Rural and Regional reform nears completion in NSW

By: Chris Smith

New South Wales Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport John Watkins announced the future of rural and regional bus services

New South Wales Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport John Watkins announced the future of rural and regional bus services would be secured by changes to their contracts at the BCA NSW Conference at Coffs Harbour on the weekend.

Watkins said rural and regional bus reform followed the success of similar reforms in metropolitan and outer-metropolitan Sydney and is all about delivering bus services to the people of rural and regional NSW.

"Buses are the lifeblood of some smaller communities and the Iemma Government is committed to delivering a better service, not only for passengers, but operators as well," he said.

"These changes mean bus operators get certainty, passengers get to have a say in how services are run, and the Government gets to know services are being delivered efficiently.

"The process has been a great success in our biggest cities, and now smaller centres will get better services.

"The Iemma Government’s reforms give the bus companies greater financial security, which in turn gives families greater peace of mind," Watkins said.

Watkins said rural and regional bus reform will mean:
  • Community input to where and when services run;
  • Better information for passengers when services change;
  • Greater flexibility for operators to plan services when needs change;
  • Reduced numbers of contracts and incentives for operators to consolidate further; and
  • Sustainable bus services in rural and regional areas by changing the way operators are paid for services.

"This is a large scale operation, with bus services in rural and regional areas provided by 737 operators under 1879 contracts at a cost of $287 million in 2006/07 alone," he said.

"These operators range from small mum and dad businesses doing the school run in isolated communities to large commercial businesses providing services in number of major centres, smaller towns and villages.

"A key part of the rural and regional transport task is carrying the estimated 200,000 school students on any given school day on bus services across regional NSW, often over considerable distances.

"And now, for the first time, parents will be able to have far more input into the routes and services their local bus company should be operating."

Watkins said the reforms were based on the recommendations from former Premier Barrie Unsworth’s 2004 Review of Bus Services and followed the implementation of metropolitan and outer metropolitan bus reforms

"The Rural and Regional Bus Reform Taskforce brought together industry experts, specialist financial advisors and legal counsel to consider the recommendations from the Unsworth Report," Watkins said.

"Its recommendations have been accepted and we’re now working closely with the Bus and Coach Association to see contracts progressively rolled out in the coming months."

Watkins said he was confident the reforms would deliver quality of bus service in rural and regional NSW and secure their operation for hardworking families in the future.

Read more in the May issue of Australasian Bus+Coach.

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