senators now holding power in the Upper House.

How the political scene shakes out over coming months will have a big bearing on where the next wave of new buses will land.

Exclusive bus delivery data for June 2011 is available here.

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