Major changes to school bus funding to renew Qld fleet

By: Chris Smith

School bus funding projects have significantly increased numbers of new buses on Queensland roads and with the combination of third

School bus funding projects have significantly increased numbers of new buses on Queensland roads and with the combination of third generation school bus contracts and the nearing of the completion of a draft proposal for an updated cost model, the trend is going to continue.

A Queensland Transport Department spokesperson highlighted over 1500 kilometre and fares based school routes will need to be replaced by 2017 at the recent QSBA conference held last Friday.

A new cost model is to be reviewed by the Treasury and the Transport Minister in the near future to help address the need for school bus fleet renewal.

The spokesperson says money is available now in the form of subsidies to assist operators fund the purchase of new buses, for pre-rollover compliance buses and buses which operate in steep conditions.

"We are encouraging regional officers to notify regional operators that money is available for subsidies," says the spokesperson.

The Conference was the first to be held by the Association in three years.

Queensland Transport Minister John Mickel made a brave move by opening the event up to operators, by taking questions from the floor and let operators ask questions about issues affecting the industry.

Many of the questions were based around the current cost modelling being bedded down by the Department.

QSBA CEO Lorraine Douglas-Smith says she is pleased the issues addressed in regular QSBA workshops are being addressed by the Department.

"Although funding continues to be a major issue, there have been some positive outcomes on other issues," she says.

"The indexing of fuel has been important this year with soaring fuel prices. The fuel indexation, including consideration of two-way operators, was the result of work with Queensland Transport at past workshops."

She says compliance was a huge issue raised at the January meeting earlier in the year.

"At the Conference there was evidence the situation is improving," she says.

"The quality of the presenters ensured that operators at the Conference received the correct information, put very clearly and in plain English.

"Ample time was allowed for questions from the floor during the sessions as well as one-on-one opportunities during the breaks."

Douglas-Smith says members were delighted to have support from the Industry and appreciated their generosity.

"Having new vehicles on display was certainly a plus on the day," she says.

"School bus funding has significantly increased the number of operators purchasing new equipment in Queensland.

"Feedback from participants on the day indicated that it was a fruitful and enjoyable conference", Douglas-Smith says.

"The support of operators, government and industry ensured that success."

Douglas-Smith says this year’s Conference was an excellent opportunity for operators to swap information and keep abreast of what is happening in the industry.

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