Lifting performance: benchmarking study mooted

The government versus private operator debate enters a new phase with calls for a national performance benchmarking study

Lifting performance: benchmarking study mooted
Lifting performance: benchmarking study mooted

By David Goeldner | September 20, 2010

A national benchmarking study is needed to measure government-run against privately operated public transport services, a leading transport academic says.

Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies Adjunct Professor John Stanley says performance benchmarking is a project that BIC, Australian Railways Association and the UITP - the joint authors of the Moving People Strategy – would like to work on with Government agencies.

Stanley says a benchmarking project would put performance pressure on public transport operators.

"But there’s nothing on the table at the moment," Stanley says.

"I think we are at the point where we need to be putting substantial investment into improving our public transport systems.

"We’ve had underspending on transport for a long time – decades – and that’s now being reflected in growing congestion, high greenhouse gas emissions and so on."

He says any future substantial investment needs to ensure that current systems are operating at their most efficient levels.

"My view is that if you want to run a service the private sector is a good way to operate it."

Stanley says international experience shows changing from a public to a private operator will tend to reduce costs.

"But it would be a one-off saving, and once you’ve achieved that you are probably not going to achieve much more in the way of cost savings."

Stanley says he is prepared to back a case for benchmarking against the argument that operating environments differ from state to state.

"People will always say you can’t compare Sydney and Melbourne, or Brisbane and Adelaide, because they are different places," he says.

"But it is still a good idea to put the information out there, and explain why some states do better than others – I think that could only help in terms of performance."

He says comparing public and private operators together in terms of their performance could be done by the industry and government working together.

"There’s no reason why it couldn’t be done through a joint industry-agreed process."

He says public transport performance benchmarking should be done nationally.

"Not only with bus but also for rail – the lot," says Stanley.

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