It’s back to school in South Australia with large bus orders now delivered under DECS’ tendering process

<b><font color=red> LATEST BUS DELIVERIES EXCLUSIVE:</b></font> Back to school buses

By David Goeldner | February 9, 2012

South Australia has boomed at the start of 2012, leading the bus supply charts with Volvo placing the bulk of its orders at Link SA, a division of Australian Transit Enterprise – and the reason appears political.

As a parliamentary inquiry ensues in South Australia relating to the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) school bus tendering process, perceived by some to favour large eastern state bus companies, the suppliers have commenced delivering buses into the state’s school system.

During the same period in 2011, just four new buses were delivered to South Australia, two of those to private colleges.

Link SA’s 27 Volvo B7RSAs comprise more than half of Volvo’s deliveries for the month, and represent about 20 percent of all bus deliveries from major chassis suppliers for January, which totals 122, and is a slightly stronger start compared against the same period last year.

It is apparent that Volvo’s attention has been in South Australia, given similar volume was delivered just over twelve months ago by the Swedish maker, but then spread evenly between route service operators in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

The route service sector demand appears to have reduced substantially at the start of this year in deference to school bus supply.

And it’s not just Volvo making a mark on the industry’s school bus market at the moment.

A further indication that school buses are all the rage right now is the dominance of fixed seating with seat belts, delivered by the big school vehicle suppliers, principally BCI, Higer, Iveco, King Long, MAN, and of course Volvo with its Link SA order.

By mid-year, metro seating styles should start to dominate again as bus industry politics swings back to meet urban route transport requirements, giving rise to more low floors kitted with seating to match, and potentially more items required to meet the Disability and Discrimination Act, such as low floor wheel chair ramps and the like.

Politics aside, school students in South Australia must be smiling even if some disenfranchised former operators are not. There is a school of thought among larger, sophisticated operators that school students are tomorrow’s bus industry users and supporters. If your child gets a chance to travel in air-con comfort, riding on the latest electronically-controlled air suspension technology, and getting a smoother and safer ride to school, there’s every chance that as they grow older, taking public transport will be more a lifestyle choice than a begrudge trudge to work or university.

ATE, Link SA and Volvo appear – as this month’s statistics bear out – to have offered that choice, and lines up with the broader Bus Industry Confederation strategy of ‘Moving People’ in the decades ahead.

As for how the DECS scheme was implemented and orchestrated over the past year, and whether there are questions of ethics to answer by the administrators of the scheme is currently being determined by the South Australian inquiry.

But, whatever the finding, it’s likely to be a case of the gate already shut as the shiny new Volvo waits at the bus stop.

Exclusive bus delivery data for January 2012 is available here.

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