Time to get serious on SydLink

Each Australian mainland state capital has a centralised coordinating body across each transport mode, all except one – Sydney – and now is the time to get serious on ‘SydLink’

Time to get serious on SydLink
Time to get serious on SydLink

By David Goeldner|October 1, 2010

Planning and delivery of NSW public transport needs to be based on the entire network approach, including the creation of an integrated transport authority, BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish says.

In the lead up to the NSW election, Mellish is calling on Labor and Liberal parties to commit to creating a customer facing organization.

"Both parties should commit to adding bus services where they give the best outcome, not based on marginal electorates," he says.

"If set up correctly a SydLink would reduce political influence on transport service planning and delivery."

Mellish says there have been examples of good planning and allocation of services being overruled on political needs.

"Bus priority ranging from simple light phasing strategies through to Bus Rapid Transit where recommended, needs to be addressed to improve reliability of the network."

Mellish says such an authority should be set up with effective and independent representation from key stakeholders.

"It would need a strong leader and legislative support with real powers," he says.

Mellish admits it would not be easy to set up because of the existing institutional settings in NSW.

"But it should be looked at."

The model proposed by BusNSW sees a new authority taking responsibility for service planning in partnership with operators, marketing the public transport network, effective branding and information systems and setting fares and simplifying fare structures.

Mellish says BusNSW has for many years indicated that Sydney needs a customer facing organisation.

"Melbourne has Metlink, Brisbane has TransLink, and Sydney has a phone number," he says.

"NSW can certainly learn from other states that appear to have a more consultative and partnership approach to growing public transport."

But Mellish concedes that there are signs of reform with the recent creation of Transport NSW.

He says there has been a direct response from government through a greater attempt to improve transport coordination, and reorganisation of Transport NSW functions are in progress with a 131500 service.

"Hopefully TNSW will look at best practice and include quality advisors."

This is not the first time BusNSW has lobbied for an integrating authority to be created.

"BusNSW first publically called for a SydLink type organisation at its Hunter Valley conference in 2006 which was attended by the Deputy Premier and Transport Minister," Mellish says.

"A number of bulletin articles also focussed on the need."

Other than a new authority dealing directly with the community on public transport issues, Mellish sees a broader role on issues affecting everyone engaged in providing public transport services.

"The new authority would ensure that decisions on mass limits and fatigue, for example, are taken on the understanding of the benefits to the transport outcome and the overriding public interest," Mellish says.

"The triple bottom line approach needs to be used and NSW Treasury needs to support this by looking at benefits to the economy, environment and social structures – not just transport expenditure budgets."

An immediate task for the new authority would be to engage in delivering the proposed Oyster Card-style ticketing system.

"I can see some problems looming for a new ticketing system relating to cash fares unless the fare policy is improved," says Mellish.

However, there is broad optimism that a new customer interfacing organisation for Sydney and NSW will be formed with bus industry input, although, says Mellish, private bus operators are sometimes left out of the policy development cycle.

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